A Sleeper is Worth the Extra Cost.
Traveling in coach is fine for a daytime trip. But just imagine spending the night trying to sleep sitting up, and the person assigned to the seat next to you is a 300 pound biker who hasn’t had a shower for a couple of days. Or maybe there’s a fussy 2-year-old in the seat behind you.
So here’s the very first bit of advice I give to people planning their first long-distance train ride: Spend the money for a sleeping car! You can check out the coaches during your trip and make that choice the next time if you wish.
Yes, of course the sleeper is going to be more expensive. In addition to the basic rail fare, which is the same as the cost of a seat in coach, you’ll pay a supplement for the roomette (photo above). But remember: there is only one charge for the roomette, no matter if one or two people occupy the room. And—here’s the point—all dining car meals are included in the cost of the roomette, whether that means one or two passengers. Check out the math:
Let’s say you and a friend are leaving Chicago on November 7th aboard the California Zephyr, heading for the San Francisco Bay Area. Let’s also say you each pay the basic rail fare, but you split the cost of the roomette. Here’s what it will cost each of you to make that entire trip sharing a roomette:
Basic rail fare (one person): $170
Plus one half the cost of a roomette: $157
Total cost, one adult passenger: $327
But here’s what makes it work: between Chicago and the Bay Area, the dining car serves a total of six meals: two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners. If you travel in coach to save money, but eat most of your meals in the dining car, you would probably spend almost as much as half the cost of the roomette. And in the sleeper, you have privacy whenever you want it and actual beds to sleep in every night, with sheets and blankets and a couple of pillows each.
And, yes, I know that most coach passengers bring some of their own food aboard and purchase snacks and sandwiches and drinks from the lounge car. But that still adds to the cost of your coach ticket and you’re getting less-than-nutritious packaged food. Plus you’re missing out on meeting and getting to know some of your fellow passengers at each of those dining car meals. And that’s half the fun of long-distance train travel.
Here’s another consideration: In each Superliner sleeping car, there are four lavatories and a shower room to serve 35 to 40 passengers. If you’re in coach, you’ll be sharing five lavatories with as many as 71 other passengers.
Bottom line: coach passengers have to deal with a number of minor distractions and inconveniences, all of which can’t help but detract from the overall experience. For the best that long-distance train travel in the U.S. has to offer, spend the extra money for a sleeper!