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Traveling the USA via Amtrak Rail Pass

After selling our Oliver Travel Trailer, and spending a month transitioning our travels in a borrowed Le’Sharo motorhome – we purchased a month long Amtrak Rail Pass to continue our vintage bus hunt.
We thought we’d share what we learned about traveling via a rail pass and life aboard Amtrak.

About the Amtrak USA Rail Pass


If you’re contemplating more than a couple segments via Amtrak, it might be worth looking into at least a 15-day rail pass to save money and potentially open up new adventures. Individually purchased fairs on Amtrak are generally not competitive with airfare. Amtrak currently offers 3 different rail passes, and unlike in the past, they are available for purchase by anyone :

  • 15 -day/8 Segments – $389 ($194.50 for kids 15 and under)
  • 30-day / 12 Segments – $579 ($289.50 for kids 15 and under)
  • 45-day / 18 Segments – $749 ($374.50 for kids 15 and under)

The pass is good for all Amtrak routes within the USA, and can include their buses and alternate transportation methods.  The passes are for a set length of time, with a maximum number of segments.  A segment is defined as anytime you get on a train and then switch to another.

So if you’re booking a cross country journey from Savannah, Georgia to Eugene, Oregon – it’ll count as 4 segments. You’ll change trains in Washington, DC, Chicago and San Francisco (or Seattle/Portland if you take the northern route). If you decide to stop along the way for a night or two, say in Denver, that would count as an additional segment.

You can purchase your pass either online at Amtrak’s website, or from a travel agent.  You can not purchase the passes onboard a train, over the phone or at a station. When purchasing, you’ll need to supply Amtrak with the date and Amtrak ticket location that you’ll be physically picking up your pass at – which can be at the same time as your first day of travel.

Hint: After you purchase your pass, you’ll be issued a reservation number – keep this number handy, as it’ll become your identifier within Amtrak’s reservation & ticketing system for all of your routes.

Technically, your travel must be completed by the end of your pass expiration – and Amtrak’s reservation system will enforce this.  However, the pass documentation we were issued  had old rules on it, which just specified you had to be onboard your last train before the pass expired. Amtrak was extremely accommodating in honoring this when we inquired about it.

Reservations and Tickets

[wp_campaign_2]A Rail Pass does not entitle you to just hop on any train you want at any time – you must make a reservation and then pick up a physical ticket for each segment. Unfortunately, Amtrak does not have a way for you to book your Rail Pass routes online, so you must speak to one of their agents to make your reservations.  We did encounter some long waits on hold when we needed to make reservations, but every Amtrak reservation agent we spoke with was extremely friendly, competent and helpful.

Hint: To verify accuracy of your reservations, ask to have your new itinerary e-mailed to you.

We did heavily use Amtrak’s website and Interactive Route Atlas to plan our routes. Don’t feel you have to be tied to their defaults for getting from Point A to Point B, you can totally piece together segments however you wish.

Be aware that passes only cover the lowest priced coach class ticket on each route, and many popular routes may already be sold out at this level.  We highly recommend that if you have a specific route and day you want, speak to an Amtrak reservation agent to enquire about availability on the pass before purchasing and/or making firm plans.

Should a route be sold out at the lowest ticket level Amtrak will allow you still use your Rail Pass and just pay the difference between the ticket prices.

Hint: If rail pass travel isn’t available for your desired day, try alternative days.

As we were frequently making last minute changes to our routing, we found that ticket price differences were small ($20-50) – which was cheaper than extending our stay in a location while waiting for a ‘free’ day.  If you have a lot flexibility in your travel, or can pre-plan your trip at least a couple weeks in advance – it is entirely possible to not need to pay extra while riding on a pass.  We typically found that even making reservations a few hours in advance, we had good luck getting our desired routes with no upcharge.

Passing through Colorado on the California Zephyr

Oh, and speaking of changes – Amtrak allows you to make an unlimited number of changes to your itinerary with no change fees.  They recommend that you pre-book all of your segments upfront so you have guaranteed seats.  But as we were following our interests in specific buses, we booked (and frequently changed) our trip as we went.  We loved that flexibility, and always were able to get to where we wanted.

Before you can get on a train, you must pick up a physical ticket at an Amtrak ticket counter. You can pick up as many tickets from your itinerary as you want at one time, and you can pick them up at any staffed ticket counter (which may not necessarily be one you are traveling out of). However, once you pick up a ticket, if you want to make a change to it – you have to physically swap them at a counter again.  As we were making frequent changes, we opted to only pick up our next batch of tickets for routes we knew we were for sure taking.

Hint: Not all Amtrak Stations have ticket counters!

A potential hassle to keep in mind – not all Amtrak stations have ticket counters!   When we decided to route to Arizona, the closest station to our destination was Needles, CA, which doesn’t have a ticket counter.  When we made our reservation, we were encouraged to go ahead and also pick up a departing ticket out of Needles.  As we had no clue what would be next, we ignored this advice and took our chances.  During our Arizona bus shopping via rental car, we had to route to a staffed counter in Maricopa to pick up a ticket back to Los Angeles, to give us the greatest exit flexibility if we didn’t find a bus.

Be Flexible

The key to enjoying your Amtrak travels is to be flexible.  Train travel in the USA is by no means the quickest form of transit, but it is incredibly relaxing and a great way to see parts of the country that you can’t otherwise access by other modalities.

That is.. when everything is going well.

Amtrak is a privately held company, but its single shareholder is the US Government. It’s also the only interstate passenger rail service. Created in the early 1970s as a way to save  passenger rail in the US, its formation was intended to be a temporary couple year solution at best. Despite this, Amtrak has hung on by a thread for 40 years and is heavily subsidized.

Except for in the Northeast, it owns none of the rails it depends upon – they’re all privately owned freightlines that are mandated by law to give priority to Amtrak for its scheduled routes. If Amtrak is running late leaving the station it looses that priority, and now has to wait to be shuffled into heavy commercial traffic.

And being a kinda-sorta government entity, Amtrak has lots of the bureaucracy and grandfathered in labor laws from the old railroad days.

Train travel isn’t like plane, bus or boat travel where a quick re-routing or easy re-booking in a couple hours can happen when things go wrong.  There is typically one physical rail leading between any two locations, and one train a day (if that). If anything goes awry, there are usually no alternatives for Amtrak to offer.

Bad weather, flooded rails, accidents, broken down trains, staffing shortages, paperwork – these can all cause serious delays and/or route cancellations.

Be Smart

[wp_campaign_3]During our time on the rails, we experienced 3 out of the 4 cross country routes being shut down due to flooding and fires. Don’t depend on Amtrak to give you much, if any, notice about these. After being in a check-in line behind someone being told their Empire Builder trip in 2 hours had been canceled, we made it our mission to keep on top of the news. We were often better informed about route closures than Amtrak employees and did our best to stay a step ahead of the game.

Hint: Book at least a couple hours of layover time between trains to account for likely delays.

Aside from the route closures that we successfully routed around, we didn’t experience any major delays that impacted our travels. We did have one route that was running 2-hrs behind schedule, which just meant we missed the most scenic part of the route before sundown.

Hint: Follow the keyword ‘Amtrak’ on Twitter and frequently Google for news about Amtrak for alerts of what is going on system wide.

That said, following Amtrak on Twitter, had us in the know about other trains that were stopped on the tracks without air conditioning for hours, severe delays and rude encounters with Amtrak employees.  And there have been 2 major Amtrak accidents (one on the California Zephyr that we were recently on) since we ended our rail tour.  Our hearts go out those affected by these horrible accidents.

All Aboard!

Once you are onboard the train, it’s an incredibly relaxing experience.  It’s almost freeing to realize you’re riding interstate transit without going through a long security line and no one is telling you when you can get up and walk around. You can even bring a bottle of water and your shampoo!

It’s also incredibly quiet! Now that the rails are welded together, there’s no more of that distinctive clickidity-clack sound.

Coach Seating

Coach class is nothing like coach on an airline.  You have a big seat with a folding leg extension, foot rest and tray table. And there is ample leg room, even the tallest of the tall would be hard pressed to complain. You’ll also have a 110v electrical outlet at your seat for charging laptops, cell phones and other gadgets.

Coach class seating

The downside to coach seats is there are no arm rests between the seats – so if you’re not traveling with someone you know, you’ll have no division of personal space with your assigned seat-mate.

You are not assigned a seat until you board. They load up the cars keeping passengers getting off at similar destinations together. At most stations, this happens trainside – you just stand in line and go where they tell you. At Los Angeles at least, this happens at a special check-in counter in the station – and had we not noticed the line forming, we might have missed getting a seat assignment.

On a full route, there may be little room for accommodating seat change requests.  Which can be annoying when you invariably get seated next to neighbors not to your preference.

Hint: Get up from your seat and visit the lounge car!

Sightseeing Lounge Car

The best way to deal with this?  The sightseeing lounge car!  Located just behind the dining car, is a full train car with open seating and lots of touring windows. There are tables for dining, computing or gaming at – and scattered seats for taking in the scenery.  This is a fantastic opportunity to get up, walk around and meet other fellow train passengers.  When touring through popular routes and public lands, volunteers from the National Park service come aboard to answer questions.


There’s also a snack bar in the lounge car, where you can grab a drink  (including alcohol), chips, sandwich or other such food. We went to the lounge car late at night a couple times to discover spontaneous music jam sessions going on.

Sleeper Accomodations

We found that sleeping in coach for one overnight at a time was not a big deal and very do-able as the seats recline pretty far.  For multi-night routes, we found it very worthwhile to splurge and upgrade to the Sleeper Car.

Our Roomette on the California Zephyr

It was pricey (~$600 for a tiny ‘roomette’ that barely accommodated 2 people for 2 nights) – but having a private quiet space to retreat to and work during the day, and access to showers was worth it. The rooms also included all meals in the dining room, which was a nice perk.

We splurged on our two night trip on the California Zephyr (Chicago to San Francisco), and then planned all other routes to not exceed one night.

Hint: It can be considerably cheaper to pick a stop over point along a route, grab a hotel room for a night or two to get a break, and then continue the route.

Dining & Food

We gave the snack bar cafe a try, and honestly weren’t impressed.  All of the hot meals were just pre-packaged microwave food, which weren’t overly tasty.  There were also very limited vegetarian options.

Dining with a view!

However, we did very much enjoy the Dining Car.  This is a sit down service with a waiter, and the food was substantially better.  Reservations are taken at your seat shortly before meal times, and the prices are pretty reasonable.  The best part about the Dining Car for us was the community seating.  As space is limited, you get seated with other passengers, which is a great social opportunity.

Hint: We found the lunch service to be the best balance of price and food quality.

The downside to the meals aboard Amtrak for passholders is the very limited menu that doesn’t change much from route to route. After our first couple of segments, we had the menu memorized and got bored with it.

So we often opted for bringing food aboard and dining on our own.  Which is a good idea in general, as there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually be served a meal onboard.  On one route, they actually canceled half of the dining because of a staffing shortage.

Hint: Bring at least some snacks to tide you over should there be a delay or meal cancelation.

Keeping Connected

As we work as we travel full-time, it was essential to us that we could get online and as we rode the rails for an extended amount of time. You’ll see that Amtrak is offering wifi, and get all excited!  And then you’ll be disappointed to learn that wifi is only available on select routes (the Coast Starlight and some Northeastern high speed rail) in select cars (generally only available to non-coach class passengers). And even if you have access to those cars, the wifi might be down when you need it.

We never depend on public wifi for our meeting our needs of connectivity.  So, we bring our own.

Working online as we road the rails

For internet, we’re currently carrying a Verizon USB dongle that we subscribe to via Millenicom (which gives us 20 GM a month of data for $59.99 per month without contract – they are constantly changing their plans around, and you have to call and ask what provider each is on, as they can’t advertise it) and we use personal hotspot via one of our iPhones on AT&T (you get 4GB of data a month for $20, and then just $10/GB after that).  When you’re traveling cross country frequently, you realize that neither carrier is sufficient enough, and each has its weak and strong spots. But combining the two, you significantly up your ability to stay connected.

Since you’re in pretty much constant motion while on the train, we did encounter a lot of dropped signals as we switched towers and moved in and out of coverage zones.  All and all, we guess we were able to maintain a useable signal about 70% of the time we desired one.  Which is pretty darn acceptable for us!

Our Coverage? App in Action!

Hint: Use our Coverage? app to help you know when you’re most likely to have cellular signal!

And this is where our iPhone/iPad app Coverage? came in incredible handy (yes, we’re pimping our own app.. even we were impressed with how useful it was!).  By using the app, we were able get a good idea if the signal should be improving or getting better ahead.  This allowed us to avoid a lot of frustration of trying to keep online, and realizing when was a good time to close the laptop and concentrate on enjoying the scenery.

Cherie working on Amtrak

As there is power at every seat, we knew we’d have good odds of keeping our laptops powered up.  We were disappointed to learn that the roomettes in the Sleeper Cars only provide one power outlet, which would have been challenging had we not brought an extension cord.

Hint: Bring an extension cord to turn one power outlet into multiple.

[wp_campaign_2]Should the power go out in your car (which can happen), don’t be afraid to seek power out at other places. Some lounge cars have been converted to have lots of power outlets, and sometimes an empty seat on another car can help the situation.


All and all, we loved our time riding the rails across the USA.

Cherie & Chris of Technomadia riding Amtrak

We ended up traveling only 6 segments(Savannah, GA to Oregon, and then Oregon down to Los Angeles and over to Needles) over 2 weeks before finding our bus.  While we could have saved a bundle by only getting a 15 day pass, we really appreciated not feeling pressured to make a decision because our pass was about to run out.

We were considering continuing our travels for pleasure after purchasing our bus, but our most desired route – the Empire Builder – kept getting canceled due to flooding. We still ended up way ahead financially compared to individually purchasing train fares, and we had a great time traveling the country by rail!

It’s so much fun to choose a route and just go.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links, so, if you click on the link and make a purchase, we receive a commission. Note that all opinions are 100% our own and we only link to products we personally use and absolutely recommend! Technomadia is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

54 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. I was really impressed with the detail and insight you provided, my wife and I are considering an extended rail trip next year. We own an RV and have used this extensively for 30 year, but we also love the rails and rarely get to use them.
    We intend to just randomly go around the country for a month or more.and let someone else do the driving. Details yet to be developed. Our starting point and hopefully our end point will be just south of Tucson.
    Enjoy your life and your travels and thank you for your info.

  2. Thx for the information. I am traveling by Amtrak across USA. I am a tourist traveling solo. An elder woman from India. I love train travel but I am worried about delays, power outages etc.

  3. Thanks so much for writing this travelogue! I want to do a train tour across the US, and now that I have a baby and breastfeed, it is easiest for my sanity to have my hands free–trains fit the bill perfectly! Not to mention, I LOVE supporting mass transit where I can! However, I’ve never planned a multi-day by train trip before, and this write up was so useful for me to start setting a baseline for expectations… And this was full of useful warnings and tips to boot.

  4. Hi U 2, good read of Ur Amtrak adventures, thankyou, we R cruising from Sydney Australia to Seattle WA April 22 2017. After a 7 night Alaska cruise we plan to make our way over to Rochester NY. We R looking at all options including rail. Thanks again. Leo&Sandra.

  5. Thank you so much for the heads up little story about traveling on the train. Very useful with really great information.
    My friend and I are both senior women, who are traveling together since we have no spouse any more and still want to travel. We both have family around the country and she has travel the rails with her mom before. She suggested the train so we are looking into it. Your article helped a lot.

  6. Thanks. We are currently planning a rail trip from Savannah to Idaho which seems daunting. Have tried calling local travel agents, but no one seems to be able to or want to touch it. We had heard that using a travel agent would save a lot of money, but your testimony gives us hope,that maybe we should go it alone.

  7. Nice! I dig Amtrak. Getting ready fro an Albuquerque to the East coast trip! Thanks for putting this out there!

  8. Thank you! My husband and I have been considering going across country on a rail pass since he’s never been on a train. We want to be able to stay in places like the Grand Canyon, New Mexico and Seattle on our way west and take the Northern routes on our way back. I was afraid it would be a complicated nightmare but this has made me realize it would be a lot of fun.

    • It is indeed a lot of fun – but doing stops can complicate things.

      The key is being flexible, and never in a rush. The long-distance routes tend to have just a single train a day, and they are often running very late. But if your goal is to enjoy the journey, there is really no better way to travel!

  9. As we may be planning a holiday crossing the United States by Amtrak I found your article very interesting. There were a lot of little bits of information that I haven’t seen elsewhere that I think could be really useful. I wondered how recently you wrote the article and also whether you had to book your roomette in advance. Many thanks for a great article. Kind regards Carole

  10. We are very excited to be taking our 1st train trip together. Were booked on the Cardinal from Cincinnati to Nyc the week before Christmas. We’ve spent quite a few Christmas holidays in New York, but we wanted to do something different this trip, so we opted for Amtrak.
    I cant tell you how much I appreciate your article, & all of your suggestions. Your recommendations and your detailed experiences really have helped us know a lot more about what to pack, & what to expect.
    Thanks for taking your time to give us all a look into traveling by train!
    Also, coincidently, my Dad owned an old Flxble tour bus when we were young. My parents & siblings are constantly sharing stories about those road trips on our bus. We each had our own bunk. They were roomy, private. Mom kept them clean & cozy, and she would serve up a full course home cooked meal, while we played Monopoly, Uno, or just sing every song we new at the top of our lungs. What a wonderful way to travel.
    Currently, I do not own a bus, nor do I see one in the near future. That’s simply because my amazing wife hasn’t quite grasped the bus or r v concept yet, but I do believe that will change someday.
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Happy Trails!!

  11. Looking forward to our very first Amtrak trip, Chi to LA on the Zephyr in January. Thanks so much for such wonderful report and advice. Keep up the good work and enjoyment.

  12. Thank you very much for this little guide/ review. I’m traveling from the UK in 4 weeks and will be using Amtrak to get around. There are many very helpful points and questions I had that are now answered. I will be printing this and keeping it with me to try and avoid being caught out in any way on my 3 month travel!
    Thank you again

    • Things have changed a bit since this article was written:
      1. Amtrak has instituted E-ticketing.
      2. Railpass booking no longer require lowest bucket availability.
      3. There may now be some nominal restrictions on changes (check with Amtrak for specifics).

  13. Thank you so much for the info. I’m coming in from Hawaii to New York City (by plane of course) and needed more info personally from travelers. Now I feel more confident in purchasing the RailPass! Thank you! I want to travel from NYC to Washington DC and other places so this looks like a great deal.

  14. Preparing for a train trip – northern route from Boston to San Francisco- we are both foreigners, my wife French and me German. I once was given – fifteen years ago- a US RAIL limited travel for fifteen days for $ 150.- which took me from Boston via Floridan via LA to SF. Great trip and I slept on the floor.
    This had to be purchased outside of the US. Does that still exists.
    What would be your suggestion for a fifteen days trip?
    Do you suggest any Rail travel guide as we are both not very well informed of what to see and where to stop.
    Would love to hear from you

    • Hi guys… sounds like a fun trip. Would recommend checking Amtrak’s website to see what their current pass deals are. Their website also describes all of the routes and things to do at different stops.

      As we were taking the train as part of finding our RV/bus, our routing was based on ones we wanted to look at. So we didn’t use a guide to plan our segments. Have a fantastic trip!

  15. what if train delays cause you to miss a connecting train so that you need to wait another day to take another train on the same route. Does this get subtracted from your 30 days?

    • The pass is for 30 calendar days, so yes – it expires on the last day of the pass you purchased. Regardless of what trains you take, or their status. You can step onto your last train up on the last minute of your pass however, no matter how long of a train ride it is.

  16. Excellent information. This has helped me more than any other website, including amtrak’s. I really appreciate you taking the time to share this.

  17. great advice! Thank you for explaining everything so clearly. I was a little confused about the 30 day pass until I read your story.

    but i have a question, can you give a ballpark figure how much lodging and food will cost if i’m trying to do it cheaply? i’m only 24, not a millionaire yet!

  18. Hi, We did AMTRAK rail pass in 2006 when it was unlimited stops on the pass. For 30 day pass, we got a great deal! We are wanting to go back for another amtrak experience but we are unsure about the new rules re: the segments. All the websites say something different and we would love someone to break it down to easy to understand explanation as to the segments and how to use them to our best advantage. For example, if we want to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles, with one overnight stop near Dallas, is that one segment or two or what? we are considering going the whole way around, and then another trip from Chicago across to Sanfrancisco. We want to make the most of our passes but dont want to get caught with the segment thing.
    If anyone knows and can help, that would be fantastic. We absolutely LOVED the trip in 2006. WE took the two children and did the middle and east coast in 30 days. What a blast. Hoping to hear from someone in the know…thanks in advance.

    • Hi Cathryn –

      As I understand it, the simplest way to think of segments is this — if you get off a train, you are using up a segment.

      That means a ride from Chicago to San Francisco is one segment, but so is a short ride hopping just a single station. Getting off of a train for a night is also going to burn a segment, even if you get on the same train the next day.

      It is a frustrating limitation, but can be planned around. One trick is to buy regular local tickets for the short hops, and save the segments for the big cross-country jaunts.

      – Chris

  19. Perfect timing for us…great post! We’re planning our first extensive USA tour from Miami ( fla mostly by car) via New Orleans, Big Bend Tx, ( Az mostly by car) Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, Lax and then all the way to San Jose or Santa Cruz, Ca..so happy to hear this take.

    We’re planning it from Barcelona though ( and soon from Romania and Budapest) and despite being Americans, we’ve been mostly traveling internationally for the last 6 years, so it feels harder in some ways than a foreign country. 😉

    I get the segments of the passes ( I think..complicated, eh?) but I don’t get how long they are for. Is the 15 days for 15 days on the train or does that include total travel time ( like when we go off rail for a while to tour a bit). It’s confusing too because they say they are good for 6 months, so does that mean one can take 6 months to use 15 days of Amtrak travel?

    Glad to get info on what you use for mobile connect as well in the US.


    • The length of the pass (15, 30 or 45 days) is for how long you can travel X number of segments, starting from your first travel date. (Ie. if you have a 15 day pass, you can travel up to 8 segments over 15 consecutive calendar days.) The 6 months is the time in which your pass if valid from date of purchase until your first date of travel.

      I can only imagine how foreign exploring the US will be to you guys after being abroad for so long. After 5 years of non-stop US travel, we’re still not bored with the US – so much to see and do. Although, our intentions with the bus is to park it a couple months a year and do some international travel ourselves. We just can’t imagine leaving behind our communities, cat and family much longer than that tho. They play such a valuable role in our travels.

  20. I rode the rails on a round trip ticket from Tucson to Poplar Bluff Missouri on the Texas Eagle. My very first train trip. The train was 5 hours late getting into Tucson,limping along at 45mph being towed by a much slower freight locomotive. Because of the delay, rest stops and smoke breaks were skipped altogether, making the smokers very tense and fidgety, some of the scenery was also missed. I was assigned a seat in front of a young woman that had a bad cough that I later contracted for weeks afterward. A dubious start to my first train trip.
    The snacks and food available in the “Cafe” were grossly overpriced and I was grateful for the pre-trip online advice from savvy Amtrak regulars that advise bringing your own food. Some of my fellow travelers had everything but the kitchen sink.
    The experience was akin to camping except you’re locked inside and air conditioned. Because of my route and destination, every boarding and disembarkation were during the wee hours of the morning.
    On the upside, a traveler is allowed 3 cubic yards of baggage, note that baggage loading and unloading was available only at stops that have baggage service.

  21. Very cool roundup of train travel in the US. I did train travel years ago in Europe (you know, back when Europass (Eurail) was the hip thing to do for us youngsters…hehe), but I’ve never travelled the rail in the US. Looks like a fun and different way to see the country, especially if you’re willing to be flexible.


  22. My wife and I recently traveled Amtrak for the first time, and I couldn’t agree with your assessment any more. There were a few things that I did to make myself a little more comfortable.

    First, like you, we brought our internet with us, using our Verizon branded Mifi device. It’s our primary internet provider anyway, so it’s easy.

    Second, we did find that we wanted to use more power that was provided, so I made sure I brought a basic power strip. Every seat we were in had at least one power outlet, and many two, so we probably could have gotten by on the provided outlet by switching chargers, but it’s a lot easier to plug in and forget it.

    Third, we found the trains to be a little to hot for us, with them attempting to keep it at 73-75 degrees. A little 8″ portable fan with a clamp for us each made things a lot nicer for us.

    • Definitely concur on the genius of bringing a power strip/extension cord if you have more than one or two devices you want to keep charged.

      I totally forgot to include mention of temperatures. When we first booked our pass, our reservation agent warned us that the trains are chilly and to bring a throw blanket. And so glad we did, especially overnight – it got downright chilly. During the day, yeah, a little extra breeze would have been nice, but it was completely comfortable for us.

      Also, for overnight, they do provide a small travel size pillow.

  23. Excellent review of Amtrak travel. The one thing I don’t think is accurate is the power. I traveled from DC to Denver & back and had a seat with the power outlet only once. Not all the cars have the outlets and you don’t have a choice whether they put you in one or not. Not having an outlet makes it harder.

    I found the restrooms in coach adequate for a sponge bath.

  24. Great story! I’ve rode Amtrak I think about twice in my lifetime. I got on the bus at the San Francisco Ferry Building & rode it to Emeryville & then took the train northeast to Stockton. I would have loved to gone farther. It was always a neat experience & much more enjoyable than an airplane. BTW, have you thought about riding the rail in Canada across the Rockies? I hear that’s an excellent trip. One last thing, your link for your mobile broadband provider is incorrect. Here’s the correct one… http://www.millenicom.com/ I think somebody is a little dyslexic like me. 😉 Will Millenicom work with any USB modem adapter? I have a colleague who has an old USB 3G modem that’s branded Alltel & thought about trying that instead of buying something new. We’re needing an Internet connection for our trip to Destin, Florida next week.

    • Thanks for spotting that.. grr.. I change it earlier today, and it didn’t save. Nope, not dyslexic, just WordPress publishing earlier than I expected and could get a full edit in.

      Have no clue what Millenicom supports and doesn’t, best to give them a call. We’ve found they have excellent customer service.

  25. Excellent information. Judy and I were traveling cross-country in approximately the same time period a you folk were making your journeys. We took a slightly different approach using Amtrak Guest Rewards points to redeem for “free” Amtrak travel. Earning enough AGR points solely on Amtrak travel is challenging. Fortunately there is a credit card which earns AGR points in much the same manner as credit cards affiliated with airlines earn airline frequent flyer points. In addition, we were able to transfer Continental Airlines frequent flyer points into the AGR program at a 1 to 1 ratio (this feature may not last much longer as the frequent flyer programs of Continental and United are being merged and it is unclear which features will survive).

    When redeeming AGR points for two people, long distance sleeper travel is a very good value, and we took advantage of this to book sleepers for almost our entire trip from Kissimmee, FL to San Jose, CA (the exception being an unreserved coach segment from Emeryville, CA to San Jose, CA). The downside of AGR award tickets is that stopovers are not allowed (changing trains enroute is allowed as long at one takes the next schedule train onward). For our trip, we managed a “stopover” in Cincinnati by booking a one zone AGR ticket from Kissimmee, FL to Cincinnati, OH and a separate two zone AGR ticket from Cincinnati, OH to San Jose, CA (which added up to the same number of AGR points as a three zone ticket from Kissimmee, FL to San Jose, CA would have cost). We were aided by the fact that Cincinnati, OH happened to be on the boundary between AGR’s eastern zone and AGR’s central zone.

    Like you, we had a very relaxing but slow trip, including a five hour delay detouring around Omaha, NE due to flooding on the Missouri River. We actually missed our connection in Emeryville, CA (and were offered a bus connection that would have worked instead), but chose to switch our hotel reservation for that night from San Jose to Emeryville, and then use those unreserved coach tickets I mentioned to get to San Jose later the next day

  26. Loved the recap and the pix were grest. I traveled Amtrak in 2009: City of New Orleans and Empire Builder on a 30 day pass and loved it. You are so right about the dining car. Each meal was an adventure to meet new people with new stories. And the park service people in the sightseer car were a joy. I have traveled by train in Europe and southeast Asia and while most Americans poo poo train travel, as you and I know, it’s the bomb! And just think how many cars we could take off the road if we could improve our train service.

  27. Great info. My VW bus is starting to act its age and I have been thinking about train travel after meeting some Germans in Asia that use a Amtrak to travel our country.

    The two of you (and cat) have provided great posts that I have come to enjoy; like waiting for a favorite magazine to arrive you regularly provide quality information and inspiration.


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