Taking the train cross country was something I'd always wanted to do. A bucket list trip. So, I booked a one way ticket to Florida, and traveled back home to Oregon on the rail.
My goal was to document the trip, but it's hard to capture the full experience.
I talked a lot about my trip on the Experiences You Should Have podcast: https://experiencesyoushouldhave.com/podcast-episodes/cross-country-train-trip/
I thought it would be helpful to answer some questions:
// What Music Did You Use? //
// How much did the trip cost? //
The train ticket was $369, coach seats the whole trip. Sleeper cars can range anywhere from $200 to as much as $1,000 per leg of the trip, depending on the time of year.
// How long did it take, and what was the route? //
The train left Orlando, Florida on Monday evening, and it arrives in Portland, Oregon on Friday Morning. So 4 nights total. My trip was a bit farther as I had to go from Portland, Oregon to Chemult, Oregon, which arrived Friday evening.
// Were you on the train the entire time? //
No. There were two extended layovers - one in Washington DC for about 9 hours. There is a metro station at Union Station - so easy access to get anywhere you need to go. In Chicago, my layover was about 5.5 hours. Enough time to get out, see some sights and get some food. You can check your bags at the train stations as well, for about $10.
// What were some must have items on the train? //
Ear plugs. Eye mask. Those two in particular. Ear plugs to drown out the noise of other passengers, the noise of the train on the rails, the train horn. Crucial. Eye mask because there are lights in the train at night. It's dim like an airplane would be, but still lighting here and there.
Snacks. Tablet. Headphones. Chargers. Each seat has 2 110V outlets, and each of the tables in the observation cars do as well, so power is never an issue. Neck pillow. Blanket.
// You didn't mention the food. How was the food? //
I would say that train food is slightly better than airplane food. The menu in the dining car on all of the trains was the same - so it did get a bit old. For breakfast, prices ranged from $8 to $14, lunch $12-$15 and dinner $16-$25. There is also a snack bar that has candy, snacks, drinks (beer and wine), as well as some sandwiches and burgers. The service in the dining car was very good, and the staff were all very friendly. Traveling alone, meals in the dining car were always fun because you're typically paired with 1-3 strangers. So you're typically exchanging stories for around an hour. Here is a link to the dining page on Amtrak: https://www.amtrak.com/meal-choices-and-menus-at-a-glance
// Sleeping in coach. Was it that bad? //
I'd say, yes. If it were an overnight trip, not so bad. Even 2 nights. But by night 3 and 4 - it started to take a toll. The first 2 nights of the trip I had someone in the seat right next to me. That changes the experience quite a bit, as it's pretty close quarters. Having two seats to yourself makes a pretty big difference. Not in comfort as much as just feeling a bit of privacy. Comfort wise, it's just difficult to really get comfortable in those seats. There's not really any getting around that. Ear plugs and and eye mask are pretty invaluable.
// How were the bathrooms? Were there showers? //
The bathrooms were similar to an airplane bathroom. And there were plenty of bathrooms, so you never felt like you had to hurry, or had someone waiting for you. There was also a larger bathroom with a bit more space with a changing area. No showers. There are showers in the sleeper cars if you went that route.
// What about your belongings? Were they safe? //
I had a backpack with camera gear, tablet, headphones, chargers, etc. that I kept with me 90% of the time. Generally, I felt like my things would have been safe on my seat - but better safe than sorry. My carry on luggage (airplane overhead bin size) - I kept in storage racks on the bottom level of the train. In theory, anyone could have grabbed it and stepped off the train at their stop, but it made it with me the whole trip.