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LynneD0813

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I am a 50 year old woman planning a solo trip from NYC to San Francisco in January. This will be my first cross country trip. I am planning to book a roomette. Am I safe traveling alone? When I arrive in Emeryville I plan to continue my trip to either Seattle or to Los Angeles, then fly home. Which of these routes would you recommend? Time and cost are not an issue. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

Rasputin

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In January the hours of daylight will be short but I would recommend returning by way of Seattle.
But there is plenty of good scenery by returning through either Seattle or LA. Hope you have a nice trip.
 

pennyk

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I am in my late 60's and I routinely travel cross country alone and have done so most years since 2010. I have always felt safe. On my first cross country trip, I traveled north to Seattle and loved the trip. I did a similar trip in 2019.

Because I want a private restroom, I book a bedroom. If cost is not a factor, I recommend booking bedrooms for the entire trip.

However, I am not sure I would recommend traveling cross country on a first train trip. I am unable to tell from your post if this will be your first cross country trip or first Amtrak trip.
 

SarahZ

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I've taken many trips as a single woman and have never felt unsafe while traveling in a room. Just keep your wits about you, as usual.

Both trips (Emeryville to L.A. or Emeryville to Seattle) sound nice. It really depends on the type of scenery you prefer. Personally, I loved the Coast Starlight between Emeryville and Seattle, but that's because I'm fond of evergreens and the PNW in general.
 

PaTrainFan

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You are in for an adventure! You can't go wrong gong north or south from Emeryville, and it comes down to your preferences. The run along the coast around Santa Barbara can be amazing. The Pacific Northwest is incredible. If you are social you'll meet some fascinating people and hear some compelling stories.
 

oregon pioneer

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I am an over-65 year old, small, woman, and I have never had any trouble traveling alone on Amtrak. I usually travel in a roomette, but I have also done segments in coach with no issues.

I've done precisely that transfer in SAC from the westbound CZ to the northbound Coast Starlight. The CS arrives late evening, and if it is late, sitting in the station and trying to stay awake can get uncomfortable. Just my two cents, I'm not a night-owl.

If you do go north, either Portland or Seattle makes a good transfer point to the Empire Builder. Not much to see in the Columbia Gorge east of Portland that time of year, unless the moon is full and the sky is clear. I don't know how much daylight you get going through the Washington Cascades from Seattle? But it's my favorite time of year, and I will be taking the EB eastbound from Oregon the evening of Jan 9th.

Which reminds me of another facet of traveling alone: there will most likely be a few other older single women on the train, most likely in roomettes, and it's not at all hard to develop a little temporary community of friends who chat on occasion, and go to the diner to eat meals together. I have found at least two permanent friends this way! And if I am in the mood to cocoon with my knitting or reading, it's easy to keep to myself.

If you have any issues at all, the staff on your train are there to assist. The conductor is the final word on the train. They can handle any type of out-of-line behavior, should you encounter it (that's rare but possible anywhere, at least on a train you have backup). Their authority extends to putting a misbehaving passenger off the train at the next stop, or even delivering them to the local sheriff at the next crossing!

I know you will have a wonderful time. Please post a trip report and let us know how it goes!
 
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me_little_me

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If you are worried about your safety onboard, you are about as safe there as can be with plenty of staff and fellow passengers and far fewer potential criminals than in so many other places.

If you are worried about your safety at stations, again, lots of fellow passengers and enough staff. Talk and meet the former and you will have far less worry. Almost anyone will talk to you and you will enjoy yourself.

If you are worried about your safety to/from stations, it is no different than your safety to/from your car or to/from the airport.
 

Cal

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Gonna mirror what the others have said. Going either way has good views.

Note: If you go south to LA, you will need to stay overnight in Sacramento, Emeryville, or some other city that both routes stop at (Davis is a possibility).

Going north, you go through the Cascade mountains and then descend into the Willamette Valley. The Cascades are stunning, and you go through many tunnels, snow sheds, and across a handful of bridges. The Willamette Valley, I think, also provides pleasant scenery with the snow-capped mountains in the background (if a clear day). In January it should be possible that the Cascades will be covered in a blanket of snow, which makes the train ride that much more magical.

Going south, the main attraction in terms of scenery will be skirting right alongside the pacific ocean where there are high cliffs. You can sometimes go whale watching right from your seat. The view is pretty stunning, although personally I prefer the mountain view as I've grown up in Socal. However, you should be able to see a beautiful sunset over the ocean in January. OTher than that, you also go through some hills and small towns while going through Central California.
 

Willbridge

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If you go via Portland you have your choice of breaking the journey with a hotel stay or making a direct connection in Union Station. Portland station staff are used to organizing the transfer. I once saw it done in five minutes across the platform. In this winter photo, the Coast Starlight is on one side of the platform and the Empire Builder is on the other. If the Starlight is on time, sleeping car passengers may wait in the Metropolitan Lounge.

P1030951.JPG


My favorite place for transfers from the California Zephyr to the northbound Coast Starlight is Davis, California. If you would like to spend a night in this college town, the Hilton Garden Inn is within suitcase rolling distance. The main hazards of Davis are craft and art shops, coffee houses full of students using the wi-fi, and interesting cuisines.

Photo from the Village Bakery to the Davis station.

P1050124 (2).JPG
 
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flitcraft

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Let me chime in, as a woman who has traveled solo on Amtrak on a number of occasions over the years, it is as safe an environment as there is. In your roomette, there is a latch on the door that you can use to lock your room. I never bother until I am ready to turn in and get some sleep, but it's nice to know you can lock the door whenever you want to. However, there is no way to lock your room from the outside. There have been multiple threads here discussing this--with members with decades of rail travel experience noting that they have never experienced any problems with theft from their rooms while they are in the lounge or dining car. Just to be extra safe, you can tuck things out of sight when you are out of your room, and I always take my valuables--wallet, phone, camera, etc. --with me in a purse while I am out of the room.

In the very unlikely event that you run into someone who acts inappropriately with you, there is a call button in your roomette that will summon the staff person assigned to assist in your car. Don't hesitate to call if you need him or her.

There's plenty of information on this board for new long distance travelers, and you can always post any questions you might have. If you have time when you get back, let us know how your trip went. We love trip reports!
 

BarbW

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First of all, I agree with everyone on the personal security question: If you are traveling as a single woman, the most secure place to be is on a train traveling first class (roomette or bedroom).

Let me put in a vote for the Coast Starlight going south. It's January and if you are from the northeast you just might be getting a little tired of winter. The California sunshine and potentially the coast views (you are actually on the beach) just north of Santa Barbara are soul-warming (and being on the train is the only way to see them). If your room isn't on the right side of the train, go to the lounge.

On both ends you will get to your destination in late evening or later if the CS is running late, which is pretty common on long distance trains. I would plan to spend the night in the city you choose, but if you don't, have a backup plan.

Here's another tip: When I am on a train, my purse valuables (money, credit cards, mask, etc.) are all in a waist pack that I wear all day. I can move about the train hands free without a worry or having to think about whether I intend to leave the sleeper car. When I am traveling in a roomette, I have another waist pack that contains my basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.). I switch to that for trips to the shared facilities in my car. There is no room in the restrooms for setting stuff down.

As others have said, reach out with questions as your trip nears. Train people are a helpful community, and no questions are too small. We all understand that planning logistics can be daunting for a first timer.
 
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LynneD0813

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Thank you so much for all the great recommendations and tips! One last question: Is Emeryville safe to stay overnight? I would just stay one night to sleep, not to do any sightseeing. I see that there is a hotel directly across from the train station.
 

pennyk

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Thank you so much for all the great recommendations and tips! One last question: Is Emeryville safe to stay overnight? I would just stay one night to sleep, not to do any sightseeing. I see that there is a hotel directly across from the train station.
I plan to spend one night in Emeryville (after getting off the California Zephyr and before boarding the Coast Starlight the next morning). I have stayed in Emeryville at the Hilton Garden Inn and plan to stay there again. I felt safe there.
 

flitcraft

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The hotel across from the train station--linked by an elevator--is completely safe. It's a Hyatt of some flavor, and I've stayed there just fine. But there are a couple of other hotels a brief stroll away that are equally so--including the Hilton Garden Inn that PennyK referenced. As long as the hotel is within a tenth of a mile or two from the station, you should be completely fine.

If you do decide to do any touristing from Emeryville, there is a free shuttle called the Emerygoround that will take you into San Francisco and back again.
 

flitcraft

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[The Emerygoround] won't take anyone to SF. What it will do is take them to a BART station where they can buy a ticket to ride into SF.
Quite right. It connects to the BART, as I should have mentioned. But it is the easiest way to get out of Emeryville if you want to do some exploring.
 

caravanman

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Not wishing to hijack this topic, but if a visitor was heading from Chicago to Emeryville in search of winter sunshine, is there much difference between Los Angeles and San Diego in this respect, at that time of year?
 

SarahZ

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Not wishing to hijack this topic, but if a visitor was heading from Chicago to Emeryville in search of winter sunshine, is there much difference between Los Angeles and San Diego in this respect, at that time of year?
Los Angeles and San Diego, no. They're both sunny and warm during winter.

Did you mean San Francisco? If so, yes, there will be a difference. San Francisco will be a bit chilly (12-15 degrees Celsius) with the usual fog. For me, that's beautiful winter weather, but your mileage may vary. :)
 

Bob Dylan

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Not wishing to hijack this topic, but if a visitor was heading from Chicago to Emeryville in search of winter sunshine, is there much difference between Los Angeles and San Diego in this respect, at that time of year?
My Brother and SIL live in Sonoma from May to September( Wine Country North of San Francisco) and they head for Texas for the Winter( October to April).since Northern California is generally Cool and Foggy/Misty in the Winter as Sarah said.

I prefer San Diego over LA, but it is Very Pricey, so perhaps San Luis Obispo is a good compromise as a Wintering spot.
 

MARC Rider

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Los Angeles and San Diego, no. They're both sunny and warm during winter.

Did you mean San Francisco? If so, yes, there will be a difference. San Francisco will be a bit chilly (12-15 degrees Celsius) with the usual fog. For me, that's beautiful winter weather, but your mileage may vary. :)
San Francisco can get some pretty wild storms off the ocean during the winter. It can be both windy and rainy. I remember on my first visit, I was in a museum in Golden Gate Park when the power went out. I think my BART ride back to Berkeley was also disrupted. I'm not sure what climate change has been doing to those weather patterns. At least the temperature, while chilly, was always well above freezing, so there was no need to worry about snow or ice.

As far as LA or San Diego, I've only been to those two cities in June, but I remembered that it seemed pretty chilly for June to me, though it was consistently sunny. That might not be true of someone from the UK, though. I know that I regretted no bringing a fleece jacket with me on that trip.
 

Cal

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As far as LA or San Diego, I've only been to those two cities in June, but I remembered that it seemed pretty chilly for June to me, though it was consistently sunny. That might not be true of someone from the UK, though. I know that I regretted no bringing a fleece jacket with me on that trip.
Well we got our first actually good rain on Monday, boy it was nice. But today it was back in the 90s.
 

Caro

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I travelled in 2019 as a 73 year old UK female newbie alone from Austin via the Texas Eagle and Sunset to Tacoma on the CS in bedrooms (to avoid shared facilities at night), and loved every second. Not a moments concern about safety (tho I had had some dire warnings from US family members that I ignored) but more to do with the mechanics of travel or whether I might inadvertently break some unknown rule or upset the train staff. So I fretted about things like late trains, guaranteed connections, checking of luggage, whether I had to queue to board, how to find redcaps and what to tip. Fortunately I found this forum before I travelled, found answers to all my questions before I left, armed myself with all the information I needed, packed appropriately (including gaffer tape and wooden chocs) and had a whale of a time. And I’m now a legend of an intrepid traveller with my grandkids! I’m just hoping to come back and do the CZ and Empire Builder once travel gets easier again.
 
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