CLICKETY CLACK, CLICKETY CLACK! Passenger train travel has been around for decades carrying supplies and people from here to there. It is as American as apple pie and baseball. In today’s immediate gratification, modern day society people seek the quickest arrival method when planning a vacation and train travel does not fall into that category. That is unfortunate because train travel is very relaxing. If you’re interested in slowing down your pace and want to experience something different, give train travel a try.
AMTRAK is the government-owned, American passenger rail provider, created in 1971. It operates more than 300 trains daily in the U.S. connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states. To find a list of places AMTRAK travels, visit their website at: http://www.amtrak.com/home
The Sunset Limited travels east and west between New Orleans, LA and Los Angeles, CA and is the track most convenient for me. Three trains depart weekly in each direction. There are many stops on this route so check the schedule for your destination town. And remember, you don’t have to wait to arrive at your destination for the fun to begin. The adventure starts when you step aboard the train. Woo, woo!
Similar to air travel, there are several seat/sleep choices when traveling on AMTRAK: Coach/Business Class or Superliner Sleeping accommodations. Coach and business class seating is more comfortable than AMTRAK’s commercial airline rivals because the seats generally recline fully.
For added comfort on overnight travel, roomettes and bedrooms are available for an additional fee. They are private sleep areas with pull down beds.
The bedroom suite includes private restroom and shower facilities.
If you are interested in sleeper accommodations, make your reservations far in advance because they sell out fast.
Open dining on the train is an experience every one should enjoy at least once. The dining car, which is situated on the upper level of the train, is like a café on wheels. White lined topped tables accommodate four diners at one time.
Due to the limited number of tables available, dining times are staggered, similar to dining arrangements on a cruise ship. You select a meal time, depending on the time you board the train. If boarding is late in the day a dining time may be assigned for you. Either way, it’s worth it. If traveling with a group less than four, most likely you will have dining mates. Meeting new people is part of the fun.
For those who want to experience several modes of transportation during your vacation, consider the Amtrak Auto Train, only offering services in the US to and from Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Do you live south and want to go north? Do you live north and want to go south? Just take a drive to your closest station, load up your vehicle and let the conductor shave 900 miles off your trip.
If driving a car, upon arrival you will be met by a Greeter who will assign you a vehicle number. You will then continue to a valet area where you drop your car off and proceed to the train station waiting area. AMTRAK staff will load your car onto the train.
If you ride a motorcycle, you will be directed to the motorcycle loading area. Riders will dock their own bikes onto a trailer designed for the Auto Train. No muss, no fuss. When arriving to your destination, retrieve your car or motorcycle and carry on with your vacation fun. Please note that the unloading of vehicles begins about 20 minutes after arrival but could take up to two hours to complete. Those riding motorcycles should report to the motorcycle unloading area to assist in taking the bikes off the trailers.
The accommodations on board the train are the same as other AMTRAK trains. The dining car offers dinner reservations at 15 minute increments ranging from 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm. Seating is open. On our trip from Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA, we sat with a delightful couple in their 80’s. He was a WWII veteran. After the war he and his wife both enjoyed long careers as school teachers. Now, retired they travel regularly back and forth between their winter and summer homes. This was their 17th time traveling this route. They have never been disappointed.
The Auto Train makes one fuel stop on its route.
Only passengers associated with a vehicle are allowed travel on this train.
One drawback with train travel is family pets are not allowed; however, there is currently in consideration a change to that policy. http://www.pettravel.com/blog/index.php/pet-travel-on-us-trains-amtrak-pet-policy-to-change/
Not all train stations are manned.
You are only allowed to take bicycles with you if you are traveling to and from a manned station. Children under 12 cannot travel alone. Children 13, 14 and 15 can travel but there are restrictions. Check the AMTRAK website for more information.
The Sunset Limited is often very late when traveling East so check schedules and be prepared for late arrivals. You can’t be in a hurry when traveling by train!
Take a relaxing vacation and enjoy the scenery. Let someone else worry about the drive. Watch a movie. Have cocktails in the lounge. Share conversation, dinner, and experiences with new people or have a private dinner in your room. The choice is yours. Let the gentle rocking of the train lull you to sleep faster than you’ve fallen asleep in years. Keep train travel alive in America. Schedule your next vacation on AMTRAK.