A Few “Tricks of the Trade” for Amtrak Travel.
You only have to cross the country a few times on one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains to learn a few little tricks that will make overnight travel by train a lot easier. Here are four, a couple of which I learned the hard way.
Traveling Light is Easier: If you’re traveling solo and have booked a roomette, despite what Amtrak says, you can bring a carry-on-sized bag into the room. There’s what looks like a small shelf next to the seat—it’s actually a step to help you get into the upper bunk—and your suitcase will fit on it quite neatly. Otherwise, with a big suitcase, you’ll have to pull out everything you’ll need during the night and then leave the big bag in a storage rack on the lower level of Superliner or at the end of the corridor in Viewliners. One more of many reasons to travel light.
Sleep Up Top in a Viewliner: If you’ve booked a roomette in a Viewliner sleeper, ask your car attendant to prepare the upper berth instead of the lower when it’s time to turn in. There’s a lot more headroom than in the upper berth on a Superliner and there’s a nice big window up there, too. (See above) Two other reasons: It leaves room for getting dressed on the lower level and you’ll be high enough so people on the station platforms can’t look in on you at the various station stops during the night.
Easier Trip to the Lav: There’s no en suite toilet in a Superliner roomette, which means you have to go down the hall to use the facilities. Waking up and getting dressed in the middle of the night to answer Nature’s call is a real hassle, but I solved that problem long ago: I pack a baggy, comfortable pair of gym shorts, a T-shirt, and a pair of rubber slippers. I sleep in the shorts and T-shirt and, when I have to make my 2:00 a.m. run to the lavatory, I just step into the slippers and off I go. Trust me on this one.
Book Two Roomettes: When I travel with my wife on a train with Superliner equipment, I usually try to get roomettes across the corridor from each other instead of a big bedroom. We each get some privacy if one of us wants to read or take a nap; we can see out of both sides of the train; and neither of us has to climb up into the claustrophobic upper berth at night. (That’s a problem in the big bedroom, too … for me anyway.) And the two roomettes are often cheaper than the one big bedroom. One negative: the bedroom has an en suite lavatory; the roomette doesn’t.
I tried Jim’s suggestion of sleeping in top berth and it really takes the hassle out of trying to keep you room and kit in order. Have been traveling with Gym shorts and flip-flops for years for shower and bath room trips.
All very good points. I would just add what I only learned over past 2 years of Amtraking in roomettes: as the quasi mechanical bed is so far below the window, and the mattress pad is quite thin, have the attendant pull down the mattress from the upper. This produces a more comfortable sleep and puts you almost at window height.
Also, before retiring find out from attendant last call for breakfast and arrange wake-up so meal not missed. Nowadays, apparently every train runs a different meal period. Used to be that meal hours were posted on the doors into the diner.
Upon initial boarding, I always grab several extra bottles of water, as you do not want to consume tap water.
If planning to shower, check time table for a longer dwell stop, I.e., crew change, service, fueling to gain additional precious moments of a constant temperature without bouncing around.