I might take an overnight Amtrak trip and I was wondering if the sleeper compartments are worth it. The trip would run from 9 PM to 4 PM the next day. I know it’s much simpler and cheaper to fly but I am doing this for fun. The trip is from NC to south Florida.
Ain’t traveled by train since the 1960s, as a young boy.
We used sleepers then, but I doubt it would be relavant today.
Read this. Even if you don’t find it helpful, it’s funny. From the description, Amtrak is the opposite of fun.
Never travelled overnight on Amtrak, but I have on VIA Rail in Canada; so my remarks will necessarily be general.
Get a sleeper. It’s nice to be able to stretch out in a prone position; and if you have your own private compartment, you’ll generally have your own sink and toilet. A “Pullman section” (where the coach seats fold into a bed and a fold-down bunk is above) doesn’t have those, but curtains provide privacy and you can still stretch out.
It’s nice to have your own little area staked out, but don’t forget to take advantage of whatever else the train offers: the dining car, the lounge car, and so on. Trains are great for meeting people and passing the time with them, so don’t feel that you’re expected to be in your seat at all times, like on an aircraft. If you have any questions, ask any member of the train crew.
And if you’re doing this for fun–well, have a great time! I love long-distance train travel, and I’m looking forward to when I can do it again.
I took a sleeper cross-country in 1996. It was, I think, a 3-day trip. For that length of time it was absolutely worth it.
I also took Amtrak from Syracuse to Chicago in may of 2008, which is about a 15 hour trip or so. We just bought seats, no sleeper that time. Me, my husband and 2 kids. I think in that case the sleeper would have been over-kill. We were fine sleeping in the chairs, not the best nights rest ever but good enough. We did go have breakfast in the dining car, and that was fun.
As a single person for a one-night trip that was to get me from point A to point B I probably wouldn’t get the sleeper. As a single person who is taking the train for the experience and romance and thrill of it all? Sure go for it, it is fun, and there is something haunting and evocative about laying in your berth as the train rushes through the dark countryside.
I took the Amtrak from Southern Pines, NC to Orlando, FL and had a sleeper. It was very nice to be able to sleep with a locked door even though I never felt unsafe on the train. The NC to FL routes don’t seem to be prone to delay. The accommodations we had featured the two seats and table that converted to a single bed and a pull down bed, plus a toilet/sink and a TV. The porter will let you know when your stop is coming up so don’t worry about sleeping through it.
I don’t find the sleeper worth the rather hefty premium. The motion of the train stopping and starting awakens me whether I’m lying flat on a mattress or reclining in a coach seat. So I get about as much sleep overnight on the train as I do on a transatlantic flight: not enough, but enough to get through the next day (if I’m not driving long distances).
To some extent, being in a sleeper isolates you from the other passengers, which is really the best part of train travel. You have to make an effort to hang out in the club car.
From the '60’s.
The sleeper was a great place to read a good book.
My wife and I took Amtrak trains from Trenton, NJ to Portland, OR just a week ago.
We rode the NE Regional commuter train to DC, then an overnight train from DC to Chicago, and then another train for two and a half days to Portland.
On the short hop to DC we rode in coach. The train crew was rude and we couldn’t find seats because of all of the rude folks who sleep across multiple seats. One girl had happened to occupy four seats with herself and her bags.
We rode in a “small bedroom” on the Chicago leg. This costs much less than a full room, but doesn’t have a private bath. It is like an old-school Pullman car, where you sit in facing seats by day and sleep in bunk beds by night. The one distinction is that you actually are in a private room, with a door you can slide shut.
There is a large set of shelves near the car entrance where you can put large luggage, if you didn’t check it.
You have one car attendant dedicated to your car. He or she will help you with anything you need and will set up your beds at night and put them away in the morning. We tipped this guy when we got off the train.
Meals are free for first class, but you need to schlep on down to the dining car for them. Dinner is by reservation, while breakfast and lunch are not. They will seat you with total strangers when you eat.
As we walked to the other parts of the train, I realized I wouldn’t want to travel in coach for a really long trip. It was nice to finish eating and go back to our private room.
On the Oregan leg we rode in a “large bedroom” with bathroom and shower. That was really nice, and was totally worth it, for one time.
The reality of train travel does intrude on the romantic Victorian image we have. There are bad sections of track (Minnisota had some bad parts) that won’t let you sleep. The bunk was hard and reminded me of my time aboard ship in the Navy. Everything is small and tight. The bathroom is the size of a phone booth, and it serves as your shower too.
I took one shower. It was so tight in there that I had to open the door and stick my leg out for my wife to dry it, since I didn’t have enough room inside to dry myself off properly.
Another problem is that the cars are older than I expected, with broken latches, rattles, and one fold-up seat that was not level when folded down.
And don’t forget that trains blow their horns at each and every crossing. I learned a new thing this trip: they honk it like this: long, long, short, long. The final long blast continues through the intersection. I heard this pattern a hundred times.
As long as your sleeper is at the back of the train, the horn shouldn’t be an issue.
For one overnight, I would go with the small bedroom. Don’t expect to shower on the train. You can use one of the multiple airplane bathrooms they have in the sleeping car.
It was fun, but a little pricy.
I’ve taken the Amtrak from NYC or DC to Florida a couple of times. The sleepers are pricey but worth it. It’s nice to have a compartment of your own, and your own bed. The one time I did not get a sleeper I slept particularly poorly. I don’t sleep well on trains, but an MP3 player helps enormously.
Here’s another [thread=519607]thread on Amtrak.[/thread]
I traveled by sleeper between Prague and Krakow, quite by accident since I didn’t yet understand “sleeper car” in Czech. They inexplicably put me in a very small but cozy four bunk room with three college girls from Sweden. If this is an option for you I highly recommend it.
Depends on your comfort level. My wife and I, in our early 50s, toughed it out one night in coach. It was a bit of a drag, but the sleepers were so expensive we just went with it. I found a row to stretch out in, it wasn’t that horrible for one night.
Although our experience wasn’t as nice as pravnik’s the wife and I have taken a couple trips on Amtrak sleepers and had a great time both times.
The trick is not to think of it as a way of getting to your vacation, but as a part of your vacation. You can sit in your little room and read, or chat with the wife, or just look out the window at the scenery going by. Every so often a steward comes by and tells you that a meal is being served, so you get up and meander over to the dining car and have a nice meal. If you’re feeling grubby you go downstairs and take a shower; if you’re feeling shut in you get up and take a little walk, maybe to the VistaDome car or the lounge car.
And you don’t have to go through a body scanner, or take your shoes off, or anything like that; you just Get On The Train. Very civilized.
Another vote for the sleeper, especially if you’re like me – not particularly sociable. I shared eight meals with strangers, most of them very nice people who made the trip interesting, but the lunch with the couple who complained about high fructose corn syrup in the salad dressing was a pain.
We did it this summer, it was good, but maybe not as thrilling as I was expecting. I think I’ve seen too many old movies about sleeper trains. It’s much more utilitarian in real life.
On the plus side, the privacy is terrific, and it’s quiet and you can do what you want (sleep, read, whatever) when you want.
It’s more comfortable than coach, but it’s still a train. I had a hard time sleeping, although I got more sleep than I did on previous overnight trips in coach. As a result, I was a little “off” on the meal schedule, and they serve the meals at specific times. I don’t know why I hadn’t realized this in advance; I was imagining being able to eat whenever I wanted to. Of course, the snack car was open for longer hours, but I had that thing about not wanting to pay for food when I had already paid for meals through my ticket.
I was with my husband, and we were in the smaller type of sleeper, with the bunk beds. I think the experience may have been better for a single person traveling, it felt a little claustrophobic when both beds were down.
This is true. I had friends take Amtrak to FL from NC a couple of years ago. They said, “never again.” Forget the “sleepers.” It’s clack clack clack. However, I’ve taken trains in Europe and it was a lot more comfortable.
I take the Adirondack between Montreal and NY usually once a year. A tip: get a redcap. Even if you don’t really need it. For $5 you beat the crowd and get your choice of seats (including electric sockets, although the last few times there was one at every seat). There is no sleeper on this train. It is also very cheap, 1/2 to 1/3 the price of flying. And these days, not even that much slower (the last time I flew out of Montreal to a US destination, I got to the airport at 6:30 for an 8:30 flight and just barely made it. In fact, just as I was getting to the front of the line at immigration control, all the people with 8:30 flights had to be put ahead). Bring your own food, by all means. The only place you can get out to wander is at Albany where they change locomotives (they need electric traction coming into NY) and crew. And you can take quite a long walk through four or five cars. The really bad thing (aside from the snail’s pace through upper NY State) is the restrooms. Sometimes, my wife brings a bottle to pee in.
I enjoyed the sleepers some 5-7 years ago. They (then) were different east and west of Chicago. The sleepers are a ton more expensive, but give you privacy when you need it. I’ll agree, don’t stay in your room, get out and wander, but the bathrooms, showers, early morning coffee, etc., are better than coach.
Do tip your car attendant. $5 a night minimum.
Yes, but not for sleeping.
Is it worth it? It depends on how much money you have and how much the upgrade to sleeper costs.
I travel a lot by train, out of an aversion for security theater and a fondness for seeing people’s backyards. When I was younger and poorer, I was perfectly happy to travel in coach. Now that I am older and richer, and now that coach seems filled with people bleating on cellphones and using videogames and DVD players without headphones, I like sleeper class. You can shut the door for quiet and privacy. If you want to meet people, you can always go to the Sightseer Lounge.
But to be frank, I mostly travel using Amtrak’s frequent traveler program, which has great deals for long-distance sleeper travel. Since I don’t pay cash for most of my travel, my standards are probably lower. If I paid the sort of fares Amtrak charges for the most scenic routes or the busiest times, I’d not be as happy.