Travel by Train
My initial travel plan failures opened up many new possibilities for my summer. A few weeks before heading out to California, I got the idea that I could take the train out. It didn’t take much work to cancel my flight (thank you Southwest) and book a ticket from Denver to San Francisco via train. The trip would take 33 hours and it was amazing!
Here are some really important tips you need to know before taking the train:
1. Don’t be in a rush
My 33 hour train ride ended up taking 35 hours. The train was delayed from the second we left Denver because there was some kind of rail traffic. Then we got delayed a few more times along the way. I didn’t mind because 35 hours just wasn’t much longer than 33 but some people were pretty frustrated.
If you have somewhere to be, don’t take the train. Fly. It’s much quicker. Sometimes we were stopped for what seemed like no reason and other times we went so slowly but just go with it. And keep your schedule flexible. I don’t think the train is always late but plan that it might be.
2. Checking your bags
Amtrak’s website is a bit confusing about this because it said I needed to get to the station 45 minutes early to check my bag. And I did. But I was told I was too late, I was supposed to get there 1 hour early. It didn’t even matter because you can just bring your bag on the train with you. If you have a ton of bags, you may want to check them but if you are just traveling with a rolling suitcase, you can just put it on the train with you.
This was a bit frustrating. The Amtrak website says the trains have wifi. Don’t trust that. It’s possible that your train will have wifi but it’s not guaranteed. This was the one mistake I made. I planned for wifi and had some work to do. But my train didn’t have wifi. If you really need the internet, I recommend getting a wifi hot spot.
There’s a dinning car and a cafe on the train. If you opt for a sleeper car, the food in the dining car is included with the price of your ticket. If not, the dining car is pretty expensive. The food in the cafe is fast food, like frozen pizzas and hot dogs. There’s no microwave on board so if you plan on bringing food for your trip, make it cold food.
I recommend Starbucks’ Via coffee because you can get free hot water and just add the coffee packets to it. I also had brought dehydrated food (thanks mom and dad!) which came in really handy so I didn’t have to rely on the train food.
5. Sleeper car vs coach seat
I went for the coach seat on the train. The seats were comfortable and the company was mostly fine. I met plenty of people who were in sleeper cars and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. If you can afford it, a sleeper car would be really fun. Plus, as mentioned above, the food is included with the price of the ticket. But don’t worry if you have to go coach because it is completely fine!
If you are planning on taking the train, just go with the flow. Relax, watch the scenery and chat with folks!