- I stayed in a small room on an Amtrak train for 19 hours from New York to Chicago.
- The room felt like a tiny house with a small bathroom and a bed that descended from the ceiling.
- Although the ride was easy and smooth, I don't think it was ultimately worth the $550 price tag.
On a recent trip to the Midwest, I decided to take the road less traveled and booked a 19-hour train ride from New York to Chicago.
Recently I've seen people on social media taking Amtrak trains across the country and glamorizing their experiences. As someone who loves to travel by plane, I've always been wary of a long-haul train ride. But on this trip, I wanted to try something different, so I gave this new travel trend a shot.
I booked a small room — which Amtrak calls a "roomette" — that sleeps two people for $550.
At first I was surprised by the price of the trip. Flying from New York to Chicago could cost as little as $70 on a good day, which means it would cost significantly more to take the Amtrak.
When the day came, I was eager to find out whether the price of the ticket was worth it.
On the afternoon of my trip, I arrived at New York's new Moynihan Train Hall to catch the Lake Shore Limited train.
The Lake Shore Limited Amtrak train runs from Chicago and splits in Albany for Boston and New York service. I caught the train in New York's Moynihan Train Hall — which opened earlier this year and sits next to Penn Station — at 3:30 pm.
After going the length of the train to the sleeper car, I walked through a labyrinth of tight hallways.
The cars at the front of the train were for coach passengers, but the sleeper cars were all the way at the end of the track.
Once I finally found the appropriate train car, I had to walk down several hallways to find my room. The hallways were so narrow that I could barely fit my suitcase down them.
After finally locating my room, I found it to be much smaller than I expected.
When I entered, two seats were facing each other, but there was basically no room to move around. I was immediately worried I might feel claustrophobic in the room for 19 hours.
But I've stayed in a tiny house, a camper van, and a houseboat in the past, so I'm no stranger to tiny living situations. I hoped those experiences would help me during this train ride.
I was surprised to find a small bathroom in the room.
Next to one of the seats was a toilet and above that was a fold-down sink and mirror. I was even supplied with soap and clean towels.
I was pleasantly surprised I didn't have to go down the hall to use one of the shared bathrooms because Amtrak bathrooms aren't the cleanest. Despite the convenience of the bathroom, I realized the space is best for solo travelers like myself because otherwise I'd be doing my business right next to my traveling buddy.
When I looked up, I saw storage space for my luggage, a bed suspended in midair, and a control panel.
The bed had straps attached to the ceiling and a crank that would lower it for sleeping. Just below the bed was a control panel affixed to the wall. On this panel, I was able to call an attendant, change the temperature of my room, and adjust the lighting.
I worked on getting comfortable in my new home for the next 19 hours.
I took out the folding table, which was stored beneath the window, and placed my laptop on it. I sat in one of the chairs and put my feet up on the other. After that, I closed the door and shut the curtains so I could have some privacy.
Once I was settled, I enjoyed the views of New York City as they flashed across the window. I also turned on Netflix for some needed entertainment.
At that moment, I realized I would not have any problem with the size of the room. In fact, it started to feel cozy.
Strangely I was served dinner at about 5 p.m.
An attendant knocked on my door and offered me a bag full of my dinner, which came with my ticket. I thought it was strange to be offered dinner that early, but I gratefully accepted.
When I unwrapped the meal, I found pasta with chicken and veggies, a small salad, and a roll. The pasta was passable, but the chicken was basically inedible. I didn't eat the salad because it was just a couple of pieces of lettuce. Frankly the best part was the roll with butter.
Thankfully I brought snacks for the trip because I wasn't expecting much from this meal.
As the sun set, I left my room to explore the train car and found larger rooms that were empty.
Toward the front of the car were larger rooms that could fit families or bigger parties. These rooms cost more than $1,000.
During my tour, I also noticed my train car was mostly empty except for a few people who remained in their rooms. I also found a communal shower in the back and a coffee station.
Five hours into the trip, the attendant came back to my room and offered turn-down service.
The room actually has two beds. The seats at the bottom can be folded down to create a bed on the ground floor, and the bed from the ceiling can be pulled down for a second sleeping area. I chose to sleep on the bed suspended from the ceiling.
I had to use the toilet and a shelf to climb into the bed.
When I crawled into the mostly comfortable bed, I found clean blankets and pillows wrapped in sanitary plastic.
I turned off the lights and continued watching Netflix, which was the biggest help in passing time on the long-haul journey.
When it was time for bed, I noticed it felt extremely strange to be sleeping in a suspended bed.
The bed moved with the train, so it kept rocking back and forth. At times I felt motion sickness because of the rocking. It took me a while to fall asleep, so I stared out the window at the dark landscape until I finally passed out.
When I woke up in South Bend, Indiana, I had only a few hours left of the ride.
Although the rocking of the train woke me a few times throughout the night, I was grateful to have missed several hours of the trek. In the morning, I realized the 19-hour journey was completely doable because I got to sleep a large chunk of it.
After staring out the window at the passing farms from my bed, I climbed down and brushed my teeth.
After freshening up in the makeshift bathroom, I put on my face mask (which was mandatory outside of my room) and went for a morning walk up and down the hallway to stretch my legs.
The attendant informed me that I'd slept through breakfast, so I was served a cup of oatmeal.
Much like my dinner, this breakfast left a lot to be desired.
I started packing my belongings as Chicago appeared in the distance.
For the first time on the trip, I was eager to get off the train, stretch my legs, and finally enjoy a proper meal.
After 19 hours, the train finally pulled into Chicago Union Station.
As I left the room where I'd spent 19 straight hours, I realized the experience wasn't as awful as I thought it would be. Much like a tiny house, every corner, every piece of furniture, and every feature of the room was multifunctional. Framing the trip as an interesting living situation instead of a cramped travel compartment really helped me get through the experience.
Overall, the 19-hour train ride was smooth and easy, but was it worth the price?
The Amtrak train was a fun and unique experience made easier by a smartly designed room and comfortable bed. But at the end of the day, the length of the trip and the cost of the room just aren't worth it. It's important to note, though, that you could take the same journey for about $100 if you want a coach seat on the train, but I don't think that would be worth it either.
I'd recommend an overnight, long-haul train for anyone who wants to splurge on a private room and wants to try something different.
But for practical reasons, there's a faster and easier way to go, so next time, I'll stick to the skies instead of the rails.
How much is a train ticket from New York to Chicago? ›
Overview: Train from New York City to Chicago
You can get the cheapest train tickets for this route for as low as $106 (€94), but the average price of train tickets is $107 (€95).
Traveling overnight in coach class is also an attractive (and affordable) option that appeals to a lot of passengers. Amtrak seats are much larger and more comfortable than those in airliners or motor coaches (intercity buses), and they recline comfortably with full leg rests somewhat like home reclining chairs.How does overnight Amtrak work? ›
Amtrak's Sleeping Car accommodations provide overnight travelers the choice of a roomette, bedroom, bedroom suite (two adjoining bedrooms) that can accommodate one to four people, and accessible bedrooms. In a roomette, daytime seating converts to beds at night.How much is a sleeper car on Amtrak from Chicago to San Francisco? ›
Here are estimated prices if you travel from Chicago to San Francisco on Amtrak: $150-$300 for coach seat. $700-$1,000 for a roomette (meals and coffee included) Over $1,500 for a family bedroom (meals and coffee included)Is there a sleeper train from New York to Chicago? ›
The overnight train "Amtrak 51 Cardinal" connects New York City with Chicago (IN). The route runs via Washington D.C., Cincinnati (OH) and Indianapolis (IN). The travel time is 28 hours. You can buy train tickets starting from 90 USD.Is Amtrak train cheaper than flying? ›
Train travel is often cheaper than flying, in part because you can generally take more with you before paying extra baggage fees. It can also be more convenient and relaxing than driving, especially if you'd be driving in an unfamiliar place or driving for many hours nonstop to get to your destination.What to bring on an overnight Amtrak trip in Coach? ›
- Bring a blanket. ...
- Download your favorite movie. ...
- Don't forget a pillow or weird inflatable neck-brace thingy. ...
- Pack your charger. ...
- Wear comfortable clothes (& shoes) ...
- Bring headphones. ...
- Have money for snacks. ...
- Travel with a friend.
"The safest spot in a train, during an accident, is the center of the train," said Larry Mann, a rail safety lawyer who was the principal author of the Federal Railway Safety Act in 1970. In the event of a front-end or rear-end collision, the damage will be worse in those areas, Mann said.What to bring on an overnight Amtrak trip? ›
- Wear comfortable clothes. ...
- Bring headphones. ...
- Skip the towels and sheets. ...
- Plan for comfortable shoes. ...
- Pack your charger. ...
- Smart Luggage. ...
- Entertainment. ...
- What other tips do you have for passengers taking an overnight trip?
Private Rooms on Amtrak Auto Train Now Available for as Low as $99.
|Limited Time Fares*||One traveler||Two travelers^|
|*Plus the cost of your vehicle ^Double occupancy required for Roomettes and Bedrooms.|
Is Amtrak sleeper car worth it? ›
Are Amtrak Sleeper Cars Worth It. Amtrak sleeper cars are a great way to see the country in a private accommodation. Getting a sleeper car is worth it as you'll be getting free meals and bags included. When you add up the cost savings of a hotel in addition to the other benefits, the Amtrak sleeper car is a good value.How much do you tip on Amtrak sleeper? ›
While tipping isn't required, leaving a gratuity is the norm. Usually, for one night in a sleeper, I suggest about $10 per person/per night. If your room attendant brings your meals to you in your room, then think about adding more to the tip as you would have left a tip anyway for the dining car waiter.What is the price difference between a Amtrak roomette and bedroom? ›
A step up from a roomette, a bedroom accommodation on long-distance Amtrak trains offers even more space, as well as a private bathroom. The roomette cost about $500 and the bedroom cost about $1,000.Why is a family bedroom cheaper than a bedroom on Amtrak? ›
There are quite a few differences between a bedroom and a family bedroom. There is a price difference between the two. A bedroom is more expensive than the family bedroom because you get a shower, toilet and sink in your bedroom, while in the family bedroom you share those with your car mates.How many people can sleep in a roomette on Amtrak? ›
The dimensions of each roomette are 3'6' X 6'6 and have room for two adults — a great cozy option for first time riders.How much is Amtrak Superliner bedroom? ›
Generally, the farther out into the future, the less expensive is the cost for a bedroom. This can range anywhere from just under $800 on the Empire Builder in off-season to over $2,000 for the two-night trip aboard the California Zephyr in summer.Is a roomette on Amtrak worth it? ›
If the opportunity arises and the fare is reasonable, I would absolutely recommend an Amtrak Roomette for even a short journey. The lounge access, free but disappointing meal, and private space was unlike any other Amtrak journey I have taken before.What's the difference between a roomette and a bedroom on Amtrak train? ›
In a roomette, daytime seating converts to beds at night. Electrical outlets, climate controls, reading lights, a small closet, and a fold-down table are all within easy reach. Bedrooms are larger than roomettes and offer a sink and vanity with enclosed toilet and shower facilities.Why do people take Amtrak instead of flying? ›
Unlike during a flight, train rides are not only relaxing and turbulence-free, but under most circumstances, it is stress-free. There are no take-off, landing, or seat belt signs, and for most of the journey, you are free to get up and walk around instead of being stuck in your seat for endless amounts of time.Is Amtrak train faster than driving? ›
High-speed rail travels roughly three times faster than cars and consumes around one tenth of the fuel. Your journey to see that barely-distant family member would be cut to a comfortable two hours, and the trip would be significantly cheaper, reflecting the less fuel required.
Is Amtrak quicker than driving? ›
With high-speed rail, train travel is always faster than driving. In many cases, it's even faster than flying, once you factor in the whole air travel song-and-dance. And if you do need to catch a plane, trains make it easier to get to the airport.Can I bring my own food on Amtrak? ›
You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars. Personal food and beverages are allowed in the upper level of Superliner Sightseer Lounges.Are there assigned seats on Amtrak coach? ›
Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat and choose a different seat at any time after your booking is complete by viewing your reservation in the Amtrak app or on Amtrak.com.Do Amtrak sleeper cars have refrigerators? ›
Tips for Planning an Overnight Trip on Amtrak
There are no microwaves or refrigerator available for passengers. Bring cash for tips–if you are in a sleeper car, your meals will be covered as part of your fare but you will need to tip your server. You also need to tip your sleeping car attendant before you leave.
It's pretty logical that the front car is the most dangerous place in a head-on collision, and the last car worst if the train is rear-ended, so National Association of Railroad Passengers president Ross Capon suggests riding in the middle cars.Are you guaranteed a seat on Amtrak? ›
Seating in coach class on unreserved trains is not guaranteed. Pacific Surfliner passengers have the option of upgrading to Business Class (for an additional cost) which offers a guaranteed seat, as well as other perks like complimentary snacks and drinks.Is it better to sit on the upper or lower level on Amtrak? ›
The best place to sit in Amtrak Coach Class is on the upper level. It's all about the view on the upper level. This is the biggest advantage of sitting in the upper level. You can also move from car to car more freely as there is access from each car on the upper level.What should I wear to an overnight train journey? ›
Warm clothes: Even if it's warm out, it can get pretty chilly in AC1 and AC2 with the air conditioning on full blast – especially if you end up on the top bunk! – so pack a thick hoodie or a warm fleece. My travel outfit in India consisted of a hoodie, thick leggings, fuzzy socks and a scarf.What are you not allowed to bring on a train? ›
The following items are prohibited onboard the train: non-service animals, firearms and ammunition, hover boards, corrosive or dangerous chemicals and materials, incendiaries, martial arts and self-defense items, archery equipment, devices containing propellants, sharp objects, and similar items.Can I bring a pillow and blanket on Amtrak? ›
4. Bring a Travel Pillow and Blanket. While Amtrak does provide bedding in the Sleeping car rooms, you may wish to have your own pillow and an extra blanket for warmth. You may also ask your Sleeping car attendant for an additional blanket when they come to turn down your bed for a cozier night's sleep.
Does Amtrak offer AARP discounts? ›
Standard Amtrak Discounts (Students, Seniors, etc.)
Seniors: Travelers 65+ receive a 10% discount (excludes Auto Train). There is no additional AARP discount. Military: 10% discount for military personnel plus their spouses and dependents.
Relax and enjoy comfortable, quiet lounge seating, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, and internet access.Do Amtrak roomettes have toilets? ›
For customers seeking both privacy and savings in First Class, Roomettes feature: Two comfortable seats by day transformed into upper and lower beds by night. Newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens. Access to a restroom and shower in your car.Is it rude to talk on Amtrak? ›
Our advice, don't be a loud talker. By all means chat it up (not if you're in the quiet car… obvi), just do so quietly. All the space on Amtrak trains is a bit intoxicating in all the best ways.Do you tip on Amtrak dining car? ›
General Guidelines: Tipping is NOT required, but is considered correct for the service crew personnel on the train. Recommendations: Snack bar attendant: roughly 10%. Dining car: 15% of menu prices (sleeping car passengers may want to note this when ordering their meals).Is there a bathroom in the sleeper car on Amtrak? ›
For customers seeking the ultimate sleeping car experience, Bedrooms Suites combine two adjoining Bedrooms — featuring two sofas and two armchairs by day and four berths by night. Each suite includes two big picture windows, fresh towels and linens, and two in-room sinks, restrooms, and showers.Where do you put your luggage on an Amtrak train? ›
Carry-on and personal items must be kept with you, stored in overhead racks, under seats or designated baggage areas.Is there a security check for Amtrak? ›
With due respect to passengers' privacy, the random and unannounced screening and inspection of passengers and their personal items is completed as quickly as possible - usually in less than a minute.Do they wake you up on Amtrak? ›
If you fall asleep on Amtrak and your destination is coming up, an Amtrak conductor will wake you up. When you board the train the conductor will put a destination ticket above your seat to let them know which stop you are getting off at.Do Amtrak bedrooms have TV? ›
The standard bedrooms in the Viewliner sleepers all have a toilet and a fold down sink in the room. The newest cars also have a tiny TV screen with 3 or 4 movies that can be viewed. Everything else that was described about the Superliner applies to the Viewliner standard bedroom.
What is the biggest sleeper car on Amtrak? ›
Viewliner II Accessible Bedroom
The Accessible Bedroom on the Viewliner II car is the biggest room you can get on an Amtrak train. The couch folds down into a very large bed at night. There is also plenty of room in the upper berth for a second passenger.
You can lock the door when you are inside the roomette, but you cannot lock it from the outside, so avoid leaving valuables in the roomette when you are not there. Bedrooms offer larger private accommodations at an extra cost. The only non-private seating on Amtrak trains is coach seating.Does Amtrak bedroom have a shower? ›
Each suite includes two big picture windows, newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens and two in-room sinks, restrooms and showers. A dedicated First Class attendant will provide turndown service, assist with meals and help with luggage.
AMTRAK'S COAST STARLIGHT. Amtrak's Coast Starlight is considered one of the most scenic routes in the Amtrak system, offering the very best views of the Pacific Coast, from the cliffs of Pacific Coast Highway to the peaks of the Cascade Mountains.What are Amtrak bedrooms like? ›
For customers seeking plenty of comfort and room in First Class, Bedrooms feature: 2x the space of a Roomette. A sofa and separate chair by day transformed into upper and lower beds by night. Newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens.Is Amtrak cheaper than flying? ›
Train travel is often cheaper than flying, in part because you can generally take more with you before paying extra baggage fees. It can also be more convenient and relaxing than driving, especially if you'd be driving in an unfamiliar place or driving for many hours nonstop to get to your destination.How much does it cost to go to Chicago by train? ›
|REGULAR FARES (as deducted from a Ventra Transit Account or paid via Pay-as-you-go† direct contactless payment)||Full||Student|
|'L' train fare||$2.50 *||$.75|
|Transfer‡ Up to 2 additional rides within 2 hrs||Free||Free|
Hop aboard the train, departing at the Jon Duerr Forest Preserve for cookies, hot chocolate, and the re-telling of the famous Polar Express. Train tickets cost $41/residents or $42/non-residents.How long is the Amtrak ride from Chicago to New York? ›
There are 9 daily trains from Chicago to New York. Traveling by train from Chicago to New York usually takes around 40 hours and 48 minutes, but the fastest Amtrak train can make the trip in 19 hours and 35 minutes.How much does 1 mile train cost? ›
The Little Engine That Couldn't: California's High-Speed Rail Costs Rise To $200 Million Per Mile. California's high-speed rail (HSR) pencils out to around $200 million per mile for the San Francisco–Los Angeles route. And this cost is almost certainly too low if the main attraction of the project is ever built.
Can you bring food on Amtrak? ›
You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars. Personal food and beverages are allowed in the upper level of Superliner Sightseer Lounges.How much is a ticket to Chicago? ›
You can find Chicago the Musical tickets for as low as $74.00, with an average price of $199.00.How much does it cost to travel from Chicago to New York? ›
The average price for connecting flights from Chicago to New York City is $167. The average price for direct flights from Chicago to New York City is $156.Is Polar Express train ride worth it? ›
You can always take a ride on the Polar Express and just enjoy the ride. But I really recommend going all-out if you want to make it even more magical. The more you get into the experience, the more magical it will be.What are the best seats for the Polar Express train ride in Chicago? ›
The Polar Express Chicago best seats are the peak tickets – this in the the week leading up to Christmas. Peak tickets are: $70 adult.How expensive is Polar Express? ›
Trains are the Smart, Fast Way to Travel
A high-speed train would be three times faster than driving—2.5 hours vs.
I assume you're asking about passenger trains. Passenger trains generally have faster top speed limits than automobiles. On the well maintained lines in America, top speed is usually 79 or 80 mph. There are some lines out west, I've heard, that have speed limits of 90 mph.Where do you stop between Chicago and New York? ›
The top cities between Chicago and New York City are Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Gettysburg, Detroit, Hershey, Sandusky, Erie, Lancaster, and Grand Rapids. Philadelphia is the most popular city on the route — it's 11 hours from Chicago and 2 hours from New York City.Can a train go 500 miles an hour? ›
Those loops propel the train forward, like a rail gun, at speeds upwards of 804 kilometers per hour (500 miles per hour), which is about the average cruising speed of a plane.
Does it take a mile for a train to stop? ›
Trains have the right-of-way because they cannot quickly stop for a motorist at crossings or for trespassers on the tracks. The average freight train, traveling at 55 MPH, takes anywhere from 1 to 1½ miles to stop. Traveling at the same speed, the average automobile can stop in only 200 feet.How much distance does a train cover in 1 hour? ›
A train covers 50 km in one hour.