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What to Expect Onboard a Long-Distance Amtrak Train

By Amtrak Vacations Tuesday, May 29, 2018 Read time: 5 minutes

With Amtrak Vacations, planning and booking a long-distance rail vacation has never been easier! Our long-distance routes traverse some of North America's most beautiful and remote regions not accessible by car, plane, or bus. The combination of breathtaking scenery, the diversity of places to get off the train and explore—from bustling cities and treasured national parks—and riding on multiple routes, makes for an extraordinary travel experience. Most people want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, but riding the rails is about so much more than simply arriving at your destination. It may not be the fastest mode of transportation, but it is certainly the most memorable.

Here's what you can expect onboard a long-distance Amtrak train, and some tips for making the most of your experience.

Sleeping Accommodations

If you've never been on a long-distance train vacation, Amtrak's options for sleeping accommodations may seem confusing. Many of the questions travellers often ask are, "Is there a shower onboard?", "Will my room have a private bathroom?" and "How does a Roomette or Bedroom convert for sleeping at night?" Below, learn the ins and outs of the Sleeper Cars, from Roomettes on single-story Viewliner cars to the double-decker Superliner bedrooms for families of up to four.

Amtrak’s Sleeping Car accommodations provide long-haul travellers with the choice of a Roomette, Bedroom, Bedroom Suite (two adjoining bedrooms) that can accommodate one to four people and Accessible Bedrooms. In a Roomette, daytime seating converts to beds at night. Electrical outlets, climate controls, reading lights, a small closet and fold-down table are all within easy reach. Bedrooms are larger than Roomettes and offer a sink and vanity with enclosed toilet and shower facilities.

Spanning the width of the train car, Amtrak’s Family Bedrooms are a cozy option for a family of four. Each Family Bedroom comes with two sets of bunk-style beds, a sofa and two reclining seats. This more spacious room gives mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) their own personal space, but more importantly, their own bed separate from the kids. Amtrak’s Bedroom Suites are made up of two bedrooms opened-up for a combined space. Roomy and comfy, and equipped with two landscape windows, the Bedroom Suites come with two in-room toilets, two showers and are a great option for a family or group of four friends. Bedroom Suites feature everything the Family Bedroom includes, plus a private sink and vanity, private toilet and shower, and a comfy armchair.

When you choose to upgrade to Amtrak Sleeper Service, benefits include:

  • Daily meals for each passenger in the room
  • Fresh linens and towels
  • A personal attendant to offer you bottled water or coffee and turn-down services
  • Personal climate controls
  • Reading lights
  • Comfortable daytime seating

Experience what's it's like to sleep onboard a long-distance train with our Northern Rail Experience, Across America by Rail, Grand Canyon Discovery, Glacier National Park Express, and USA and Canada Rail Experience. 

Ever-Changing Scenery

Grand National Parks with Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Glacier National Park

One of the greatest joys of riding an overnight train is that someone else does the driving while you get to take in the ever-changing scenery outside your window. Train travel is the most laidback way to see the beauty of North America, allowing you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. From mountains, forests, seascapes, and valleys to the vast, open plains, bustling cities, and secluded regions, you'll have the opportunity to experience sights that are rarely seen by anyone except passengers on long-haul trains. You'll enjoy the most scenic long-distance routes with our Grand Northern Rail Experience, California Zephyr Rail ExperienceGrand Canyon Discovery, Glacier National Park Express, and American Coast to Coast

The Observation Car

Superliner Observation Car

Speaking of ever-changing scenery, the Observation Car is the best place to appreciate the views! Observation Cars are part of Amtrak's double-decker trains that run long distances mainly west of Chicago. With floor-to-ceiling windows, these "sightseer lounges" truly bring the wonders of the passing landscape to a whole new level. All passengers are allowed to enjoy the Observation Car, which features single seats, double seats, family-style seating and even tables to enjoy your snacks, play board games, or use your laptop. Because of the incredible views, grabbing a seat on the second floor of the train is a favorite for all passengers, including first-time and seasoned riders, and those who want to capture great photos.

The Observation Car is best experienced on our Northern Rail Experience, Across America by RailGrand Canyon Discovery, Glacier National Park Express, and USA and Canada Rail Experience

The Dining Car

AMTRAK INK Route Pulse on the Silver Meteor

Although you can bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages onboard the train to consume at your seat, if you want to purchase food, Amtrak offers a selection of snacks (chips, fruit, yogurt, candy, pizza, and alcoholic beverages) and meals in both the Lounge Car and the Dining Car. Note: You're not permitted to bring your own food or beverages into either car and free water is available from a spigot with paper cups. On all long-distance trains, meals are prepared onboard for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Anyone seated in Coach, has to pay for their meals. For passengers who purchased accommodations in a Sleeping Car, meals are included. Mid-morning, an attendant will hand you a slip of paper with the time and number of people in your party to take reservations for dinner. At the fixed hour, an announcement is made to invite those holding reservations to the Dining Car. If you’re in a party smaller than four, you’ll be seated at the next open table and seated with your fellow travelers. Taking your meals in an Amtrak Dining Car—like a moving restaurant—is always an enjoyable experience and it’s one of the pleasures that’s unique to train travel. However, if you prefer to take your meals from the comfort of your Roomette or Bedroom, an attendant will take your order and have it delivered.

Reservations:  No reservations are necessary for breakfast, which typically starts serving at 6:30 am. For lunch, no reservations are needed and seating is first come, first served. At dinner, reservations are always required. As for seating, never seat yourself. Wait at the entrance to the car until staff directs you to a table. Enjoy onboard dining with our Northern Rail Experience, Across America by RailGrand Canyon Discovery, Glacier National Park Express, and USA and Canada Rail Experience. 
Travelling on a long-distance train journey is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. There really isn't any better way to discover and experience North America.

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