Best Tips for an Amtrak Overnight Train

While these tips for Amtrak overnight trains are aimed at those who have a roomette or bedroom, almost all of these tips can apply to overnight coach passengers as well. And the Amtrak Auto Train, too.

Best Tips For Your Amtrak Overnight Train 

I recently completed a circle America Amtrak train journey that included seven nights on various Amtrak trains. From my experience, here’s my list of what I hope will help you on your Amtrak overnight trip.

1. Always pack a roll of duct tape

Let’s face it, unless the train is moving at a snail’s pace as it climbs up and over mountains, there are bound to be some bone-rattling moments. Old equipment plus freight line maintained tracks can cause sliding doors and various in-room mechanics to loudly clank. Using a wash-cloth or towel plus duct tape can help ensure a better night’s sleep.

Amtrak Overnight Train Roomette
Duct tape and a towel helped redirect the continual blast of cold air.

2. Bring Flip-Flops

Whether it’s for the public bathroom and shower room or your en suite bathroom shower, you’ll be glad to have them.

3. Get Some $5s and $1s For Tipping in the Dining Car

Update:  New dining procedures without the traditional dining car does away with traditional dining. However, should someone prepare your packaged meal for you, tipping would be a good idea. Suggestion per person: $2 breakfast, $3 lunch and $5 dinner. 

4. Designate One Bag for Your Overnight Gear

In here, pack only what you’ll need for your overnight journey; toiletries, meds, clothes, computer/iPad etc. Packing cubes make this even easier. No more searching for items and tearing through your luggage.

5. What to Wear

For a two-night train trip, bring at least two extra tops. Only one extra pants, really – depending upon length of trip. Make sure everything is comfortable to wear for long periods of sitting. Taking three Amtrak overnight trains from Montana to sunny Florida in the winter? Remember to put a change of summer clothes in your overnight bag. 

6. Bring (and use!) Clorox wipes

I’ve been wiping down my Amtrak compartment long before COVID-19 arrived. If you’re in an Amtrak sleeper, wipe the tray table, door handles, even the flip-over door lock and handle. Whether your private bathroom or the communal ones, wipe the toilet seats or use the paper covers, sink countertop, faucet handles and door locks.

7. Download Entertainment Before Boarding 

Internet on a moving Amtrak train isn’t always possible. Besides, most long-haul trains don’t even have wifi anymore. You will travel through “No Service” areas quite a bit, too so tethering to your mobile network isn’t always reliable or fast enough. Even if it was, you could easily exceed your hotspot roaming plan.

8. Keep a Sweater or Light Fleece Handy

You never can predict when the A/C will be blasting throughout the train. Temperatures fluctuate between train cars as well as in geographic areas. Freezing isn’t fun. Always keep a sweater handy. 

Amtrak Roomette with upper bunk
If you’re not sharing the roomette, the upper bunk in is a great spot to put extra baggage.

9. Understand Accommodation Size

Two large-size people may be uncomfortable in a small roomette with an upper and lower super-narrow bed. If you can book your accommodation way in advance, you might be able to snag a deluxe bedroom at a lower rate. Or book two roomettes across from each other.

10. When Dining Car Service Finally Resumes…

It’s community seating in the dining car. Wait at the entrance for the dining car attendant to seat you. Don’t walk in and grab a seat.
Be prepared to sit backwards. Don’t bring your backpack or large purse…there may be very little room between you and the person seated next to you.

11. Remember to Tip Your Room Attendant

Depending on your needs, $10 – $20 per night is thoughtful.

Amtrak roomette room service
After a long journey, Amtrak room service in your sleeping compartment is wonderful. No more Hagen-Daaz, though.

12. Order Room Service in Your Sleeper

One of my favorite things to do on an Amtrak overnight train trip is to order room service to my sleeping compartment. It’s complimentary, too! Simply ask your room attendant. He or she will deliver your meal direct from the galley. When you place your order, try to include everything you want so your attendant doesn’t have to run back and forth.

13. Reservations Are Taken for Lunch and Dinner in the Dining Car

The good news is that sleeping car passengers get first dibs on dining times. Be sure to leave your compartment door and curtain open. The dining car manager doesn’t knock if the curtain is drawn. If you miss getting a reservation, a wait list will be announced for sign-up.

14. Etiquette in the Observation Car

If you have an observation car on your train – Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle – seats are first come, first served. Sometimes coach passengers will try to spend the day in the Observation car…but it’s not the place to bring a pillow and sleep.

The conductor will ask loiterers to return to their seats. And similarly, since seats are at a premium, be sure not to overstay too long and give others a chance to experience this window to the world.

15. Yes, You Can Take a Shower

Sleeping cars are equipped with a communal shower at the end of the car and are remarkably well maintained. Deluxe bedrooms feature an en suite combination toilet and shower stall. Towels and soap are furnished. Unfortunately, the electric outlets in compartments are no longer able to handle hair dryers or flat irons.

16. Pack an Extra Pair of Socks

You might want to bring a pair of running socks to wear in your room. More cozy and you may not want to walk barefoot in your compartment or in your “good” socks. I bring a pair of hotel slippers (still in the cellophane). Shoes are required to be worn when walking through the cars.

17. Dietary or Medical Needs

You will need to bring your own cooler. Amtrak cannot heat or store personal items. Your room attendant can get ice for you to replenish as needed.

18. Mobility Limitations

Amtrak has lifts for wheelchairs or if you are unable to climb the steps onto the train. Make sure Amtrak is notified that you’ll need lift assistance. Lower level accommodations include roomettes and a wheelchair accessible room with en suite facilities.

19. Staying Charged

There are electric outlets in every room so you can keep your phone etc. charged.

20. B.Y.O.B. – Yes, You Can

If you’d like a cocktail before dinner in the comfort of your room, you can bring your own booze. Just ask your room attendant for a cup with ice. Or you can buy beer, wine and spirits in the café car. You can’t bring your own alcohol into the dining car, but you can order it.

21. Ask Your Attendant for a Second Blanket

You never know how cold or drafty it might get during the night. The new blankets are thinner and each one is cleaned and sealed in plastic. Don’t open the second blanket unless you need it. Keep it clean for the next passenger. If you’re in coach, it’s wise to bring a small, warm throw blanket.

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69 Comments

  1. Hi Cathy,
    Thank you for reading my article and your kind words. I understand your concern about fitting your bikes and luggage into an Uber or Lyft. And you are correct about not biking, especially with baggage (?), around the train station, that actually is located in Hialeah, not Miami. There’s really not a lot there except neighborhoods. Maybe if you ordered the largest Uber it might work. Or exit the train maybe a little further north near an area with nearby hotels while it’s still daylight. Then the next day, you can spend time either renting a van or wait for the right sized ride share? That’s really all I can think of for you to do. Sorry I can’t be of more help with your bicycle issue. Or maybe just rent bikes in Miami? Either way, thank you again for your question. Have a wonderful and safe train and bike ride vacation!

  2. Thanks for so many useful tips! I’m an experienced train and bike rider, avoiding car and air travel as much as possible, planning an overnight trip with my husband from New York City to Miami with a sleeper and our two bikes. The train will arrive after dark at best, maybe very late with delays. Could you recommend a way to get us with bikes and baggage to a hotel in the area? I’m concerned that Uber or Lyft may not have vans available and there are no good hotels listed online near the Miami train station. I understand that the Miami station is in an area that may be unsafe to bike in after dark?

  3. Hi Glenda,
    Thank you for your question. I am not sure why you received the message “sold out” except that there are only a certain number of rooms available and maybe other passengers got there before you. The FAQs here cover your question about the additional charge, should you win your upgrade bid price: https://www.amtrak.com/BidUp

    I hope you can try this again in the future. I’m curious how this works! Thank you again for reading my article.

  4. I received an e-mail asking if I wanted to bid on an upgrade on my room, however, when I went to Amtrak site it stated rooms were sold out I don’t understand I bid but on but last page said additional to original charge. Why not say this from the beginning? How can Amtrak site state about upgrade when site reads “sold out” This is very ambiguous

  5. Hi Melissa,
    Thank you SO much for your comment and for reading my article. WOW…you really are adding up the miles with Amtrak. Great suggestion about talking with your car attendant. They can be full of tales and helpful info. I also “listen in” (eavesdrop!) on others’ conversations when it’s about train lore, train facts, etc. Other train crew with great stories (as you probably already know) are in the dining car (when it is fully reopened.). I usually take the late seating for dinner and when the dining car starts to clear out and the mad rush is nearly over, that’s when it seems like the dining staff get chatty and really make you feel at home.

    I agree, it is fun to shower on the train. And I try to time it so that (if there’s still daylight) I don’t miss a sunset or a station stop.

    Thank you again for your kind comments and taking the time to write. It’s much appreciated. Happy ‘rails to you! Enjoy the Zephyr! Be on the lookout for “Moon River!”

  6. I enjoyed this article very much. The duct tape is a great idea. Thanks. In the last 60 days I have traveled on the Silver Meteor between NYC and Miami and the Empire Builder between Seattle and Chicago. I am scheduled to take the California Zephyr from San Fran to Chicago this weekend. I have fallen in love with long-distance train travel. The views out of my window are so mesmerizing that I don’t think about multi-tasking. I just enjoy the moment. There is also something almost magical about taking a shower before bed on a train. I have used both a hairdryer and flat iron with no problems on both trains (Viewliner and Superliner). The only suggestion I would add is to talk to your car attendant (while standing together in the boarding vestibule before a fresh air break is a good time). They can tell all kinds of stories and offer an accurate glimpse into the Amtrak culture. Thanks again.

  7. Hi Christena,
    That’s fabulous! Have a wonderful time! If you think of it and have a few moments…when you return, drop a comment about your train ride and trip. Thanks again.

  8. Thanks so much! Just ordered a cordless curling iron. I thank you, my hair thanks you, and everyone on the Grand Canyon getaway in September will be grateful they are not looking at pink curlers😀. Love your blogs

  9. Hi Christena, Thanks for reading the article and your interesting question, lol. Let’s just say that it is possible to use a hair dryer or flat iron…but it could blow a fuse, I guess, that’s the reason for allowing them. On another note, there are cordless travel-size flat irons that you could pack. Don’t let this deter you from an overnight Amtrak trip. Thanks again for writing.

  10. Really no hair dryers or curling/flat iron?? I don’t have wash and wear hair😉. Any suggestions?

  11. Hi Donna,
    Thank you for reading my article and sending your question. You should contact your tour operator asap for all the details of your trip, including baggage handling. Usually, on train tours (as on motor coach tours), baggage is taken care of by the tour operator. They arrange for picking up your luggage and delivering it to your hotel room and back to the train and so on. However, definitely contact whomever you booked this trip with to find out how they deal with luggage. I’m sure that you’ll need a separate small overnight bag for when you are on the train. And when you get all of your luggage at the hotel, then you can repack with what you’ll need for the next segment. Have a terrific trip!

  12. We are booked for a 13 day vacation tour. Includes hotels as well as onboard sleeping. We have a roomette. Question is, what about the checked baggage. Is there baggage service at the stops to the hotels, as well as when we’re on the bus tours? Train changes, etc. lots of unanswered questions regarding our checked luggage. Do we take our carry on with us on the tours.

  13. Hi Priya,
    Thank you for reading my Amtrak article. While I have not personally been able to experience Amtrak during this pandemic, from what I’ve read, the onboard crew and cleaning crew are doing their best. Traveling with two kids in a bedroom (a deluxe bedroom with your own bathroom) would probably be easy, depending upon the route and amount of time on the train. Meals are delivered to your room so that will eliminate any dining issues. I would recommend bringing plenty of Lysol or Clorox wipes, extra masks and use all the precautions to stay healthy. Thank you again for taking the time to read the article and send your question. Enjoy your trips!

  14. I am considering a cross country trip with two little kids in a bedroom on Amtrak. How safe do you think it would be during the current pandemic? We are opting for train travel as it would be safer and much easier for social distancing in a bedroom as opposed to flying. Would you recommend any tips on travelling with Amtrak suring these times?

  15. Hi Jeff,
    Good question. Just to be sure, I called Amtrak. Yes, the Café car (on the lower deck of the Observation car on Superliners) is closed. It’s very cramped quarters so I definitely understand it would be closed due to covid. The dining car will prepare meals and for those in sleepers, room attendants will deliver. If you haven’t experienced room service on Amtrak, it’s really convenient. Sometimes there can be a bit of a wait for your attendant to keep going back and forth so I might suggest not waiting til the last call for room service. Be sure to bring Clorox or Lysol wipes and even though your accommodation will have been cleaned, I always wipe down every touch-point, including the little latch on the door. Have a great train ride! Thank you for reading my article and taking the time to comment.

  16. I see this on the Amtrak page, where Im considering a trip from SFO to DEN, this is an overnight trip.

    There is a note that says:

    “Café service will also be suspended on select trains, and all overnight trains,”

    How should I interpret that, no food services?

  17. Hi,
    Glad to know my train info was helpful. DC to Savannah is a pretty ride, tool and you’ll have more daylight by then, too. Thank you for your kind comment and enjoy the journey!
    Sherry

  18. Thank you so much for your blog! I just found it today and it’s been incredibly helpful. I’m thinking of an overnight train right from Washington, DC to Savannah, GA for my birthday in May. The information you give is so encouraging and detailed. Very much appreciated. Thank you.

  19. Hi Toya,
    Thank you so much for your note…it’s much appreciated. I’m glad I was able to provide some train travel tips for your “cruise” with your mom. There is some information buried deep on the Amtrak site but not easy to find. Have a wonderful train ride to the Grand Canyon! Thank you again for taking the time to read my article and send your comment.
    Sherry

  20. Sherry, Thank you so very much for this information. Mom and I are doing the Grand Canyon Getaway from Union Station in Washington,D.C. for her 78th birthday. She LOVES trains and is so excited! Me,on the other hand, felt so unprepared UNTIL I found your article! I JUST told Mom that Amtrak doesn’t reach out to their travelers very much and kind of leave us to look for detailed/in depth information on our own. Granted, there is some info on their website but it doesn’t match these priceless gems you and others have given us here. I am now looking forward to preparing for our cross country rail vacation thanks to you.

  21. Hi Katina,
    Thank you very much! If it is within your budget, I highly recommend a sleeper for an overnight or longer train trip. Some people are fine in coach, though. Whatever you plan, have a terrific train ride and thank you for writing…much appreciated.
    Sherry

  22. I just discovered this website. I’ve never done a long Amtrak trip before, and I’m especially interested in the sleeping cars. I’m finding this website very useful for planning my trip! Thank you!

  23. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the update. I also recently read that it’s good-bye to the dining car on the Meteor, too. I can’t believe this is happening. I’ve tried those disgusting heat n’ eat meals and they are a box of chemicals. The deluxe bedrooms will still have their own in-room toilet/shower/sink but you heard right…the roomette people will have to go down the hall for a toilet. At least they should have kept a sink in the roomette, like on many of the European trains. You can brush your teeth and wash up without trudging down the hall to a shared bathroom. I hope some day that Richard Branson starts cross-country train service here. Thanks very much for writing and for reading my articles. If you have time after your next train trip, please drop me a note and let me know about the experience.
    Sherry

  24. Hi again, I just found out that Amtrak will be discontinuing “traditional” dining car service on the Silver Meteor (and other trains), replacing the “cooked on board” meals with “airline first class” type meals that are delivered to the train, then re-heated. This “dining change” will not be available to coach passengers (like the previous dining car was). Also, new sleepers will be added, and the roomettes on those will not have a in-room toilet/sink.
    I still plan on making my yearly trip on the Meteor to see how this “works”, but I’m not happy about the changes. My wife will be flying first class to Florida this time, and I may be giving up train travel to Florida myself in the future.

  25. Hi Pat,
    Thank you for your wonderful comment and support for the only train system we have at this time. I totally agree…Amtrak is fantastic. Have a wonderful train ride. Sure, Amtrak is far from perfect, but heck, it’s our only train system and worth our support to keep it going, especially the long-haul western routes. The dining cars are quickly disappearing, too. Drop a note if you can after your trip and let us know your thoughts. Happy ‘rails to you!
    Sherry

  26. I love Amtrak and the sleeping car. I am planning a trip and found all 29 hints wonderfully helpful. It’s been awhile since my last trip (round trip, NYC to Flagstaff az) and I forgot lots of important stuff. Small bills for tipping and sweaters or extra blankets. I envy your extensive travel. For those of us who can’t or won’t fly, Amtrak is fantastic. Why is everyone in such a hurry!!!! Thanks, pat

  27. Hi Pat,
    That’s so funny…and so common. I’m really glad that your attendant had the supplies to fix the vent. Thank you for your comment and for reading my article. Much appreciated.
    Sherry

  28. Our sleeper porter used duct tape and a piece of lightweight cardboard to block the vent when the sleeper became too cold.

  29. Hi Russ,
    Thank you for your nice comment. I’m glad the list is helpful. Have a fabulous train ride.
    Sherry

  30. Thanks for your insight on what to pack, I am planning my first train trip on the California Zephyr and having been searching for a list like yours. Thanks

  31. Hi John,
    You’re right. After last month’s trip in a refurbished bedroom, I noticed a sticker above the electric outlet that said, “No hair dryers or flat irons.” This was the first time I’ve ever seen that notice. In the past, I’ve used my hair dryer with no issues. This time I did not use it. Thank you for your comment.
    Sherry

  32. One caution: the 120V system might not be up to powering a hair dryer. The plugs in the Superliner roomette emphatically are NOT.

  33. Hi David,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and taking the time to read my article. Have a wonderful time aboard the train! The views are spectacular and it’s so interesting to meet new people in the dining car. If you have a chance when you return, please drop me a note and let me know about the journey.
    Happy ‘rails!
    Sherry

  34. Fantastic list of tips and I read through all the comments and replies gathering other little nuggets tossed out there. My wife and I are traveling across the US starting in Texas, going to Chicago and ending in San Fran. We have always wanted to do this and are finally getting the chance to do it this year. We booked a sleeper car for our 4 day journey and we can’t wait!!! Thanks again for the tips! Looking forward to the adventure ahead!

  35. Hi Joe,
    Thank you for your train story. The fabulous routes, for sure, especially the Sunset Limited. I was on the Silver Meteor in April and there was no longer wifi available. One of the new budget cuts, I was told. The new Amtrak president is only keeping wifi on Amtrak commuter and Acela trains. I agree…I’ve never had to wait for breakfast or lunch. Good idea to get two roomettes, too. And thanks for mentioning to remember to tip the dining car staff. On my last three long-hauls trains from Chicago going to the west coast and back, passengers are reminded that a gratuity is greatly appreciated.

    Happy Travel to you and your wife.

    Sherry

  36. We have traveled on 3 Amtrak long distance trains: The Silver Meteor, The Crescent, and The Sunset Limited. My wife and I are in our mid-70s, and always get 2 roomettes. These cost less than a “bedroom” (which still has upper and lower bunk beds). Our 3 trains all had wifi. We did take some duct tape, but never had to use it. It was nice having the private “sleeping car” waiting rooms in Philadelphia and New Orleans, especially if the train is late. The only dining car reservation we had to have was dinner. We never had to wait in line for the other 2 meals. Although your “sleeper” meals are pre-paid, don’t forget to tip.

  37. Hi Shawn,
    There is very little room for luggage and two people in a roomette. However, in addition to the option of checking your luggage at the station, the main level of the Superliner has shelves for stowing luggage en route. But once tucked away on a shelf, it can be a challenge to get into the contents. So be sure to pack overnight bags for each of you. I recommend packing a small toiletry case (with a hanging loop or something like that) to take to the public bathrooms or shower room.

    Could you also pack just enough medical needs for each leg of the trip to keep in the room with you? There is no option for refrigeration, however, if you pack a little cooler, then your room attendant can supply the ice.

    The roomettes are small for two people, but definitely do-able for two-night trips per train. Again, pack separate overnight and toiletry cases plus your medical supplies and stow or check the big bags.

    Have a great train ride! Thanks again for writing.

    Sherry

  38. How much luggage room is in a roomette? Traveling from Chicago to Seattle, then on to San Francisco, and back to Chicago. We will be checking a bag or two. Granddaughter is a type 1 diabetic and we will need supplies and insulin for 2 weeks. We must have these items in the room with us and really cannot pack the spares in our checked bags.

  39. Hi Robin,
    Thanks for your suggestion. For my trips last month, I bought a 3-outlet plug at the Dollar Store and works great, and is easier to pack. But definitely a good idea to increase charging items. Thanks, again.

    Sherry

  40. Hi MaryKaye,
    There really isn’t much that Amtrak can do in the way of providing special meals. You might want to call and ask if there are any packages meals that could be ordered. Other than picking and choosing from the menu, I’m thinking that packing some of your own food is the way to go. Be aware, though, that they cannot heat up anything that a passenger would bring onboard. They do have salads and Newman’s Own dressings. You might be able to have someone send you an ingredients list, too. Good luck. Enjoy your train trip and thanks for writing.

    Sherry

  41. Great ideas…one thing I would add to your list is a power strip. There is only one plug in the roomette. Happy Rails!

  42. Hi, this is a great list as we prepare for our first Empire Builder train from Seattle to Chicago. We have a roomette, but couldn’t swing the nearly double price for the one with private bath. Questions – any relevant updates we should know about for our current trip, and can they accommodate dietary restrictions? One of us is Type 1 diabetic allergic to dairy, the other is full blown Celiac with additional soy allergy. We were honestly contemplating just packing all of our meals.

  43. Hi Debbie,
    Please don’t expect anything like the Orient Express! Our trains are noisy, rattle-y and quirky. But I love them anyway. With a roomette or bedroom sleeper, you receive complimentary bottled water. But of course that doesn’t solve your very considerate effort to avoid a plastic mountain. No, I would advise not to drink the sink water. You could buy water before your train ride. If you’re looking for glass bottles, the most common is either Aqua Panna or Voss found in most grocery stores. That said, I always drink the coffee or iced tea on the train…but not the sink water.
    Have a wonderful train ride!
    Sherry

  44. We are coming from Nz to do a rail journey in june. This is our first time on the american trains. We will be in a roomette for 2 nights and during the trip we are booked in the coach on 2 days. Please can you tell me if you can refill your water bottle on board the train? Is the water safe to drink? I don’t really want to add to the plastic mountain so was going to travel with a light metal refillable drinking container.Thanks for tip about asking for extra blanket and duct tape. Sounds very sensible

  45. Hi Bibi,
    Thanks for contacting me. It’s hard to say what’s comfortable and what’s not – it’s so subjective. A deluxe bedroom is definitely more comfortable, for sleeping and spending time in your room. In a roomette, the bed is very narrow but not horribly narrow. The mattresses are about three inched thick. Pillows are comfy, I think, and I always ask for a third one and an extra blanket. It’s comfortable enough to sleep for one or two consecutive nights, and again, in a bedroom I could do a couple more nights. It’s the movement of the train that will either lull you to sleep or jar you awake until you get used to it! Either way, it’s a great adventure and the ride from Florida to NYC is easy. Keep in mind that the Silver Star does not have a dining car anymore.

    I hope this is helpful. Have a wonderful train ride.
    Sherry

  46. Hi Sherry, I would like to take a vacation to Florida from New York NY with the Amtrak train,my first time and would like to know a little more about the rooms to sleep if it’s comfortable. I am not a flyer. Thanks Bibi

  47. Hi James,
    Thank you very much for your comment and reminding me I need to update the article. First it was no more wine and cheese party. Then the movie theatre was closed. Then the Parlour Car itself. So sad.
    Sherry

  48. Thanks for the information. #18 regarding socializing in the Parlour Car….
    The Pacific Parlour Cars were permanently removed from the Coast Starlight in February 2018. Unfortunately, there is no replacement for them.

  49. Hi Cookie,
    Happy early birthday! Thank you for your nice comment. Yes, you can for sure shower in your car’s community shower room. It does have more space because it’s a “real” shower, not a marine-type over-the-toilet shower. There will be fresh bars of soap, towels and a small changing area, too. These are on the lower level. You might want to wait until a longer station stop so you don’t have to hang on to a handrail while showering!

    Have a fun birthday trip! If you love trains, Sacramento has the California State Railway Museum about 1 1/2 blocks from the Amtrak station. Definitely worth it.

    Sherr

  50. Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for your wonderful comment. It’s pretty incredible to go cross-country on the train. You mentioned some terrific points. I’ll also add to wait for the train to stop to put contact lens in or remove them! Chicago’s Metropolitan Lounge is fabulous, I agree.

    Thanks again and have a wonderful train ride next time, too!
    Sherry

  51. I recently went from Boston’s South Station business class on the Lake Shore Limited to Albany where I switched to a Viewliner Roomette to go to Chicago’s Union Station. After a 4+hour layover there, I got on the Empire Builder and had a Superliner Roomette to Seattle. What an experience! I’ve always wanted to go around the country via train, and I plan to do it again. I’ll be taking the train all the way back to Boston, but this time with just one stop, again in Chicago.

    What I’ve learned:

    1.) The Viewliner Roomette has a private toilet but the Superliner Roomette does not.
    2.) If you have back problems, do not attempt to use the upper bunk.
    3.) Bring binoculars to view the countryside even better.
    4.) Pack a few snacks for those late night munchies.
    5.) Wait for a train stop to do your makeup unless you want a good laugh.
    6.) Take advantage of the Amtrak lounges at the various stations. I loved the Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station in Chicago. It even has a children’s area and a Candy Bar upstairs – yes, it has two floors. They offer beverages, snacks, fruit and cheese, and keep the place immaculate. You can check your luggage in, and they announce the trains for you, as well. And, best of all, there’s a shower!

  52. Great information. Taking a trip for my 70th birthday in June from Chicago to Sacramento. I got the bedroom only because my bathroom trips seems to be at night when I’m trying to sleep…:( My question I hear that the community bathroom is larger – is it ok to take a shower in the community bathroom – although I have a sleeper. Thanks

  53. Hi Todd,
    I hope your Empire Builder trip was good and with some colorful leaves in Glacier Park, too. GREAT idea to bring window cleaner…especially on the Viewliners. I just went from Montreal to Florida and I wish I had brought a small bottle of Windex and paper towels with me. The window was covered in dirty rain splotches and being a Viewliner, it would have been a cinch to clean. Next time I’m packing a travel spray bottle with a little Windex and some paper towels. Thank you again for the suggestion!
    Sherry

  54. Hi Angela,
    Good point about the recycling. On the western cross-country trains, there is usually a separate cardboard trash bin for recyclables. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much being done and many of us would like to see. But at least there’s an attempt. And Amtrak’s carbon footprint is sure a lot less than airplanes and automobiles. Wrapping the blankets in plastic, for me, is reassuring that it’s clean. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I was sure the blanket was being reused without cleaning. Interesting, though…on my last three Amtrak trips this month and last, the blanket was machine-like folded and not in a plastic bag. I did examine it pretty closely and felt confident that it wasn’t the last passenger’s blanket, too. Happy travels and thank you for your comment.
    Sherry

  55. Hi Jean,
    I DO remember our dinner and the woman you mentioned. Great idea to use one of those thin string backpacks. And it can go right onto any of those little hooks and down the hall to the community bathrooms. Thanks for your suggestion. I happen to have one of those string-type backpacks and will try it on my next train adventure. Thank you for remembering me and for reading my Amtrak articles. Much appreciated!
    Sherry

  56. Hi Sherry: We met a few years ago on a DC-Chicago train. (We had dinner with a woman returning to Chicago from a funeral in New York state – she had to go to DC to get a Chicago-bound train) Anyway, here’s my tip for traveling in a roomette: I bring a small string backpack to hang on one of the roomette hooks. In it, I put soap, shampoo, today’s pills, lip gloss, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant. Little stuff I don’t need in my purse but will need in the compartment or toilet area. Easy to take this bag to the toilet and hang on the door there.

  57. Thanks for the tips. I didn’t know that room service was included, definitely excited about that. It’s sad that there has to be more plastic (around the blankets) that becomes garbage. On the trains you have been on, Have you noticed any efforts on Amtrak’s part in regards to recycling? I found a small area by the cafe car when I was traveling coach, but not much else.

  58. A great list and right on the money from my past trips on the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr. Tomorrow, i am taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle, and reading your article made me more eager for the trip.

    There is more tip i would add to your list. i take a small bottle of window cleaner and some paper towels along to clean my window so i can have the clearest view possible as a gaze out during the trip. So far, my paper towels have turned black each time so it is well worth the effort. If you are in a room on the lower lever, you can even clean the outside.

  59. Hi Kristi, I’m glad you found some helpful tips in the article. Have a wonderful time. Thanks for writing!
    Sherry

  60. This is so helpful—thank you! Getting ready to travel from SFO to NYC via Amtrak, and super excited. Now, I’ll feel more prepared. 🙂

  61. Hi Margaret,
    Aboard Silver Star, meals are not included and you will pay for food in the Café car. Complimentary bottled water is still provided with your compartment. Only on Silver Meteor is there a dining car with meals included in the fare.
    Sherry

  62. I’ve enjoyed all your posts., I’ll be taking my first Amtrak trip from Pittsburgh to Tampa in may. All your info is great!

  63. Hi Diane,
    Thanks for you comment…great question. Unfortunately, there are really no discount rates for Amtrak. The best thing to do is to book as far ahead as possible to get the lowest rates. As space becomes unavailable, prices go up. I can’t imagine three people in a two-person roomette, unless one or two are infants. Usually, if you book far enough out, you can get two roomettes for less than a deluxe bedroom.

    Also, and I’m sure you’ve done this already, apply for the Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card. For Guest Reward points, whenever there’s a Buy Points promotion, I always max out and buy the most amount and receive the most percentage in bonus points. You can do this once a year. If you don’t have the Amtrak Mastercard, login to your Guest Rewards account for online shopping, and go through their portal to get as many points as possible through their list of merchants that you use. Even Walmart is listed.

    Last but not least, if you qualify for any discounts (AAA, AARP, Student etc) it will deduct a small amount from your rail fare portion (not sleeping accommodation.) But for me, every penny saved helps.

    Happy ‘rails to you and thank you again for your email.
    Sherry

  64. How can you score discount Amtrak rates, I don’t fly at all and need to travel back and forth across the US to travel. We are a family of three (3) so they force us to get two roomettes or a deluxe room which can be upwards of $2000 one way!!!! Any hints or tips on how to reduce that cost?

  65. Hi Kelly,
    Thanks for reading my Amtrak article. You can find a travel agent who books Amtrak (not everyone does) or call Amtrak yourself at 1-800-USA-RAIL. When “Julie” answers, you say, “Agent”. Say “Agent” again for the next two or three questions. That will put you through to an agent as quickly as possible. Accommodations are lower priced and have better availability the further out that you make your reservation. Remember, on the NYC-Florida route, only the Silver Meteor has a dining car.
    Have a wonderful train experience…Happy ‘Rails to you!
    Sherry

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