Amtrak Coast Starlight Trip Summary and my Train Traveling Thoughts
For those of you not following along at home, here are the 5 parts of my Amtrak Coast Starlight journey:
- Part 1: Advice for an Amtrak Noob
- Part 2: Transferring Points and Booking Trains
- Part 3: Bedrooms and Roomettes
- Part 4: Bedrooms at Night, Showers, Parlour Car, and Movie Theater
- Part 5: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner in the Dining Car and Parlour Car
I promise this is my last Amtrak post for a while. While on the train, I had a lot of free time so I passed the time looking out the windows, taking pictures, and writing blog posts. The journey took me from Seattle down to Los Angeles and stopped several times (sometimes for 2 minutes, sometimes for 45+ minutes), it just depends on the train traffic and if we are ahead of schedule or not. Train travel is not for everyone, but it is worth considering a trip across this great country. Here is a map of the journey:
Here are my thoughts on the entire trip…
- The southbound train leaves Seattle at 9:30am and arrives in Los Angeles the following day around 9pm. If you are going northbound, the train leaves Los Angeles at 10am and arrives in Seattle the following day at 8:30pm. Instead of booking flights the day the train leaves or the day the train arrives, I would give yourself a day extra. So fly to Seattle or Los Angeles the day before your train leaves so you don’t have to worry about missing the train. The same applies for flying from Seattle or Los Angeles. The train can be several minutes to several hours late, so you cannot count on the Amtrak schedule holding up. Therefore, plan accordingly.
- I have been on trains before, but this was my first long distance train ride. For the first few hours, it was difficult to get my “Amtrak Legs” and walk about the cars when the train was moving. After a few hours, I still felt the train moving but it bothered me less. If you get motion sickness, you may want to bring some medicine for the beginning of your journey. Trust me, it get’s better the longer you are on-board. If you have every been to an amusement park and went on several roller coasters, you may get this strange feeling that you are still moving even if you are standing still. The same thing happens with Amtrak. Even after 12+ hours on solid ground, I still feel like I am moving. This should go away in a day or so (I hope).
- The food on-board is surprisingly good. I don’t think I had one bad meal on-board. The train has a few options and they are all very good. If you are on-board for a few days, I would recommend trying all the options available. Desserts are great, so always leave room for dessert. Alcohol and tips are not included with your meal, so always leave a few bucks as a tip for your waiter. If you want food and drinks during non-meal times, you will have to pay for those (cash and credit cards accepted). Always make a lunch and dinner reservation. You will thank me later. For dinner, try to go earlier since it take a while for the main course to come. Breakfast and lunch are very fast.
- Be outgoing. You will meet a lot of interesting people on Amtrak. The average age in the bedroom/roomette was probably 60+ years old. My friend and I spoke with lots of people and could always find something in common. I recommend hanging out in the parlour car as much as you can. That is where all the socializing happens.
- If you are not in a hurry to get somewhere, Amtrak is a great way to travel. A flight from LAX to SEA would take about 2.5 hours, while an Amtrak ride from LAX to SEA takes about 35 hours. Northern California and parts of Oregon and Washington are beautiful. You see parts of the country inaccessible by car. Train is the only way to go.
- The price is a great deal. For 25,000 Amtrak Points (25,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points), you get a 35 hour journey for 1-4 people. I recommend going on one of the longer routes so you do not have to change trains. You will get the best bang for your buck. I had 5 meals (lunch, dinner, breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and left $5 tip for each meal. $25 + 25,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points for 35 hours = great deal!
- Sleeping was an interesting experience. I had a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, even though I am usually a heavy sleeper. You may want to bring sleeping pills if that helps you sleep better. The trains are pretty noisy and bumpy, so you have been warned.
- I recommend the bedroom over the roomette. The bedroom costs 25,000 Amtrak Points while the roomette costs 15,000 Amtrak Points. I like having my own restroom near by and even taking a shower on-board was fun. The purpose of travel (at least for me) is to see and do things that I cannot do at home. Taking a shower in a 3 by 3 foot rectangle was an experience. Add in the fact that the train is moving and rocking back and forth. Very unique. If you have never done a roomette or a bedroom, take my advice and do a bedroom. You will thank me later.
- Last but not least, I think Amtrak is kind of addicting. After you finish one trip you want to go again. And again. Texas Eagle anyone? Its only 62 hours of non-stop fun!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Have a great day everyone!
P.S. This weekend I will be at the Chicago Seminars, so I won’t be posting anything over the next few days. If you are at/near Chicago, come to the Holiday Inn Elk Grove on Friday and Saturday evening. I will be arranging a meetup for dinner both nights. See some of you there!