Last year about this time, my husband suggested we take a train trip via Amtrak. I was dubious. We always travel by plane or car. Amtrak was more expensive, and slow! It did not seem like the greatest idea. But I thought we could give it a go anyway. I’m so glad I decided to take the chance and go. If you have not been on an Amtrak train trip yet, read on to find out what a wonderful experience this can be!
Amtrak has a number of different routes all across the country. All you have to do is choose one. You can get on or off at any stop, so therefore you can tailor your trip to suit your needs perfectly. We decided on the Empire Builder route, which for us, started in Seattle and ended in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We flew to Seattle, took a public bus from the airport to the train station downtown, and began our journey.
We got our tickets, sat down, and waited for our train, as we watched all the different people file in. I was so excited and was filled with anticipation. I could not wait to experience this train trip. Well, the time finally arrived, and everyone was called aboard. We had two small carry-ons, more like tote bags, that we would keep with us, so luggage was not an issue.
We went aboard and got settled in our roomette. This is one step up from a regular coach seat. You get a very small “room”, with a big window and two seats facing each other. At night, the seats make a single bed, and another single bed folds down from the wall above, to make a bunk bed atmosphere. You have a door you can shut and lock for privacy. The attendant brings you bottled water, a newspaper in the mornings, and makes up your bed. He or she then turns down your bed at night. It was very nice.
Another option for travel, besides the coach seat or roomette, is the bedroom. This costs more, but for some, may be worth it. You have an actual room that you can stand up in, with a sink, toilet and shower, and a door that locks and has a curtain over it for privacy. You have the same fold down bunk bed arrangement, and another chair, and receive the same services, and can also have your meals sent to your room. If I were to travel Amtrak again, I would choose this option. The extra cost is worth it, especially if you spend 2 or 3 nights on the train on your trip. It is nice to have the privacy, and it is very nice not to have to dress to go to the bathroom or take a shower. With our roomette, the toilet was at the end of the hall from us, and there are always people coming and going, so you have to look decent when you step out in the hall. Also, for showering, there were two shower stalls located downstairs from us. I would have to set an alarm and get up super early in the morning (like 5:30 AM) to get down there first and get a clean shower with hot water before the rush of everyone else came down. I’m a simple traveler, but this was a wet and cold way to go, and I would most definitely pay the extra amount next time of being able to walk, in the buff, into my shower and toilet in the privacy of my own room. Little things mean a lot!
Meals and some snacks are included in your fare. There are designated times for meals, and they make an announcement as to when it is. Then, you get up and go to the meal cart. This is dressed up like a nice little dining area, with windows all around, so you can see verything while eating. You also get seated with random people at your same table. This is fun, and a great way to meet different people, swap stories, and learn a little something.
Now, for the best part of the trip! The view! The scenery! I cannot tell you how incredible it was to sit back and watch this part of America pass by my window. This was so different from a road trip. You really see the real part of little towns and rural areas, not just a highway view crammed with fast food restaurants and gas stations. It was so incredible. We saw coyotes, deer, and even a bald eagle! Just seeing all this nature and rustic scenery as we whizzed by was such a wonderful experience. I was amused with myself that I had brought books and magazines. These items were never even touched. I was glued to the window from the light of day until sunset. As a matter of fact, my husband laughed at me when I would get frustrated at night that the sun was going down. I just wanted more and more!
After nearly three wonderful days, we concluded our trip in St. Paul. We got a taxi to the airport and soon were back on our way home, with our minds filled with wonder of all we had just seen, crossing so many states in a short period of time, while enjoying warmth, companionship, new friends, and excellent meals.
A year has passed, and we’ve got the itch again for Amtrak travel. This time we are thinking of going to New Orleans, and we’re still in the planning process. One thing we do know for sure, is that we are going soon! If you have not traveled aboard an Amtrak, now is the time to think about it! You can look up rates and routes on amtrak.com. Whatever you decide, you are sure to have fun, make new friends, and make lasting memories. It is a travel experience not soon forgotten.