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has anyone gone around the usa on amtrak?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by immoimeme, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. immoimeme

    immoimeme my posts r modded

    It's an option since I can't find a place to live lol. But I've onky been on a train once for Helsinki worlds and I always got off at pasilla...once I figured out where it was! So I know zero about long distance train travel and what all it entails. Got any tips for me? :)
  2. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    Sounds like a great deal of fun to me, especially if there is a bar car. :p

    One of my fantasies is taking the train from Seattle to Chicago, then visiting a friend in Iowa City, then getting back on it and taking the train to Washington DC to visit my niece and her family.
  3. Spun Silver

    Spun Silver Well-Known Member

    My tip would be to save your money and take the bus, or drive. Buses are SO much cheaper than trains, are more frequent, and go more places. Driving gives you so much more freedom and flexibility. America is too huge for trains. They work much better in the short distances of Europe. In the US they are best for commuter travel, ie people traveling short distances to big-city jobs from their homes in the suburbs.

    The only thing I like about train travel is train stations, which can be thrilling. Otherwise all I think of is the high prices, the smell of french fries, children crying, and people crowding the aisles going back and forth to the food car and bathroom. No food cars on buses, and french fry smells are limited to half an hour after a rest stop! and everyone is quiet!

    The train grinch hath spoken.
  4. Dr.Siouxs

    Dr.Siouxs Well-Known Member

    There are two such grinches. :shuffle: I have always found Amtrak somewhat uncomfortable.....but an adventure is an adventure, have fun!
  5. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    Fantasy reconsidered.
  6. paskatefan

    paskatefan Well-Known Member

    We took it overnight from Philly to Chicago when my brother in law lived & worked in the Chicago suburbs. This was during a winter break period, so there was no way we were going to take a chance & drive through winter weather. Coming home, part of the train ride was in the daytime, so it was a pretty sight to see Horseshoe Curve in central (?) PA. For US Nationals, we will take the train from Philly to Boston, since we don't want to bother with the car (high parking rates & Boston), & driving through wintry weather conditions.
  7. zaphyre14

    zaphyre14 Well-Known Member

    I'd like to do that myself someday (when I'm retired and have the time). I like Amtrak and I'd like to try the long-haul runs at least once before I die.

    I think I'd spring for the quiet car option, though, if I was going to be travelling on a commuter route or at a time when families with kids were likely to be on board.
  8. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    Anti grinch, here. Amtrak has improved somewhat in the last few years. Their eastern lines are profitable, so they're spending a bit more money on upkeep. If you have a flexible schedule, you can use their special Rail Passes.
  9. Colleen

    Colleen Active Member

    I took Amtrack from San Francisco to LA a few summers ago. I loved it - sitting in the glass lounge car with a glass of wine watching the Pacific Ocean go by ... a great way to spend an afternoon!

    It was a slow way to get there, but the scenery made it totally worthwhile.
  10. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    I've done the Philly to Boston train. I had no problem with it. It was during a major ice storm and snow storm, and that train went anyway, when all flights were cancelled and the roads were insane.

    I don't mind the train on the east coast routes. I think taking the train all over the US would be pure torture, though.

    I've heard of an amazing train trip that goes across Canada, though. My uncle and aunt are considering that one.
  11. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    I took Amtrak from Ann Arbor MI to Chicago - booked business class, which was nice and roomy with seats that reclined and a food car right next to it that was largely empty. Worth the $$ to upgrade from coach. Booked far enough in advance that it was affordable. Food car had White Castles, which cracked me up. Had to get one of those!

    That said, based on the good experience, I looked into Amtrak to go to Minneapolis for a skating event. No way. Would have taken twice as long to get there as it would for me to drive, and the train would have dumped me out in downtown Minneapolis at something like midnight. Um, no.
  12. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

    About 20+ years ago I took the train from Newark to Chicago and back again. That cured me of the harebrained idea that train travel is some romantic adventure. By the time I got to Chicago I was so exhausted that I took a nap on a dark bench in the Field Museum. :coffee:
  13. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    I don't have long distance travel experience on Amtrak. I took a train from Boston to New York once, and from NJ to Delaware at one time (over 20 years ago). I enjoyed the short rides because here in the west trains are not that common (at least from wherever I have lived). Train travel in the eastern states was a novelty for me. I have no idea what the trains are like for long trips and in recent years.
  14. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

    My aunt has years of experience traveling on trains across the US. She lives in Ithaca, NY and has two sons who live out in Portland, OR, a daughter in Sumpter, SC and a third son who just relocated from Portland to Georgia (she just went down to see them and she will be spending at least the next 4-6 months down there). She spends more time with her kids and grandkids, I think, than she does at home in NY.
  15. hydro

    hydro Well-Known Member

    I love the Amtrak up the Eastern Corridor. It's so pretty, especially in the fall with the foliage. I just went up to Providence over Thanksgiving, and the train was so comfortable. I felt like I was traveling through a postcard. I had my book, coffee, and iPhone, and the time flew by.
  16. Oreo

    Oreo Active Member

    I love train travel. Out in the western U.S. there are some beautiful routes, the Pacific Starlight being one of them, and the Zephyr when it crosses Colorado, just as two examples. Most trains have an A/C outlet, so you can plug in your laptop, and a few trains now have free Wi-Fi. And if you have to overnight on one, you at least have some room--unlike a bus.
  17. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

    If you are spending $$$ its better than a bus for overnight, you can have your own bedroom. But if you go coach, its just more expensive than the bus, not better. I've done overnight coach many times. Not fun.

    Whether train travel is fun depends on a couple things, 1. If you get travel sick on trains (I do), 2. if you like people, because they are all around you on U.S. trains which don't have separate compartments as they do in Europe.
  18. BittyBug

    BittyBug Living in a Kleptocracy

    I would walk before I'd take a bus, but have done several long distance train trips and generally enjoyed them.

    Several key differences between a bus and trains:

    The bar car
    On a train you can get up and walk around
    The bar car
    On a train you can usually change cars / seats if you're stuck next to someone who's loud, smells, etc.
    The bar car
    Trains don't get stuck in traffic
    The bar car

    'Nuff said.
  19. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

    So if you don't drink...

    Probably do want to take a train if you're doing overnight rather than a bus, I'll grant that, even coach. But I'd prefer not to do either. Overnight coach is not romantic train travel.

    I don't have any experience with train travel for the fun of it, only as a form of transportation. It gets you there.

    I don't know about other routes but NE corridor can be very crowded so changing seats isn't necessarily something you can count on.
  20. BittyBug

    BittyBug Living in a Kleptocracy

    The bar car is not really a bar, it's a cafe, so they serve all kinds of food and snacks and drinks (including non-alcoholic drinks). Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever had an alcoholic beverage on a train, but I've made a lot of trips to the bar car.
  21. made_in_canada

    made_in_canada INTJ

    Part of the reason why trains are so slow around here is because all the cargo trains have priority on the line. My parents have been stuck for two hours in one place waiting for other trains to pass. Might be different some places in the US though.
  22. UMBS Go Blue


    Generally, yes, cargo trains do have priority over passenger trains in many rural areas of the U.S., which is why long-distance Amtrak routes have poor on-time records.

    Traveling the U.S. via train might sound nice in theory, but takes darn forever because of all these delays. Having myself done an overnight leg in a private first-class sleeper cabin in Europe, from Amsterdam to Prague, the constant stoppages and/or slowdowns made for infuriating interruptions in my sleep, no matter how cushy the accommodations, and IMHO far outweighed the nice views from the cabin.
    skateboy and (deleted member) like this.
  23. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

    Oh the cafe car. Not something I have fond memories of.

    Trains are utilitarian but I'm glad I don't have to travel on them very often anymore.

    Of course, it is true that I don't really like to travel at all. But I do have to say for some moderate length road trips, I have enjoyed going by automobile. However wrong that is. :lol:
  24. cygnus

    cygnus Well-Known Member

    I've done this trip a couple of times, and it's amazing. I wouldn't do it unless I was in a sleeper car, which means it's not cheap (although there are specials to be had), but if you think of is as part of the journey, as opposed to a way to get somewhere it's a whole different mindset. All food is included, and it's really good. Train people tend to be interesting company, but if you just want to sit by yourself- there are plenty of places to do that- including the end lounge car (which always has snacks and drinks), and the dome car. There are a couple of stops along the way where you can get off the train for a couple of hours to walk around (including in Jasper and Winnipeg).

    My favourite part of the journey wasn't the mountains (which are lovely), but around Brandon Manitoba. We had left Winnipeg a couple of hours before and were going due west right into the sunset. We were in the dome car, watching the most gorgeous sunset (Prairie sunsets can me gorgeous) and we were going through giant fields of sunflowers on either side. Just as I was thinking "Life doesn't get any better than this", a steward came along with a tray of warm chocolate chip cookies. So it did get a little better!

    I will do it again someday, but one does have to budget the time (3 days Toronto- Vancouver).
    KatieC and (deleted member) like this.
  25. peibeck

    peibeck Simply looking

    I don't mind Amtrak for short trips, but did coach once for an over night and will never do that again.

    My former roommate just went on a trip this summer from Chicago to Seattle. He stayed in a sleeper car. It was rather expensive for one person travelling solo and he was not impressed with the cleanliness. He loved going to the observation car and seeing the plains, Rockies, Pacific Northwest though.
  26. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    If I have to go anywhere I don't feel is driveable I do the Amtrak sleepers. (The Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited are the ones I ride most often.) Even coach on Amtrak is better than flying (for a start they don't practically strip-search you and you aren't forcibly strapped in your seat, never mind the odds are much higher you'll walk away from a derailment while if a plane goes down....mind a car's more likely to get you killed than either one) but the sleepers are lovely. Even the roomettes have plenty of room, your meals in the dining car are all-included (and you can have dinner brought to you if you want), you get to lie down and sleep, and you see far more interesting things taking the train than driving. Also for all you CAN have weather delays, it happens a lot less with trains than planes and the safety factor's higher than cars. Also the car crews (the porters in the sleeping cars especially) are a lot more customer-service oriented than the airlines. (In fairness they have fewer sucky customers than airport agents...)
  27. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    I'm going to Northern Alabama this spring, and thought it would be fun to take Amtrak, but the Ft Lauderdale to Anniston, AL trip is 31 hours or 42, depending what route you take. Leaving home at 5am puts me there at 6pm by car. Think I'll just rent a car and drive instead.
  28. Lara

    Lara It's JJ style!

    I'd take Amtrak any day over the bus in the Eastern Corridor between Boston-DC (providing finances allow - it's certainly not as cheap as Greyhound etc).

    North of that it does get slow due to delays :( - once I left Montreal at 10am and barely made the connecting 11pm train to Philly in NYC Penn Station. :scream: The border crossing didn't help of course.
  29. Prancer

    Prancer Cursed for all time Staff Member

    My husband hates to fly--and I mean REALLY hates to fly. He took Amtrak from Detroit to Los Angeles and then from Los Angeles back to Cincinnati and told me to shoot him if he ever mentioned taking a train instead of flying ever again.
  30. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    I've traveled on train across the country. I have a pretty high tolerance for such travel, so it didn't bother me. Don't know if I'd be up for it now, though. It's definitely more comfortable than a bus, but you don't really sleep well unless you get both seats to yourself, and even then it can lead to back aches. For a sleeper car, it's prohibitively expensive IMO. Traveling all over the country back and forth from OK would require you to buy a rail pass with a lot of segments since next to nothing connects with Oklahoma. That would cost you around $879. That's not including any expenses for when you arrive at some place, nor does it include meal costs. You'd be looking at easily over $1000 to travel, and likely well over that. If finances are a consideration, you may want to think hard about that.
    UMBS Go Blue likes this.