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Thread: Need Amtrak travel tips on an overnight

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Need Amtrak travel tips on an overnight

    We're leaving soon for our Seattle trip via Amtrak. It will be my first "overnight train" trip.

    If anyone has done this and can offer pointers, tips, ideas for stuff to carry on or bring...I'm all ears ...errr..eyes
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  2. #2
    Have you seen the Sex and the City show where they took the train? Well that's pretty much how it is. Not glamourous in the slightest. At a minimum I would bring:

    a neck pillow (the same kind used for air trips)
    your own food (food car = gross and overpriced)
    hand sanitizer (that liquid germ killing stuff)
    a small wash cloth (for your face, neck, etc... the next morning. I do not - nor do I recommend - shower on a train)
    lots of books, magazines, entertainment
    eye pillow thing (that mask that covers out light because it's never really dark enough to sleep)

    Good luck and enjoy Seattle.
    The way to become boring is to say everything.
    -- Voltaire

  3. #3
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    Will you have a private sleeping cabin? If not, I HIGHLY recommend ear plugs...The noise of dozens of people snoring through the night was unbearable for me and DS. We went to the club car and stayed up all night playing scrabble. Also, they do not have enough of both pillows and blankets (not that you'd want to use theirs anyway )so bring along a light wrap if you can afford the space. Have fun in Seattle!
    Ellyn

  4. #4
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    Hi Wallycat! How funny--we're going to do a very short overnight trip on Amtrak to Seattle too! (Just one night on the train each way.) We sprang for the sleeping car because it's our last private "getaway" before having our second child. (Child #1 will not be with us by the way.)

    So, I'm interested in info too. Does anyone have comments on the sleeping cars? Do I need to bring an extra pillow, etc.? When the above poster said the food was bad, was that in the "dining car" or the "lounge car" (or both)?

    At any rate, I never thought of asking for info on the BB! Good thinking Wallycat!

    Naomi

    P.S. I've done day trips on Amtrak before, and I agree that the lounge car food isn't worth the price--bring your own on board if possible. However, since the price of meals in the dining car is included with a sleeping cabin, I was hoping it would be edible?

  5. #5
    Originally posted by naomike
    Does anyone have comments on the sleeping cars? Do I need to bring an extra pillow, etc.? When the above poster said the food was bad, was that in the "dining car" or the "lounge car" (or both)?
    ...since the price of meals in the dining car is included with a sleeping cabin, I was hoping it would be edible?
    Well I've only been in one sleeping car (hence my showering comment) and it wasn't nearly as nice as trains in Europe. As for your specific questions, extra pillow? Well that all depends on you. Have you ever gotten a pillow on an airplane? Well they are like that only larger. They are synthetic, used by everyone, but with a clean cover on it. So that's a personal decision.

    The dining car food is edible, but certainly not great. Again, think airplane food but served on dishes instead of a weird container like tray. Some of it is fine, and some of it is just nasty.

    But please, conside the source when taking my advice here. Amtrak is not fancy in my opinion at all. I've been on much nicer trains throughout Europe (Spain, France, and German trains especially). In my opinion Amtrak is on the same line as Greyhound. And I usually feel disgusted by overnight airplane experiences (less than clean bathrooms, not 'fresh' blankets and pillows, food service food, etc...) So please take that into consideration.

    I guess I'm just a travel snob or something
    The way to become boring is to say everything.
    -- Voltaire

  6. #6
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    I agree with all of the above posters. American trains (unfortunately) do not live up to their European counterparts. I'd recommend a toothbrush (hey, sometimes even the obvious needs to be stated) and maybe a small cooler with bottled water and some fruit/veggies. The food is like airline food - functional and mediocre.

    m4star - I don't think you are a travel snob. Once you've travelled German trains, you've been spoiled. I miss them.
    "Is ice hockey hard? I don't know, you tell me. We need to have the strength and power of a football player, the stamina of a marathon runner and the concentration of a brain surgeon. But, we need to put all this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while 5 other guys use clubs to try and kill us. Oh, yeah, did I mention that this whole time we're standing on blades 1/8 of an inch thick. Is ice hockey hard? I don't know, you tell me. Next question."

  7. #7
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    Nah, I don't think you're a travel snob either. I think it's good to be prepared too (expect the worst and hope for the best and all that). You've also got me thinking that I have got to spend some more time using the trains on our next trip to Europe. Don't know when that will be, but I'm always dreaming . . .

    Thank you for the advice so far!!

    Naomi

  8. #8
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    Nope, not a travel snob.

    Gee, I was sort of looking forward to this, but now will grin and bear it.
    I'm bringing one of those roll-on carry-on cases...all filled with FOOD so I should be OK in that respect.
    I'm easily entertained...don't mind reading, sleeping, or bugging DH , but the toilet issue could be ..well...an issue!
    I'll bring those disposable face-cloth thingies so that will be alright, and I guess skipping a shower won't be the worst thing.

    Thanks again for your tips.
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    I echo what everyone else is saying... when I was seven I took the train with my darling mother and brother across the whole country (from Rochester, NY to Seattle).

    Definitely bring ear plugs if you have trouble sleeping with noise, and without question, bring some sort of pillow.

    Other than that - have fun!
    “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”

  10. #10
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    wallycat & naomike are you by any chance taking Amtrak's Coast Starlight to Seattle? DH and I travelled from San Jose to Seattle for our honeymoon a few years ago and it was a great experience. We had a sleeping car and yes, it was quite cramped so I recommend packing a small backpack sized bag with toiletries, a change of clothes, reading material and other personal items you want to keep with you. We did end up having access to our "checked" baggage during our trip, but it was nice to have all the important stuff with us.

    Here is the good news: the food on the Coast Starlight was enjoyable - we ate way more of it than we should have! Definitely better than any airplane food I've had. Also, the Coast Starlight has a wonderful parlour car for the sleeping car passengers where they have wine & champagne tastings during the day.

    DH & I have never been on European sleeper trains so we had nothing to compare, but we really enjoyed ourselves & hope to make the trip again someday.

  11. #11
    Guest Guest
    I haven't taken a long train ride recently, but when I was in college I took Amtrak from New York to Seattle and then down to Los Angeles. It was quite an adventure and the scenery from Chicago to Seattle was spectacular. In those days, I never dreamed of having a sleeper and made do with the accomodations. One night shouldn't be too bad. I love the sound of the train and find it very lulling. As I write this, I hear it in my head.

    I love trains and want to take DD on a cross country train ride before she heads off to college. It is an unparalled was way to see the extent of our country. I have never driven cross country and it was a real eye opener to get a sense of the distance from coast to coast. Train passengers were friendly and open to chatting, which I like.

    You have gotten a lot of good suggestions from everyone else. I hope you have a wonderful trip and that you enjoy the train ride.

  12. #12
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    Thank you for the additional comments! Yes, DH and I will be on the Coast Starlight. Amtrak is quite proud of the Coast Starlight line and they tell you all about the extra amenities on this train when you call them. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the parlour car and wine tasting. Also, when I called them to buy tickets, Amtrak insisted that the food is "cooked to order" by a chef on board if you eat in the dining car, so I'm happy to hear you thought it was better than airplane food! Of course, I've never eaten on board a train in Europe (we just took a several hour day trip on a train once in France) so I won't have anything to compare it against either.

    So, DH and I are treating this as an adventure! Hopefully it will be a good one.

    Thanks again!

    Naomi

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