Amtrak is a great way to travel!
I can see why writers wrote on trains. It is a ‘romantic’ way to travel and the perspective change gives different insights. Something about going a little slower, the changing scenery and interacting with so many different people creates a spark of creativity. This summer I got the opportunity to take two train rides on Amtrak. We traveled the mighty Cardinal through the Midwest.
Here are my top 10 tips to make your Amtrak trip outstanding this summer.
1. Be patient. Trains in the USA get delayed. Just expect things to move slowly. If they aren’t delayed, you will be pleasantly surprised. On both of our trips this summer the train was delayed. One for just 30 minutes, the other for nearly 2 hours. The more flexible you can be on your destination commitments the less stress you will have.
2. Bring your own food. The food on Amtrak is rough. The menu is limited and they are reheating the food. Mostly anything you bring is going to be better than what they serve.
3. Charge your phone, bring a battery backup and bring your charger. Each pair of seats has a set of 110V outlets that are great for keeping your device fully charged. However, see tip #1. If you find yourself stuck in a terminal, it’s no fun to fight with your fellow passengers for a wall outlet. (We have used this power bank* for years for hiking and school, and love it. It holds the charge well and will completely charge your phone.)
4. Bring a pillow and blanket. The seats are large, comfortable and adjustable. However, a little extra padding goes a long way in avoiding neck pain in the morning.
5. Plan to socialize. Amtrak is a very social environment. Unlike flying, people tend to be friendlier and want to talk. If you are an introvert I highly recommend bringing some big headphones*.
6. Bring a friend. If traveling in coach by yourself, you will be paired up with a seat partner. It is always best to make this choice for yourself by bringing a friend. We were able to snag a great companion fare BOGO at Valentine’s Day. Look out for those sales.
7. Use the bathroom before boarding. The bathrooms on Amtrak are kind of gross. They meet the minimum, but would get old over days of traveling. They use a vacuum assist flush and my travel buddy said they seem like RV toilets. I think he means that they have smaller seats. We were reminded by the conductor to make sure we lock the door when we use it because he said, “there is always one that doesn’t on every trip.”
8. Download the Amtrak App. I found this super handy for keeping my tickets and seeing maps of the train terminals.
9. Go higher than you expect if you want to “win” on BidUp for a roomette or room. I was not successful. My bids were rated as fair and poor when I submitted them.
10. Experiment with the seat prior to quiet hours. The seats are generous. About 2x the size of a coach airplane seat and have several comfort adjustments: foot rest, leg extension and reclining. With unskilled hands, the seat can make a lot of noise and react violently when adjusted. It is quick to learn, but that first time can be loud and embarrassing.
Hopefully these tips help you have an amazing train trip. If you have other helpful tips, please share them with me and others in the comments.
Safe travels y’all!
*Amazon Affiliate link.