In March, Matthew and I got the wonderful blessing and opportunity to travel on an Amtrak train from Iowa to Los Angeles. We stayed two nights on the train and got our own sleeping cabin or “roomette”.
First, the highlights. The two main reasons we chose to take a train rather than fly was so that we could actually experience our journey, and to have less stress. Choosing this method definitely checked both of those boxes to a fantastic degree.
I have major anxiety about planes, and I knew that I would not be able to enjoy my vacation, because I would be worrying about flying the whole time. Taking a train, I am very pleased to say, was a superb alternative for lower levels of traveling stress. There were no long lines, no body searches, and no strict restrictions on the size of shampoo you could pack. It was so relieving to simply wait for the locomotive to arrive, grab our things, and board.
For the second reason, I didn’t simply want to pass over the western United States, because I had never been there. I wanted to see the landscape, breathe the air, and feel the miles. From our roomette window we watched as the scenery changed from the flat lands of Colorado, to snow in the mountains of New Mexico, and the early morning light projecting rays through palm trees in California. Our longest pit-stop was in Albuquerque, and local vendors had a market set up right on the platform. We got to stretch our legs, meet local artists, and buy handmade souvenirs.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to converse with our fellow passengers. We dined with a couple going on an anniversary tour, boarded with a little girl about to see the Grand Canyon for the first time, and met a new family traveling to introduce their young baby to relatives on the other side of the country. The train was full of stories, and I couldn’t help but feel like a character in an Agatha Christie novel, even if for a bit. Our dinner companion commented that locomotives are a “sophisticated way to travel”, and I couldn’t agree more.
Now, for the thing I didn’t like. Sleeping on the train proved to be quite a challenge. I think there is a subconscious fail-safe that is built into the human body where it will wake up when shaken. So throughout the night, we were constantly being shaken, and my brain kept telling me that I needed to wake up. Our beds were comfortable, the sleeping car was quiet, and the temperature was nice. But the constant movement could not be helped. However, less than adequate sleep is kind of par-for-the-course when traveling.
Apart from the sleeping obstacles I really enjoyed taking a train. The food was superb, the staff friendly, and my own little cabin cozy and snug. The showers were warm, the bathrooms clean, and the views spectacular. For all of the benefits I think I can give up a night or two of sleep.
If you plan to take a longer trip I highly recommend renting your own roomette or bedroom. It does cost more, but the benefits are well worth it. You get access to the showers, a more comfortable place to sleep, privacy, and all of your meals are included.
Hopefully, this article has given you some insight, and all that’s left to say is “All aboard!”