In Praise of Roomettes.

People planning their first long-distance train journey often ask me if an Amtrak sleeping car is worth the extra cost. My response is always the same: Absolutely! A real bed and privacy beats trying to sleep sitting up with a crying toddler kicking the back of your seat all night.

Obviously, for those and other reasons, sleeping car accommodations cost more than coach seats. But often the difference isn’t as much as you might think, especially if two people are traveling together. 

In a sleeping car roomette, for example, each passengers pays the basic rail fare, but there is only one additional cost for the roomette, regardless if it’s occupied by one or two people.  Furthermore—and this is what can make the difference—dining car meals for both passengers are included in the one cost of the roomette.

Here’s an example: I arbitrarily picked a mid-September date to figure the cost for two adults traveling from Washington, DC, to Lamy, New Mexico. (That’s Amtrak’s stop for Santa Fe.)  

Amtrak’s website says the cost for a roomette on those same days on the same two trains is $927 for two adults. That includes all their meals. 

The coach fare for two adults is $548. But because coach passengers pay for their meals in the dining car, I added another $110 per person. That increased the total estimated cost to $768 for two people to travel in coach from Washington to Lamy. 

Yes, travel in a sleeping car is still more expensive—the roomette will cost each traveler about $40 more each day—but it’s a three-day, two-night journey of 2,054 miles! 

Let me put it another way: I couldn’t give up that precious privacy and the comfortable bed to save $40 a night. Could you?