Given the Choice, Pick a Sleeper.

This blog seems to be generating an increasing number of questions about train travel including three in just the past few days from people about to undertake their first overnight train ride. I couldn’t be more pleased to chip in with suggestions and answer any questions.
A few days ago, I exchanged several emails with someone who wants to travel from a suburb of Philadelphia to Seattle, then down to Los Angeles, and return home by way of New Orleans. He said he was retired and his wife would be traveling with him. Of course I told him it’s a great itinerary. He had a few more questions then, almost as an afterthought, came an email saying that they were planning to travel the entire way in coach because it was less expensive. He said they could afford the additional cost of a sleeper and wondered if I thought perhaps they might find a bedroom somewhat more comfortable.

 Good heavens! He was planning a rail journey of almost 8,000 miles, including seven nights on board . . . in coach! I invited him to call me and we had a nice chat, during which I described what one night in coach class could be like, then asked him to multiply by seven. Needless to say, those folks will be traveling in a sleeping car for their entire journey.
Make no mistake: coach class is an important and necessary service, providing affordable public transportation for millions of Americans. But traveling in a sleeping car is absolutely the way to go if you can afford it, and that is always my advice when I’m asked.
Yes, the coach class seats are big and wide and comfortable. And yes, there is a lot of legroom and you can get up and walk around and spend time in the lounge car. But you still have to sleep sitting up and you’re still in rather close proximity with as many as 70 other passengers.
Do I travel in coach. Of course I do. And I’ll be in coach class on several trains in just a couple of months: from Seattle to Vancouver; from Toronto to New York and again from there to Washington. And after the NARP meetings, I’m in coach again from Washington up to Boston.
But those are all daytime trips. Overnight? No thank you! I am too old and too soft for that. If I want to try to sleep sitting up while a five year old kicks the back of my seat, American Airlines provides those amenities with remarkable regularity.