Guide to Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations

As a committed non-flyer, Amtrak has played an important role for my travel experiences across America.  For me to travel to cruise from non-Florida cruise ports, an overnight Amtrak train is needed.  That’s how I became so familiar with Amtrak sleeping accommodations.

There are two types of Amtrak sleeping accommodations: a roomette and a bedroom.  While both have beds, they are two different entities.  There are also two different types of sleeper cars which have totally different train car equipment and sleeping compartments.  Let’s look at the two different long-distance train types: the Viewliner and the Superliner.

Amtrak-Superliner-Bedroom-large

 Viewliner

Viewliner trains operate mainly along the Eastern Seaboard.  Because of its lower height, Viewliners can fit into the many tunnels along this route. There are a few Viewliner trains on the east coast that travel westbound and their sleeping accommodations are always sold out well in advance. There’s the Cardinal, that runs between Washington, DC and Chicago, the Crescent traveling between New Orleans and New York City and the historic Lake Shore Limited between New York City and Chicago.

Amtrak-roomette

Viewliner roomette at bedtime.

The Viewliner is a one-level train and offers compartments that will sleep two or more passengers. A Roomette sleeps two passengers, a Bedroom sleeps two and maybe a very small child and a wheel chair accessible bedroom will accommodate two passengers.  Two bedrooms can combine to become a bedroom suite that will sleep four people.

Roomette at a glance

A Viewliner roomette has a picture window with two wide, reclining seats that face each other.  In the middle of the seats is a pull-up table that unfolds.  There’s also an upper bunk with its own window and basket for reading glasses, etc.  Right next to one of the seats is the “bathroom”.  This consists of a fold-out sink with hot and cold spigots, a mirror, a rack for soap, tooth brush and wash cloth.  There is a small luggage storage bin up and across from the upper bunk.

An Amtrak Silver Star roomette. You still get bottled water, juice and coffee...just no proper dinner.

An Amtrak Silver Star roomette. That’s the toilet with the pink lid cover.

The toilet is right there, too, next to one of the seats.  If you’re traveling solo, it’s no big deal.  If two people are traveling in a roomette and modesty prevails, one person may choose to step outside while the other, well…you know.

Privacy curtains have Velcro fasteners and there’s a flip-over lock for the door.  There are two electric sockets with 120v, close enough to be able to charge your laptop while working on the pull-up table.  Unlike in Europe with keycards for entry, on Amtrak your compartment door does not lock from the outside.

Click to read about:  Overnight trains between New York City and Miami

When you leave your compartment to go to the Dining Car, Café/Lounge Car, Observation Lounge, or to step off at a stop to stretch, your compartment is unlocked.

Amtrak coffee station in sleeping car

Amtrak coffee station in sleeping car

The good news is that your car attendant seems to know who does and does not have a reservation for a sleeper and keeps an eye out for trespassers.  Europeans, used to having their compartment locked when they leave it, are usually a little flustered at first. But it all works out fine.

Bedroom

If you can afford a bedroom, go for it.  With plenty of room for your luggage, two people can travel in comfort in an Amtrak bedroom.  As you enter the bedroom, there’s a fold-out, full-length sofa (a smidgen wider than a twin bed) that runs just about from the doorway to the window.  Above it is a drop-down bunk bed.  Across from the sofa is a petit sink and countertop, with room for your toiletries.  Facial tissue is provided (in the roomette, too) as well as wash clothes, hand and bath towels and soap.

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Amtrak Superliner Bedroom

Superliner bedroom.

Best of all, there’s a private bathroom with a shower.  It’s not big and the shower is above the toilet, but when you properly close it all up, it works great and you can arrive at your destination refreshed.

Amtrak superliner bedroom shower

This is the en suite bathroom in a bedroom compartment, on both Viewliner and Superliner. Bath amenities are on the ledge next to the towels.

Opposite the door to the tiny bathroom is a small fold-up chair with storage rack and hooks above it.  This makes it possible for two people to sit by the window facing each other.  The door locking system is the same as the roomette.

Public Shower room for roomette passengers

At one end of each sleeping car on a Viewliner is a public shower room.  Able to accommodate only one person at a time, your car attendant will have it stocked with fresh soap for each person and neatly folded towels.  There’s a laundry basket where you can toss your used towel and wash cloth.

Every sleeper car has a shower room. The attendant has even made a pretty flower with the wash cloth. Aw.

Every sleeper car has a shower room. The attendant has even made a pretty flower with the wash cloth.

Superliner

The second of Amtrak’s overnight long-haul trains is the Superliner.  This is Amtrak’s iconic double-decker train that operates mainly everywhere else across the USA except the eastern seaboard, because it is too tall.  One east coast Superliner exception is the Capitol Limited between Washington DC and Chicago.  The remainder of Superliner overnight trains head west, except for the Texas Eagle which runs north and south between Chicago and San Antonio.

Here’s where the Superliner and Viewliner differ. Aboard the Superliner, compartments are on two levels and roomettes on the Superliner do not have an en suite sink or toilet, as they do on the Viewliner.

Amtrak accessible bedroom

Viewliner accessible bathroom in the compartment.

On the lower level of the Superliner you’ll find four roomettes plus a family bedroom at one end of the car and an accessible bedroom at the other end.  It’s on this level that there are three private bathrooms, each with sink and toilet and one separate shower room.  Paper towels are available or your can bring towels from your compartment if you’re just using the bathroom to wash your hands.

Upstairs you’ll find both roomettes and bedrooms.  The four bedroom sleepers have their own enclosed bathroom.   For the ten roomettes there is only one public bathroom on the upper level.  Occasionally, I’ve been in an upstairs roomette when there were two public bathrooms.  But it’s not the norm.

Choosing a Superliner roomette

If you want a roomette, how do you decide which level of the Superliner is best for you?

If you’re on the upper level, the train ride is quiet and amazingly smooth.  But, as I mentioned above, there is only one bathroom to share with nine or more other roomette passengers.

If you’re in a roomette on the lower level, you will feel the train movement and hear the clickety-clack of the wheels. But, on the lower level you have access to more bathrooms and the shower room.

For those who have difficulty walking, they may prefer the lower level to not have to climb the staircase to the second level.  Very convenient if you’re on the train for two or three days across country.

What’s included with a sleeper

No matter which Amtrak sleeping accommodation you choose, all of your meals are included in the dining car for the entire journey.  The exception is the no-dining-car Silver Star train between Miami and New York City; no meals are included.

Also included when you purchase an accommodation are complimentary bottled water, coffee, tea and juice, turn down service by your room attendant, individual climate control, soap, towels and tissues.

Rather than sit up all night in a chair in the coach car, opt for a sleeper.  You’ll never go back to sleeping in a coach seat again!

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By |December 21st, 2016|Amtrak, Featured, Travel Tips|

17 Comments

  1. Doug December 22, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    It’s on my bucket list to take a train across the country. The longest I’ve ever taken a train is between Baltimore and Savannah, Georgia – in coach – it sucked!

  2. Sherry Kennedy December 22, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Doug, It’s a totally different experience in a sleeper overnight than in coach. But we’ve all done an overnight in coach. Once. Thanks for your comment.
    Sherry

  3. Barbie Swart December 25, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Thank you for the info! I’m planning our vacation for next summer. Dallas to LA. Four adults, so I’m think to save money, will go coach to San Antonio and bedroom from SA to LA.

    I’ve taken the train from Dallas to Houston before years ago. Had a 3 year old and a 1 year old. That was fun! Lol

  4. Sherry Kennedy December 25, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Have a great trip! I’ve done something similar…go coach for a segment and then move into a sleeper when the price is less. The scenery through New Mexico is beautiful. Thanks for your comment.
    Sherry

  5. Glendaa G February 19, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this information and the photos. We are traveling from ‘Texas to Virginia soon and have reserved sleeping accommodations for the first time and all information is so valuable to us.

  6. Sherry Kennedy February 20, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Hi Glenda,
    I’m so glad my article was helpful to your vacation planning on Amtrak. Enjoy the journey! Thank you for your comment.
    Sherry

  7. Rose June 13, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Hi, Sherry – We are traveling on the Silver Star to NYC soon, and have reserved a roomette. We understand there is no diner car, but wondering if there are other cars such as a lounge or observation area where we can relax outside of our roomette for a while. Thanks for the great articles that are preparing us for our trip!

  8. Kathleen June 14, 2017 at 2:29 am

    I’ve slept in a Roomette and in a Bedroom and as a larger person and as a disabled veteran, I have to say the bedroom berth was just a tad wider, however, my husband and still I had to sleep in separate berths in the bedroom. The Roomette is fine if you are by yourself but two people who are either bigger or older or have mobility issues are going to be more comfortable in one of the bedrooms.

    We have found, however that it is perfectly possible to take the train cross-country in bedrooms for less than the price of either first class air or 3 economy seats, which is what we would have to book so that we and our fellow passengers would be more comfortable. *and* it includes meals and turn down service. As larger folk we are acutely aware of trying not to make others uncomfortable. And that is hard to do in airplanes. Trains are just so much more sensible.

    We have also found that it is perfectly possible to book passage on Cunard’s QM2 passenger liner for less than first class air or 3 economy seats on an air plane. And we get our own bedroom with a King bed.

    I don’t know why anyone flies anymore.

  9. Sherry Kennedy June 21, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Rose,
    While it’s great to save quite a bit of money on the Silver Star, it can feel a bit confining to not have the dining car to visit 3x a day! You will find an Amtrak Café car with several tables/booths. I just rode the Silver Star for the second time and I brought a small $1.99 styrofoam cooler. I packed a few frozen water bottles (they last longer than those blue ice packs) and filled it with food for the trip. I supplemented meals with little bits from the café car just to get up and around. After the train ride, I emptied out the cooler and offered it to my car attendant or for anyone who might want it.

    Have a terrific train ride! Thank you for your comment!
    Sherry

  10. Sherry Kennedy June 21, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Kathleen,
    Bravo! I’m with you 100% on this subject! No need to fly. It just takes a little longer…and can be part of your vacation. Thank you for your comment and happy travels!

    Sherry

  11. Sandy July 4, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    My two cents worth on Superliner Roomettes…I am a plus size woman, 5’7″. Hubby is average size & 5’6″. I am claustrophobic to the point of not even being able to watch cave-type movies! We went from southern Wisconsin to NW Montana in a roomette, about 27- 28 hrseach way. Regular bedrooms were too expensive.
    I didn’t have any problems at all with claustrophobia in roomette. I did sleep on bottom bunk and kept curtains open to outside & slept facing window. We had 2 large-ish duffel bags, large purse, & small cooler with us & could’ve fit 1 more bag. The shared bathrooms were a little tight for a claustrophobic person, but I just focused, hurried, & got out.
    We were very comfy in our roomette both ways on trip & will absolutely do it again. The bedrooms are really nice and roomier, but just way too much money for us. I cant recommend roomette highly enougha

  12. Jay August 18, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Is it better to get a travel agent for cross country? Prices hard to predict, plan for summer 2018. Ideas?

  13. Sherry Kennedy August 19, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Hi Jay,

    A cross-country trip can be tricky to plan, especially if you’re not familiar with all of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and itineraries. A travel agent who is knowledgeable about Amtrak could be a tremendous help to you. I would suggest ordering an Amtrak National Timetable (an actual paper brochure!) as it really helps in planning…I still use one! Keep in mind that the further out you book, the better the pricing on accommodations. Have a wonderful journey on the train!
    Sherry

  14. Sandy September 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    One point about the shared bathrooms in superliner sleeper cars. Though there is only one bathroom upstairs, any sleeper car passenger can use the downstairs bathrooms if they want to – for example, if the upstairs one is in use. I’ve done that frequently. There’s just more bathrooms downstairs because there’s more room for them there.

  15. Sherry Kennedy September 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Sandy,
    For sure! When I have an upstairs roomette, I always go downstairs to use the bathrooms. That’s why I recommend a little “ditty” bag (Girl Scout lingo) that contains whatever you need to get ready for bed or in the morning. I also bring a washcloth or if there isn’t one in the roomette, I ask the attendant. Thanks for your comment! Happy travels!
    Sherry

  16. Richard Rowland October 10, 2017 at 11:51 am

    I have wanted to take a cross country trip since 1971….finally. As a writer, I plan on writing about the experience. Richard

  17. Sherry Kennedy October 10, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Richard,
    That’s great! Thanks for reading – and have a wonderful experience on Amtrak.
    Sherry

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