Are you tired of your less than enjoyable experiences at the airport and being stuffed in a plane seat designed for a leg-less 3 year old? Are you frustrated with driving long distances missing your nap time and dodging semi-trucks? If so, you may want to consider AMTRAK in your travel plans. Travelling by train does take longer, but if you embrace the mindset that the journey itself is part of your vacation experience, you'll do just fine.
Consider this short article a primer. There is so much to experience on the rails, that it warrants more than this one brief look.
AMTRAK has several long distance routes that cross the country coast to coast at several points. I recently traveled by train from Albuquerque, New Mexico to New York City. The first leg of the trip was on the Southwest Chief, which traveled from Albuquerque to Chicago, then transferred to the Lake Shore Limited to arrive in New York City.
How long did all of this take? I departed Albuquerque early afternoon on Sunday, and arrived in New York City early evening on Tuesday. Although coach seats on a train are large and put to shame first class on a plane, for overnight travel I strongly recommend sleeper car accommodations. This does cost quite a lot more, but your trip enjoyment is enhanced by more than the additional cost. Rates for sleeper car rooms includes all meals in the dining car, coffee, bottled water and juices available right by your room at no charge, and the assistance of a steward. You also have your own private room with locking door, privacy curtains and bed for sleeping.
The most economical sleeping car room is the roomette. Take the 'ette' part seriously and do not be surprised by how tiny this is.
Essentially, you will get two seats facing each other with total room size being 3'6" x 6'6" (in a Superliner room which are what the two level rail cars are called). The two seats slide down to make a bed and a bunk comes down from the ceiling to make the second bed. Clearly the maximum people count in this room is two.
A larger (much more expensive option) is the bedroom, which is still only designed for two, but has dimensions of 6'6" x 7'6" and includes more spacious seating as well as in room shower, toilet and sink facilities.
Other than the Superliner, on northeastern routes you may end up in a Viewliner single level car, since bridges and tunnels and the like were not originally built for the much taller Superliner. A roomette in the Viewliner will be 2 inches longer but in my opinion feels smaller. Why you ask? There is a tiny toilet and sink in each Viewliner roomette… with no curtain dividing it from the seats. I found this very odd, but maybe that is just me.
Needless to say I prefer the Superliner with its many restrooms located both upstairs and down and utilized only by other sleeping car passengers.
As I noted earlier, all your meals are included in your sleeping car fare, and you can enjoy the dining car or have your steward bring you your meals in your room if you are feeling less sociable. During train stops you are allowed to step off and take in a bit of fresh air and walk a bit, which breaks up the trip nicely and prevents any claustrophobia you might worry about.
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Also included with sleeping car fares is the ability to use lounges in several key cities (Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles). These staffed and comfortable lounges provide free beverages and snacks, couches and tables, televisions, quiet corners, luggage storage if you wish to explore, and assistance in boarding your next train.
The best selling point for travel by train is the views. Train routes tend to go through large areas of unspoiled and undeveloped land, so if you want to see America close up and personal, not on a commercialized interstate, and not at 30,000 feet, then the train will provide you with wonderful scenery from sea to shining sea. All aboard!
If you have any questions about train travel, or wish to speak with me about any travel needs you may have, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Julian is a travel writing, trip planning expert. She has had a life-long love affair with travel, starting with childhood road trips and extending through service in the Air Force, a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, professional work in that field, and finally to the creation of her own company, Magic Feather Memories. You can read more at Nancy's blog, http://magicfeathermemories.blogspot.com, and also drop by Mouse Tales travel at http://.mousetalestravel.com/.