Top Menu

12/23/13

Amtrak Travel Recap & Review

In planning for the Holiday season, B and I decided that we wanted to use a different mode of transportation to go to Texas. Typically we would make the 14-hour drive (if traveling with Bear) or spend a little extra money on airfare. After some research on cost and travel time comparison we settled on taking the AmtrakTrain from Bloomington to Dallas.


The trip would take approximately 17 hours and it would be an overnight ride. So first things first, we had to decided on the type of seat we wanted to travel by, considering the best experience and comfort. Since we were taking the Texas Eagle line, the following options were available. We decided to go with the Sleeper Room to have our own beds, toilet, and shower.


Since we are on a tight budget, B and I bought the other’s seat as a Christmas present. We bought the tickets over 3 months in advance and had a wide selection of options. Each train and line does have different seats available, so be sure to do your research before booking.

I have traveled on trains from Connecticut to New York City when visiting my in-laws, so I was fairly familiar with the routine. We arrived 2 hours in advance to check our bags and make sure everything was set to go. Amtrak allows 2 checked bags at no cost and 2 carry on bags. I loved that an additional checked bag only cost $20, but we didn’t have that many suitcases. We then grabbed a bite to eat at the station Subway and patiently waited for the train. 

As we headed to the platform, we spoke to a Train Station Attendant to verify where to stand to make onboarding easy. Never be afraid to ask questions when using a different means to travel. I have traveled alone and with B, I have asked silly questions every trip but I am now a­­­­­­ confident traveler.



We got to our room and I felt like Harry Potter! We were welcomed by the Sleeper Car attendant who showed us different aspects of the room and offered to help us transition our seats to beds when ready.

I was thoroughly impressed with the little nooks and crannies of the room.

Closet

Bathroom Amenities


Toilet/Shower Combo



Sink

Carryon Storage Areas

Various Lighting Options

Full Length Mirror

Chair & Couch


A table, room temperature control and 3 outlets (not pictured).

Overall the room blew me away. Sure, it was smaller than our room at home, but it made us comfortable. Did I mention we had an awesome panoramic window to check out the scenery? After getting comfortable and figuring out how all the buttons worked, it was time for our 5:30 dinner reservation.


When traveling in the Sleeper Car, all meals, except alcohol, are built into the price (another plus). Lucky for us the Dining Car was right next door, so when the announcer called us for dinner, we were off.



The Dining Car was set up with booths and used a community dining approach. In other words, you ate with other passengers from the train. We had a blast! We sat across from a couple from Wisconsin traveling to Texas to see their grandchildren. We chatted about football, college, and traveling; I fell in love with their accents!

The menu was pretty extensive, covering steak, chicken, fish, and vegetarian options.


Please excuse the blurry shots; I didn’t have a lot of space to take a picture of the food.


We had a nice salad and roll to start.


Herb Roasted Chicken w/ Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans


Cheesecake (forgot to take a picture, it was delicious)


The food was better than airplane food but not a 5 star restaurant. I quite enjoyed the company and flavors. We also had some panoramic windows to look out but it was already dark.


After dinner we headed back to our room for pajamas and a movie. It was surprisingly quiet on board, so we were able to sit back and relax. We relied on the Sleeper Car Attendant to assist us with converting our couch to bed. 



The Amtrak Trains do have quiet hours beginning at 10 pm. Luckily, there is the Lounge and Dining Car available if you want to chat with your train mates or you can watch movies/listen to music with your personal headphones. We did neither and attempted to get some shuteye.

I will recommend that if you are a light sleeper, bring a sleep aide. The train does jostle quiet a bit, so much so that I got maybe 4 hours of sleep and B maybe 6 hours. We are opposite types of sleepers, so just keep that in mind.

Breakfast began the next morning at 7 am and the Conductor came over the intercom to say “Good Morning”. Unlike dinner, there are no breakfast reservations available, just first come first serve. We opted to wait until the second call for breakfast came and went in our pajamas. I would recommend getting to breakfast as early as possible to avoid any seating delays (we waited 30 minutes). The seating is the same as dinner, so we sat with a father and son heading to San Antonio. I was starving, so of course I forgot to take a picture of my delicious pancakes. There were traditional breakfast options: pancakes, eggs, omelets, cereal, and even frittatas. Here is a better view of the Dining Car; it made me think of a futuristic Diner from the Jetsons!



After breakfast I decided to be brave and take a shower. I would say the Toilet/Shower combo room was a tiny bit bigger than an airplane bathroom. There was more than enough room for shampoo, conditioner, washcloth, soap, and razor; so I was good to go. I felt more than comfortable (I am about 5’4’’) so I am sure a person close to 6’ would do fine. I would recommend bringing a pair of flip-flops to shower in. I was thrilled that I was able to do all my normal “getting ready” routine in the room!


Overall, I would say the trip was a success! We were able to avoid stress that comes with flying or driving, we met some lovely people, and we got to see some beautiful views.

Here are some tips to consider if you are looking into traveling by train.

1.     Do what’s most cost effective. Decide on a seat/room that is right for your travel. Don’t book a sleeper car for a 6-hour ride, save your money. Start looking early to avoid any last minute cost increases; this will help lessen the stress of traveling.
2.   Don’t be afraid to check a bag. Since we were traveling for Christmas, we had presents to bring with us. We checked 3 large rolling suitcases for free!
3.   Bring your own small blanket. The room came with a sheet set, thin blanket and pillows. I don’t know about you guys, but I get cold at night and second blanket helped.
4.   Plan for no Wi-Fi. I was really worried about not having Wi-Fi (apparently I have a Twitter problem), but we ended up watching movies writing blog posts and spending quality time together.
5.   Be open-minded. Three years ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead traveling by train. I hated the thought of being closed in with no control. I brought a positive attitude and a smile, which made all the difference!

So if you are on the fence about an Amtrak Train trip, do it! It is definitely a method of transportation that doesn’t get enough credit.

Please feel free to ask any questions on anything I didn’t cover. There were probably some aspects I am leaving out, so I am happy to answer what I can.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

2 comments:

  1. How fun! I love train travel abroad but have never really done it in the U.S. You've definitely made me reconsider!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should try it! The method of travel defnitley less stressful!

      Delete