Best Choice: An Amtrak Sleeping Car.

The most common question I get comes from people planning an overnight train trip who are trying to decide whether to travel by coach or to spend the extra money for sleeping car space. Several considerations go into that decision.

How far are you traveling? If it’s a daytime trip, anywhere up to 8 or 10 hours, I’d opt for riding in coach. The seats are wide and comfortable and there is a lot of legroom … much like the first class seating on an airplane.

But if you’re going to be traveling overnight, give the sleeping cars serious consideration. You’ll have private accommodations and a real bed to sleep in at night.

Yes, sleeping car space is more expensive … often a lot more. But there are considerations (or, if you prefer, rationalizations). First, while every passenger pays the basic rail fare, the sleeping car supplement is for the room, so there is no additional charge for the second passenger in a sleeping car roomette or bedroom.

Remember that a long-distance train trip is part of your vacation experience, not just the mode of transportation that gets you to where your vacation begins. That means you’ll be saving the cost for a hotel room on those nights you’ll be on the train.

And don’t forget that all dining car meals are included in the fare when you travel in a sleeper. That can add up to considerable savings on a two-night journey aboard one of Amtrak’s long distance trains … especially with two or more passengers occupying the roomette or bedroom.

Finally, if your travel dates are flexible, check the cost for the sleeping car supplement for several different dates. Depending on how close to being sold out they are, there can be a significant difference in cost from one train to another.

Bottom line: If you can afford it, by all means go for the sleeper.