Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guest Blog: Amtrak Cross Country Trip

I asked a relative who was taking a cross country trip on Amtrak for a review.  It's a fairly thrifty way to travel, especially one way travel.   She booked just a seat, not a roomette.

Here is her review of the experience:

The train was not a bad experience at all and I could say I would recommend it to others.  I might suggest using the train for shorter distances, the trek from Spokane to La Crosse did get a little rough on the 2nd day.  I was on the train for a little more than 36 hours and at around hour 30 I was ready for my train experience to end but it was not bad overall.

*If you don’t want my jabber then there is a summary of pros and cons at the bottom*

The positives of the train would be the seating, the carry on luggage, the food, and the views/sights.  There is no doubt that the best thing about the seats is the leg room, being a tall person this is very important to me.  I, like many others traveling alone, was lucky enough to get two seats to myself which allowed for maximum space but I don’t think it would have been bad if I did have to share the seat next to me.  The seats if front of you have foot rests as well as your seat having a leg rest or leg extender (I have no idea what to call them).  So when it came time to sleep I could lift up the leg rests on both seats and make a kind of couch to sleep on.  The seats also recline fairly far as well so I had no trouble sleeping at all. An awesome feature of the train is also that they have electrical plug-ins for every seat so I could charge my phone or iPad which was great. Another pro of the train was that the staff really couldn’t care less where your carry on luggage is.  On planes they are really strict about placing you carry on bags in the overhead compartments or under your seat but on the train everyone just had their stuff in the seats next to them or on the floor. It was nice because then I had easy access to things when I needed them.   

The food on the train would be another positive thing. It is definitely not the best food you will eat in your life, like it’s not crème brulee or anything but it is decent enough.  I was brave enough to try one of the breakfast sandwiches and it was not bad.  The food is a positive just because they offer different options.  Passengers can eat in the dining car or go to the lounge to buy food, and they have a fair amount of things to choose from.  The final pro of the train is of course the sights; you see many mountains and landscapes that are really beautiful.  I unfortunately went through Glacier National Park during the night but woke up in the morning just as we were leaving and saw a really pretty sunset. North Dakota was a little boring and offered much of the same but the Dakotas are just in an unfortunate flat and super boring geographical area. Anyway, I saw many beautiful animals and trees on the trip and the train went through some interesting cities also.

Now for the negative aspects of the train; the bathrooms suck, there is no delay information, and it may be easy to get motion sickness. The number one negative is without a doubt the bathroom.  The bathrooms are microscopic and tiny, there is barely enough room to turn your body to wash your hands.  All of the locks suck and are broken so you play a sort of toilet Russian roulette (which in my opinion is worse than the real game) when you open the doors.  I had a person walk in on me while I was going and I accidentally walked in on another woman.  A random old woman peeing is not what you want to see at 6 in the morning after you have been sleeping on a train all night (just saying).  Plus, the bathrooms are gross like you would expect them to be, they see a lot of traffic. Another con would be the lack of knowledge about delays.  They may announce an unexpected stop or how long they will be at a station but they do not announce how far off schedule the train is.  During the night they make no announcements on the train at all so then you have no idea about stops that happen while you sleep.  It was frustrating because I ended up being 2 hours later to La Crosse than I was supposed to be.  The last con would be motion sickness. Most of the passenger seating is on the upper level but the train tends to sway in the wind and I can see where it would be easy for someone to get sick.  Also, many people lost their balance when trying to walk around so I would recommend caution to older individuals taking the train because they seemed to have the most trouble with balance.

Overall, if you are accustomed to the plane experience but cannot afford to get a plane ticket the train is a very similar experience for less money.  It has the same atmosphere as a plane but more leg room, there are plug-ins, you can use electronics while on the train, there is better food, and you get to see more than just clouds all the time. The bathrooms do kind of suck but if it is for a shorter trip then it’s not so bad. So the train is a great travel option!

-a lot of leg room (leg rests and foot rests)
-most people have two seats to themselves
-Plug-ins for electronics
-food/dinner options
-views/sights to see
-similar to an airplane experience

-bathrooms (gross, small, and no real locks)
-no delays are really mentioned
-motion sickness

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