How terrible is it to ride Coach with kids on long distance trains?

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Another first timer question... I can't afford Roomettes the entire way but for the longer parts of the journey I can swing it. However it would save SO MUCH MONEY if I just went with Coach there and back (total of 141 hours/6-ish days on the train round trip, but we are getting off and staying overnight somewhere) that it is tempting to book that instead. Booking the Roomettes even just a portion of the trip leaves me with barely any wiggle room for additional spending. My kids are not babies, they'll be 11, 13 & 15 when we travel. Definitely old enough to keep themselves entertained. Can Coach people use the showers? Sorry if that's a dumb question, it will be our first time after all LOL! Will we be completely miserable if we travel coach the entire way? We are planning one of two possible trips, if this helps with answers: Crescent GA to DC, Capitol Ltd DC to CHI, then CHI to Flagstaff on Southwest Chief. **OR** Crescent GA to NOLA, Sunset Ltd NOLA to LAX. Thank you and sorry for all the questions! This forum is super helpful and I'm so glad I stumbled across it!
 

denmarks

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You can't use a shower unless you are in a sleeper. You will have to wash and change clothes in a small bathroom.
 

Cal

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That's a very open-ended question(s), and there are a lot of factors . It's definitely doable (boy scouts take Amtrak trips), but it's not for everyone.

Unfortunately, coach has no access to a shower en-route.


What I would suggest is that you book a short day trip, if possible, first. It's unclear to me what station you will be starting at, so I'm not sure if a day trip would be possible but you can check. A day trip would tell you how coach is, and if you think you can handle that for a long trip, then go for it.
 

Steve4031

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The other issue with coach travel is access to decent food. Currently coach passengers can only purchase food in the lounge car. The lounge car runs out.

What is the purpose of your trip? If it’s to experience train travel that’s one thing. But if you are looking for the most economical way to get there, then I would check out air fares. By the time you factor in food and hotel stays your budget Is going to look different.

The portions that you travel in sleeping cars include meals in the dining car which are better than the lounge car.
 
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What is the purpose of your trip?
It is to experience train travel, as economically friendly as possible lol! It's really just a leisure vacation trip, wanting to see as much as possible. It seems as though while more expensive, the cost of the sleeper cars is worth it.
 

Bob Dylan

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There are some good suggestions already, I especially like the idea of trying out a short " Day Trip" to see if Coach is for you.

As for breaking up the trip, it might be a good idea to do a night in Chicago ( look for deals on Hotels on the travel sites, would be cheaper than a Room or Roomz on Amtrak).

Another idea is the Family Room., even though the 2 Children Beds are for short,young kids, you would have 2 Bunk Beds and plenty of Room compared to Roomettes.

It's located downstairs on Superliners ( DC- CHI and CHI- Flagstaff or NOL-LAX. The Shower,Luggage Racks and Bathroons are located outside your door.

The Capitol Ltd currently doesn't have a Sightseer Lounge but is usually less expensive than the other Eastern Trains.

If you booked a sameday Sleeper to/ from CHI you could use the Nice Metro Lounge in Union Station, which has Showers, Snacks and a Room to leave your Luggage if you are making a connection to another Train.

I think if you can afford it, yall should consider Coach from GA to New Orleans, overnight in a Hotel, and book the Family Room or 2 Roomettes from NOL to El Paso, ( overnite)then switch to Coach
for El Paso to LA ( overnight arriving around 530am into LA) NOTE: The Sunset Ltd is a 3 days a week Train between NOL and LA, all others you mention are Daily.

Please ask questions, lots of helpful, friendly folks here that have been on all these Trains in various Accomodations.
 

Palmland

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Years ago we took our sons on their first long distance train trip. To save money we took coach one way and sleeper the other. They thoroughly enjoyed both. But that was just a one night trip, Richmond to Orlando. I suspect the novelty would wear out in a multi night coach trip.

You may want to consider just doing the western portions of your trip and save Washington for another time when better amenities return to eastern trains. Many of us save money too by flying one way and Amtrak sleeper the other. If you choose Flagstaff there is a shuttle service to/from the Phoenix airport where air fares are cheaper than Flagstaff.
 

fdaley

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As others have suggested, if you're going to splurge for a sleeper room for only a portion of the trip, it would be better to do so west of New Orleans or Chicago, where the sleeper fare entitles you to real dining service. The meal service for sleeper passengers on the Crescent and Capitol at this point is quite poor, which makes it harder to justify the high price of a room.

Of the possible itineraries you outlined, Georgia to New Orleans to Los Angeles seems like the better choice for a first-time trip, especially if you're doing a lot of it in coach. The Crescent from Georgia to NOL is an all-day run that would be OK in coach, and presumably you'd be staying over somewhere in New Orleans where you could shower and change before the next leg of the trip. On the Sunset, you might be able to save money by booking coach from New Orleans to Houston, which is a daytime run, and then getting a sleeper from there west.

If you go the whole way in coach, GA-NOL-LA is two nights on the train, while GA-DC-CHI-Flagstaff is three nights on the train, and you're entering the fourth night by the time you reach Flagstaff, which does seem awfully long.
 
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caravanman

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A lot depends on your outlook, and that of the kids. You can make yourselves comfortable in coach seats, bring nice food from home, plenty of snacks, walk around, sit in the observation car, etc.
If you have a spirit of adventure, don't let a few minor inconveniences put you off from a great travel adventure!
 

anumberone

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Pretty rough 5 people sitting in coach all masked up. I suppose if you are able to break it up with some stay overs like has been suggested by some here, it may be a blast. I’d sure like to hear about it.
 

fdaley

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A lot depends on your outlook, and that of the kids. You can make yourselves comfortable in coach seats, bring nice food from home, plenty of snacks, walk around, sit in the observation car, etc.
If you have a spirit of adventure, don't let a few minor inconveniences put you off from a great travel adventure!
This is good advice no matter what route you take or which class of service you choose.

I do find with family travel that our spirit of adventure is a lot stronger at the beginning of a trip and rather weak by the last leg of the ride home. So if the trip involves a long stretch in coach as well as sleeper travel, I try to set it up so the coach portions are early on, with the sleeper ideally at the end of the ride. Once we've been in the sleeper, a long coach ride can seem extra long.
 
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Bigpaw

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My kids loved the train trips and we always went coach. The longest trip they ever took was DC to Chicago, then Chicago to San Antonio. Kids are a lot more resilient than we think. Bring food and tablets loaded with movies, get off the train at the “smoke” stops to stretch their legs. if you decide to do only coach remember to bring light blankets and pillows with you. You should talk to your kids and see with their thoughts are on a train trip like this. On the return I would consider the California Zephyr, going through the Rocky Mountains is unbelievable!!
 

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What I would suggest is that you book a short day trip, if possible, first.
I especially like the idea of trying out a short "Day Trip" to see if Coach is for you.
Agreed. Booking shorter trips first and building up to a longer trip would give you a better idea of what to expect and give you a chance to see how your family reacts to it. I've met families who started out enjoying the ride but ended up feeling trapped on the train because they booked a trip that was simply too long for their level of interest. I've enjoyed some pretty long train trips but my early trips were to the next town or next state over. It was the same way with first flights from interstate to international and intercontinental. Few would book a trip across the Pacific Ocean as their family's first flying experience.
 
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Saddleshoes

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Your kids will do just fine.
It will be one of their great childhood memories when they are adults.
 
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Barb Stout

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It also depends on the total number of people traveling together and I couldn't tell if it was 4 or 5. If it's 5, then that would be 3 roomettes. Besides all the above listed ideas, I suppose you could also book 1 roomette and the rest of the party as coach passengers---nah, that wouldn't work because then some of your party would have to eat the cafe food while the roometters would be in the separate diner car. Never mind.
 

anumberone

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You have to consider the of cost of meals traveling by coach and remember hunger while trapped in a train is not fun. Weigh that by what a roomette and a room cost, meals are included. Also it’s a big part of what’s fun on a train. Then, you could get by without staying overnight at some expensive hotel, which also wouldn’t include meals.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Unless your family has experience train travel before, a all coach route over several days is NOT recommended.

The switch of seats from coach to sleeper and back mid-trip is technically not permitted. May or may not be enforced.
 

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Bluntly, it depends what your kids are like.
It also depends on what the train is like. Does it keep reasonable time or delay arrival waiting on freight traffic? Are other kids on the train to chat and play games with or is it a bunch of boring old people?
 
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NW cannonball

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It also depends on what the train is like. Does it keep reasonable time or delay arrival waiting on freight traffic? Are other kids on the train to chat and play games with or is it a bunch of boring old people?
@DA & Neroden
Yup, depends on the kids, the train, the parents.
I have fond memories of riding the Cardinal long ago with wife and two kids - Me and the younger boy in separate single Slumbercoach and Mom and daughter in a double SlumberCoach. I think I remember there was a family from Germany at the other end of the car. Totally cool with the kids and the other adults in that car.
But - my kids differ from other kids whom I don't know as well.
Anyhow, I've taken coach overnight with young kids. My daughter has done MSP - SEA and back with infant and dad, no problems.
It all totally depends --
 

happycamper

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I have a list of what to see out the train and what to look for - like the fake artist PRADA store outside Marfa that many celebrities have gone to to take selfies - is right off the tracks as you pass by. Many Indian history including the profile of Geronimo in the mountains. These are both off the Sunset Limited. Also Cristo Del Rey at the corner of Mexico, TX and NM. I think it makes it so much more interesting and fun to be on the train. Not sure what would interest the kids as it depends on the kids. Done the SL in coach 4 times from TX to LAX. Sometimes the crowd is a bit more roudy on this route. Many from NO go to LAX in coach and back. Had a party crowd from LAX to TX one time but thankfully most of that took place in the lounge and they left the coach car they were in alone. The conductor is real good about being strict on the goings on. Just trying to be truthful.
 

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Done the SL in coach 4 times from TX to LAX. Sometimes the crowd is a bit more roudy on this route. Many from NO go to LAX in coach and back. Had a party crowd from LAX to TX one time but thankfully most of that took place in the lounge and they left the coach car they were in alone.
I've found the Starlight and Zephry to be more convivial than the Sunset and Eagle but maybe that's because I spent more time in the lounge on those routes.
 
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happycamper

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convivial
I have found coach to be better on the California Zephy, Coastal Starlight and the Empire Builder too. The City of New Orleans and the Sunset Limited are a different crowd. Still met nice people and and enjoyed coach but a bit more leary in coach at times... Just my opinion.
 
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