We just got back a couple of weeks ago from our train trip out west. We traveled by Amtrak out to Glacier National Park in Montana for a few days, and then on to Santa Barbara, CA for a week. Total, we spent 110 hours on the train over a 2 and a half week span. It was beautiful, so much fun, and we learned a lot of valuable information on the way, so I thought I’d share some of the things we learned with y’all and some basic information about train travel (specifically Amtrak) in general:
– Get the Amtrak app on your phone. It tells you if your train is delayed (which happens often). Our first train was delayed 5 hours; although most trains probably aren’t delayed that long, it’s common for them to be at least a little behind schedule.
-To go along with my previous point about the delays, don’t make any super time-sensitive plans (you really can’t be in a rush). Thankfully we had an overnight layover after our long delay, or else it would’ve really complicated things.
-But with that being said, do not be late getting to the train station, because the train waits for no one! The train station in Chicago is really busy, and we actually almost missed our train leaving from there. They tell you to get to the train station about 45 minutes early if you’re wanting to check bags, which we did in Chicago, but for some reason the baggage check line was super long, and by the time we got to the front of the line, our train was leaving in less than 5 minutes. The lady working the baggage check told us it was too late to check our bags at that point and we’d better run if we wanted to make our train. We literally sprinted to our train with with our stroller, 4 suitcases, and diaper bag and barely made it on in time!
We had a roomette during our time on the train. If you’re traveling with a baby or young child, I would totally recommend getting a roomette or a bedroom (the next size up). The next few tips are specific to people traveling in roomettes:
-Each roomette has two chairs, which fold down into a bed. We actually kept the chairs folded into a bed the whole time, because it allowed more room for Lively to be able to crawl around. The roomettes also have a top bunk that can be folded up during the day and folded down when you’re ready to sleep. *Just a forewarning, the roomettes are small (the size of a small closet), so when the bottom bunk is down, it takes up the whole floor (so there’s no standing room).*
-If you have a baby with you, he/she is going to need to sleep on the small bunk with you. Duncan slept on the top bunk, while Lively and I slept on the bottom. There wasn’t a lot of room, but it was still nice to have a bed to sleep in.
-When you have a roomette, there are 4 bathrooms and 1 shower in your sleeper car that you share with the other roomettes in your car. The showers are actually pretty nice, and towels are provided. Make sure to bring flip-flops, though, since you’re sharing a shower with so many other people.
-There is a luggage storage rack on the lower level of the sleeper cars. You have access to your suitcases there, so you don’t have to bring your big suitcases into your roomette with you (saves at least a little space).
-Each sleeper car has a train attendant. Your train attendant will answer any questions you have, make up your bed every night and take it down in the morning, etc. Make sure to bring cash to tip your train attendant at the end of your train ride.
-Meals are included, which is huge, because the meals typically range from $10-$40. They have a menu with 4 or 5 options to choose from for each meal. Most people eat in the dining car, but you can request to eat in your room if you’d like (just make sure to ask your train attendant). When you eat in the dining car, breakfast is first-come, first-serve, while lunch and dinner are done by reservation.
-Each person is allowed to bring 2 personal items and 2 carry-on items (be sure to look at their website for specific details). A stroller, car seat, and diaper bag don’t count toward those, and you can either carry them on with you or check them through to your destination if you won’t need them/don’t want to mess with them until your final destination. You can also check your 2 “carry-on” bags if you’re not going to need them until your final destination. Most of the time we checked our 2 biggest bags (except for when we almost missed our train in Chicago), so we made sure to have our toiletries and enough clothes in our smaller suitcases.
-If you’re staying in a sleeper car (either a roomette or bedroom), check to see if the stations you’re leaving from have a Metropolitan Lounge (I know for a fact Chicago, Portland, and Los Angeles have them). They’re basically nicer waiting rooms you can relax in while waiting for your train to arrive. They oftentimes provide free snacks and drinks, and you can store your luggage in there if you want to go out and about for a couple of hours. It was so helpful being able to know our luggage was in a safe spot while we explored Portland during our 4-hour layover there so we didn’t have to carry it around with us.
Traveling by train with a baby is quite a bit of work, but it’s also such a fun adventure and a memorable experience. If you have questions, I’d love to answer (I’m sure I left out some important information)!
Always and forever,