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!
I am so sad because they have cancelled the dining car on a ton of trains, not covid related. Of course the ones that still have dining room service have been suspended for Covid which is understandable but I’m worried they will use it as an excuse to stop them all forever. Now it’s just prepackaged microwave meals only served in your sleeper car. Their reasoning is that millennials (I am one) don’t want to dine with strangers and have awkward conversations. That was my absolute favorite part of riding the train! I’m heartbroken and I’ll be taking planes from now on.
I have no basis for believing this, but I do not think Amtrak will eliminate the dining cars on the long-distance trains. Let’s see what happens once this damn pandemic is over. Keep the faith!
I just got back from an overnight trip. The roomette was so cozy. The only way to go!
I agree absolutely!
I would be traveling from the Bay Area to Chicago alone. Do you still think the sleeper would be the better option?
Absolutely! Assuming you can afford it, of course. Remember that all your meals are included in the cost of your roomette. That narrows the gap by a lot.
Jim…best transcontinental sleeper from Miami..have 35 days or more two people..looking for complete comfort and dining?
I’m not sure Amtrak can meet the standard of “complete comfort” . . . and it’s four nights on the train from Miami to LA (via New Orleans). As of today, I would bring your own food from Miami to Washington and again from DC to New Orleans.Revert to dining car for New Orleans-L.A. Even is traveling solo, roomettes will look impossibly small, but they are well designed and I probably have 75 nights in Amtrak roomettes.
I always tell people that if are in coach, the train is simply transportation to/from your vacation. If you are in a sleeper, the train is PART of your vacation. When you think of meals, hotel, etc for two people it is not unusual for the cost of a day of vacation to be $300 – $400. The sleeper is much less than that per day of vacation – a bargain.
Yes … exactly!