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AMTRAK NYC to San Diego - Please Share Experiences

AMTRAK NYC to San Diego - Please Share Experiences

Old Apr 30th, 2020, 01:46 PM
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AMTRAK NYC to San Diego - Please Share Experiences

We cancelled our trip to Europe for September -- too many countries and modes of transport, not comfortable. We typically visit our kids in San Diego in the winter months. They have an apartment for us to stay above their garages, works out great. However, this year, thinking to try taking the train out and back in Fall, mid-Sept to mid-Oct, perhaps the northern route out and return via southern route (three days for the southern route, connecting in Chicago), or if we hate it, could fly home. We would opt for a "bedroom" with our own shower & toilet. As retirees, have time and no schedule. Yes, we believe this will offer some degree of isolation that a 6-hour airplane ride would not, and give us a look at places yet unseen. We are inclined to think that there will be a significant reoccurance of COVID by late Fall. We have done the Pacific NW via a land trip, have explored CA thoroughly last 20 years they're out there. Lived in Houston four years so have seen some of AZ, NM, UT. Not sure we'd buy the 30-day "see America" ticket or not. Want advice if you've done this, and appreciate your sharing all thoughts on this.
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Old Apr 30th, 2020, 02:56 PM
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Back in 2012 I did New York - Chicago - San Francisco by train (then north to Vancouver and back on Via Rail). I enjoyed the trip very much, and my trains were on time, which I know is in no way guaranteed. The food wasn't bad, either, but you should know that Amtrak is no longer providing a restaurant car on long distance trains in the east (although there is food delivered to your sleeper).

For my trip see (links at the top of the page): https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...shore-limited/

For more general info on train travel in the US see: https://www.seat61.com/UnitedStates.htm
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Old Apr 30th, 2020, 05:20 PM
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As a rider on Amtrak since October 2001 (mostly in coach) I can tell you that probably 75-80% of the time, the trains arrive within an hour of their scheduled time. I did miss the connection from the Sunset Limited to the Coast Starlight in February. The 15, 30 or 45 day USA Rail Pass is only for coach travel. I favor the Roomettes (downstairs if possible) to the bedrooms that have the shower and bath in the room. When my wife travels with me, I have no problem sleeping in the top bunk of a Roomette even with my CPAP.
I have ridden on the Lake Shore Limited only east as far as Rochester NY. For an overnight trip on the LSL, I like the Business Class seating which is 2 seats on one side and single seats on the other side in front of the snack bar area..
By "Northern Route" I'm guessing you mean the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland (or Seattle if you want to). In either case I would take a break of 24 hours and get off in Whitefish Montana and rent a car to go see as much as you can of Glacier NP.
Once you are in Portland, (or Seattle) you will be taking the Coast Starlight south into California. One trick I used in February was to only take the Coast Starlight to Sacramento. The CS arrives very early in the morning in Sacramento. I spent about 1.5 hours in Sacramento and got a great breakfast before hiking back to the station where I got on an Amtrak bus to Stockton (1 hour) then on the San Joaquin train to Bakersfield and another Amtrak bus from Bakersfield to Los Angeles Union Station. I got to LAUS about 2.5 hours before the Coast Starlight arrived.
Once you arrive in Los Angeles, you can catch the next Pacific Surfliner train to San Diego.
For overnight trips from now on, I do plan to use a Roomette although the Business class on the LSL is not too bad. You can and should bring your own food on the LSL.
You can decide for yourself whether you want to take the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago or just fly home. I advise against taking the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle through Texas to get back to Chicago.
Let me know of your specific questions about Amtrak travel.
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Old May 1st, 2020, 09:16 AM
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Tomfuller, thanks for your response. Wonder why you prefer the roomette over the bedroom though. We had a roomette from Whitefish to Portland few years back when we did the PNW and husband was claustrophobic in top bunk. Also for this duration and time we're experiencing, feel safer with own toilet/shower. I remember that roomette door would not close when my foot was perpendicular against bottom bed (yes, have very large feet)! We spent 3-4 nts in Glacier/Whitefish before boarding it, having begun at Tetons, Yellowstone, then into east side of GNP. Noted about no more long dining car, but we like to pack our own 'charcuterie' such as we did the first time we overnighted from Paris-Venice many years ago. We will see how summer "evolves" for us here in North Jersey, and start investigating specific train lines as you noted above. And having lived in Houston for four years and explored the state to satisfy all whims, no desire to travel through that state again.
Thursdaysd, thanks for your links. Didn't realize that Seat61 covers the States too, but we have only used it in Europe. We'll see how this develops.
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Old May 1st, 2020, 12:27 PM
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I have been a member of Amtrak Guest Rewards for a few years. I earn points on online shopping. If you shop online (US stores) you can earn enough points to cover at least 1 section of your trip. The longest "free" segment I've had is from Winnemucca NV to Chicago on the California Zephyr in a Roomette with my wife. I must agree that a roomette on the bottom bunk solo is better than the top bunk.
We did have a delay on the return trip to WNN. In the early morning hours a feed truck dumped its load on the tracks in eastern Colorado. That morning I got a good shower while the train was not in motion.
The cost for a roomette is considerably cheaper than a bedroom of any type.
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Old May 2nd, 2020, 03:04 AM
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If you want to take the train, more power to you. I am going to say that in the day of a pandemic I would not do it and we will still have a pandemic with us in the fall which you recognize. Think about the amount of possible contacts you can have in an enclosed space for whatever length of time it takes with people getting on and off. Just my opinion in a surreal time.
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Old May 2nd, 2020, 02:06 PM
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Thanks, Gretchen, just a passing thought, where we'd essentially sightsee from our own bedroom and bath, not making reservations anytime soon.
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Old May 2nd, 2020, 05:48 PM
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On the trains west of Chicago (bilevel) the bedrooms are on the upper floor with the bedrooms usually on the left side of the hallway. Westbound on the Empire Builder, your view will likely be on the west or south side. If the view is not what you want, you can go through the dining car to get to the sightseer lounge where you can see from either side. The lower level of the dining car is the kitchen. The food comes up on a dumbwaiter.
The dining car and sightseer lounge divides the sleepers from the coach cars.
You can get a big bonus of AGR points if you sign up for an Amtrak credit card and use it to buy stuff including paid Amtrak travel.
Amtrak keeps telling me that they are doing a lot more cleaning than their normal hit and miss that I've seen for years. On my last trip west on the Southwest Chief, I had breakfast with Mark Murphy who is the Amtrak VP in charge of long distance routes. He was on his way from Chicago to LA for a rail conference of some type.
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Old May 3rd, 2020, 08:25 AM
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I think it sounds like a very fun trip But personally I wouldn't do it this year in the pandemic. For me travel anywhere just seems to stressful right now and I don't see it changing that much real soon. And a train ride across country is not a quick endeavor! Honestly for me, if I had to be somewhere, I'd choose to drive or even fly nonstop before I'd do a long train ride in current times.

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Old May 3rd, 2020, 09:06 AM
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At the moment it appears that airline travel could be very safe. Just listen to a news program (Sun AM) and an airline representative indicated that the average airplane load today is 17. Not only can you have a couple of rows to yourself, it is almost a private bathroom.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 06:19 AM
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The riskier part is getting through the airport, IMO.

I'm not an Amtrak traveler but I had a friend who often took it between California and the East Coast.

I remember a story of missing her connection in Chicago. Pack extra food!
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Old May 7th, 2020, 11:02 AM
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I have loved train travel since the 50's, when we'd take an annual train trip from LA to DC on the Superchief (LA to Chicago). Rooms were a lot different then than they are now (now not better).

Since then, there isn't a year that goes by that we don't travel by train. It's usually been in Europe, taking overnight trains from A to B, and our son grew up on European train travel with us.

We haven't been on the US cross country route together, but we did take the Coast Starlight roundtrip from LA to Seattle, can't believe it's over 20 years ago now. My comments from that particular trip: (1) if we had to do it all over again, we'd do it one way, and fly the other. Because you see the same stuff (at different times, of course), and except for the parlour car with the afternoon wine-tasting, and the "entertainment" (a really fun magician, who was terrific for both adults and children), it was kind of boring. Especially the delays. (2) The rooms. Rather than get the room with toilet and shower, on the way up, we opted for the "accessible" room, which does have a toilet & sink; and on the way back, we got the family room. Both rooms were quite large compared to the bedroom you're thinking about getting. Because the bathroom you get in the bedroom takes up room, and is a combo toilet/shower in a small space. Not fun. The advantage to the bedroom is the better view as you are on the upper floor of the train. The advantage of the two rooms we took, which is on the lower floor, is that the shower is right down the hall, separate from any toilets, is clean and huge, comparatively speaking. Those rooms we had were more like the best of our European night train travel, although the European train compartments all had their own sink to wash up and brush your teeth. I think that's why we ended up preferring the accessible room to the family room, although both were great!

Our last train trip in the U.S. was in February on the Pacific Surfliner from LA to San Diego, and that train ride Californians LOVE! If you're 65+, you get the senior discount, and always worth it to go business class, as they feed you, and in the afternoons, even give you a little bottle of wine. The views where you are hugging the shoreline down near the San Diego area is gorgeous. Even out of LA, it's so interesting to go through the industrial area of east LA, and the little depots along the way are super cool!

Last edited by Surfergirl; May 7th, 2020 at 11:08 AM.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 01:07 PM
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Check the Amtrak site, for example the Business Class amenities are now modified

Business Class: An attendant will still be available to answer questions, however, adjustments will be made to the complimentary food and drink service. Options will be modified to allow customers to self-serve pre-packaged snacks and bottled water, instead of being served, for the safety of passengers and crews. Coffee service is suspended.
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