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Riding the Rails with Amtrak

Riding the rails with Amtrak is a mixed blessing. My husband and I went from Chicago Union Station to New York Penn Station by coach. We left at 10 P.M., slept on the chair, which tips farther back than those on a plane. So it is possible to sleep quite comfortably, though I still like to lie flat with my legs straight. There is a foot rest which comes up and that helps, so my hubby slept quite well, which was unusual for him while traveling.

There is a power strip at every seat, so you can sit and watch DVDs on your computer. As of now, there is no WiFi, though I was told it’s in the works.

On the way back we upgraded to a sleeper. The advantages: you can sit in a more luxurious room in Union or Penn station. Your meals are free. And you don’t have to share a toilet on board.

The disadvantages: The food is pretty awful. It’s not expensive, but it shouldn’t be. The salad consists of only a couple types of lettuce. That is about $7 and with chicken it is $9. I don’t eat meat, so I had some scallops and vomited the next three hours. I’ve decided to carry salmon flakes and order rice and veggies the next time.

There is a great sink with a mirror. It folds down and you can fill it with hot water, wash your face, brush your teeth, and when you fold it up, the water flows out to- wherever.

I don’t know how any of you feel about your privacy, but I want the door closed when I use the toilet. I don’t want my husband or any of my children in there with me. But this toilet sat next to the bed. It was covered and the conductor had to show me how to find it. My first thought was-this is like a toilet in a prison cell, just more luxurious. If you are traveling by yourself, it’s okay. Can you imagine being on your honeymoon?

If you have children, the sleeper is a good thing. The toilet is not soiled by others, and you can give them a superficial wash with a wash cloth and hot water. There is a shower down the hall, but I figured I could live with the clothes I had on for 24 hours.

Cost: for the two of us it cost about $455 for a return ticket going by coach. Upgrading to a sleeper is about $300 for one sleeper room each way, which has two beds.

Even with the inconveniences, I like the train because you can travel in most any weather and you can turn off for a few hours. You can also get up and walk around without a steward to tell you to sit down. If you want a drink, you can go to the cafe-bar and relax there.

I will ride the rails again, might even try their package allowing the customer to travel to different cities, get off and get on again.