12 Tips for Overnight Train Travel.
1. Amtrak’s Most Scenic Trains are the California Zephyr, (daily, Chicago-Bay Area), the Empire Builder (daily, Chicago-Seattle/Portland), the Coast Starlight (daily, Los Angeles-Seattle), the Cardinal (three times weekly, Chicago-Washington-New York).
2. Book Early because long-distance trains sell out quickly and sleeping car accommodations are especially hard to get in the summer months.
3. Get Help from a Pro if your itinerary is in any way complicated. If you do use a travel agent, be sure he or she is familiar with booking train travel. Many are not.
4. Think Twice about making connections. Amtrak trains often run very late because the freight railroads own the tracks and give priority to their trains. It’s usually best to stay overnight in the connecting city.
5. Infants will need some comfort and distraction, so bring their favorite thing – teddy bear, blue blanket, whatever it is.
6. Young Kids will want their tablets with plenty of videos and games.
7. Pack Light because there is limited space to store luggage, especially inside sleeping car accommodations. The secret is lots of tops—polo shirts, blouses, T-shirts—and minimize everything else.
8. Travel in a Sleeper? Absolutely, if you can afford it; privacy, comfort, your own bed, and all dining car meals are included in the fare.
9. Travel in Coach? Bring a blanket, a pillow, and something comfortable to sleep in.
10. Tipping: Sleeping car attendant—minimum $5-$10 per night per person (extra if you have meals brought to your accommodation); dining car staff—15% of menu price, even though meals are included in your sleeping car fare.
11. Route Guides tell you what to look for outside the window. They probably won’t have them on the train, so get them on line before you leave.
12. Don’t Forget: That’s the the United States of America passing by right outside your window. Relax and enjoy the ride!