Is Solo a Good way to Travel Amtrak?

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joelkfla

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I would buy TWO coach tickets to be sure of having the seat next to mine. Although I might be wrong, I’m assuming that, if I paid for the seat next to mine, the conductor could not force me to let someone else sit there, even if the train was sold out and every available seat was needed. (Of course, with Amtrak, it is never safe to assume anything.)
Guess you missed that discussion. ;)
 
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v v

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In coach you have to sit next to a stranger.

In a sleeper, you have to pay an arm and a leg (probably more like an arm and two legs).

If I could find a sucker willing to travel with me, I would. But I can't.
What a great piece of travel writing, memorable indeed.
 

20th Century Rider

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There are all sorts of railroads in this world that offer advance seat reservations. Amtrak would not be breaking new ground.

Who would advance seat reservations displease, exactly?
As is being discussed in so many places on this forum, Amtrak is just way behind the times when it comes to technology... the application of such would make a more pleasurable experience for customers... and more revenue for Amtrak!!!
 

v v

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Back in February 2002 a book by Irma Kurtz inspired me to take a solo Greyhound ride across America, from Boston, MA to Phoenix, AZ. The trip wasn't in a straight line but a route that wildly zig zagged right across the country covering about 5000 miles in 7 days.
This was not too long after 9/11 and there were people riding Greyhound who not only never considered it a transport system fit for humans but some who previously thought Greyhound was a swearword.

This journey was one of the most memorable of my life, very moving at times, once a little dangerous too. It was oh so interesting learning so much about America and in particular it's people.

On arriving at Phoenix airport there was Rosie waiting for me, her bag by her side patiently waiting for our delayed bus.

Solo travelling can't be matched on the basis that every decision and action is your own, but having someone important to you to share a journey with is somehow that little bit more special.
 

dlagrua

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With all the great experiences posted here, we should not hesitate to travel solo. Looking back I have actually done it many times but only when in the business world. My company would require leaving on the weekend for the Saturday stay over (the company insisted that I save money on the fares) then all day Sunday was open to explore the area and sights only to get ready for my Monday appointments. My regional territory was mostly east of the Mississippi and I must have traveled to over 30 cities/areas. It was a good experience meeting nice people, speaking with those in touristy spots/museums, often dining in restaurants alone but it was always pleasant making my own schedule. Next years trip will just be a throwback to my earlier years but it will be by train. Might feel a bit strange at first but far better than staying home.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Business travel has a way of making solo dining feel normal after a while but its not for everyone. I think one way Amtrak could do a better job catering to solo travelers would be to bring bar style seating back. It doesn't need to be the whole car but it does need solo friendly seating to reach its full potential. When Anderson killed off the PPC we lost a design that welcomed groups and solo travelers in equal measure and wound up back in the clumsy SSL again.
 

Trollopian

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My greatest solo travel adventure was threading my way on a series of smaller and smaller trains to find my grandmother's birthplace. From Vienna to Brno to Olomouc to Sumperk to Jesenik, Czech Republic (formerly Freiwaldau, Austria, when my grandmother was born there). The train station in Jesenik has apparently changed little since she and my grandfather chugged out, forever, in 1922. By the way, I speak neither Czech nor German.

I expect fewer communication challenges and easier station names (Zábřeh na Moravě, anyone?) when I make my grand COVID-delayed loop around the U.S. But solo travel? It's terrific.
 

AmarilloByMornin

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I've mostly traveled by myself for about the last 5 or so years and I'm fine with it. There's no way I'd pass up a train trip either way. But I admit that when I see something wonderful I always wish I could share it right then. I take photos but they're nothing like actually seeing it.
 

20th Century Rider

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There is a back and forth kind-a-thing when traveling solo... which is mentioned frequently here... complete freedom to go to the SSL... or to nap... or whatever. But the converse is to have someone to share the adventure with.

Depending on the trip... I sometimes make friends with another traveler in the SSL and meet them on occasion during the trip. And once... but only once... I made friends with a couple from the Chicago area that I keep up with ... and it's been 4 years of this friendship. We send gifts to each other during the holidays... and have this hope that we will eventually get together once again.

Chance meetings and acquaintances become more of a challenge when there is no SSL and no communal dining... and no opportunity for sleeper passengers to mix with coach passengers.

So one takes a chance when they agree to travel with someone they don't know well... that in the close quarters of a roomette or bedroom... over the many days and hours of traveling together day and night... there may be incongruities.

Personally I have a hectic life where I live volunteering and working with lots and lots of people... so a getaway on a solo excursion seems to work well for me. If at any time I feel lonely during the trip I know there are lots of friends waiting when I return.

But I do enjoy reading and learning from other points of view... which constantly alters my viewpoint!
 

Amtrak Apple

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The only time that I travel solo is when I travel for work. It gives me time to unwind and do things that I never seem to have time to do at home. I bring my Kindle and download some shows to my iPad - that, and staring out the window, can keep me content for quite some time.

However, there is one aspect of traveling solo that I definitely do not like as much: Seeing sights and partaking in experiences at my destination.
So, for me, an Amtrak trip is very enjoyable solo because I really like the time to just decompress. However, once I am at my destination I prefer to have a companion.
That's how I planned my solo trip, with the exception of Chicago and Portland, but I had friends at KC and Lamy to spend the days with.
 

Amtrak Apple

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I did my solo trip in coach and didn't really mind it. I was fortunate enough for the very long parts that I was by myself for most of the time - from Whitefish to St. Paul on the EB and from Dodge City to Lamy on the SWC. I only had one seatmate that was unbearable just because he was a fair bit larger than me and I was very squished by the window. I think I may be more adventuresome than some here. Perhaps it will change when I get older, but I really like the challenge of "camping" in coach. Or else I'm just cheap. :p
 

20th Century Rider

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Trust me - you can still travel coach when you get older ... I do

Don't know if I would say I'm "cheap" - I just can't afford a sleeper
But! But! But! I wish I was just 'middle aged!' Some of us in our 'old age' 70's are just chugging right along... backpacks n'all sitting in those coach seats. And calling it 'quality time.' 'Cause there isn't anything better than a train.

Let's continue this discussion when I'm in my 80's... providing there still are trains!;)🌈
 

20th Century Rider

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There is a back and forth kind-a-thing when traveling solo... which is mentioned frequently here... complete freedom to go to the SSL... or to nap... or whatever. But the converse is to have someone to share the adventure with.

Depending on the trip... I sometimes make friends with another traveler in the SSL and meet them on occasion during the trip. And once... but only once... I made friends with a couple from the Chicago area that I keep up with ... and it's been 4 years of this friendship. We send gifts to each other during the holidays... and have this hope that we will eventually get together once again.

Chance meetings and acquaintances become more of a challenge when there is no SSL and no communal dining... and no opportunity for sleeper passengers to mix with coach passengers.

So one takes a chance when they agree to travel with someone they don't know well... that in the close quarters of a roomette or bedroom... over the many days and hours of traveling together day and night... there may be incongruities.

Personally I have a hectic life where I live volunteering and working with lots and lots of people... so a getaway on a solo excursion seems to work well for me. If at any time I feel lonely during the trip I know there are lots of friends waiting when I return.

But I do enjoy reading and learning from other points of view... which constantly alters my viewpoint!
Soooo I do want to add something to what I shared regarding personal thoughts on how one travels...

To make a commitment for a journey with a travel partner... whether it be a friend, someone from this rail forum... or other... involves investment of time, experience, and obligation... on a specific journey and/or experience. One knows they'll be with another person throughout the trip. But unknown and difficult to forecast uncertainties may come with that.

When one decides to travel solo... the biggest risk is possible confrontation with isolation or loneliness... however that can be modified with attempts to connect with other passengers on the trip or texting on the cell phone.

This is the very bottom line... at the conclusion of the trip, how will you feel about the time and money you invested?

If there would have been disharmony or content with the travel partner... I would feel a sense that the trip was a loss or failure. However if there would have been times of 'too much solitude,' I'd still be smiling and looking forward to the next adventure.

I'll definitely put my name on that!

20th Century Rider

2oth Century Rider.jpg
 

Dan O

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My daughter traveled solo on a trip back in 2008 from Los Angeles to CT and back. (Actually I accompanied her to Chicago but she went the rest of the trip by herself.) She met her future husband on the return trip. They celebrated a few years ago traveling on the same train at the same time of the year.
 

Cal

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My daughter traveled solo on a trip back in 2008 from Los Angeles to CT and back. (Actually I accompanied her to Chicago but she went the rest of the trip by herself.) She met her future husband on the return trip. They celebrated a few years ago traveling on the same train at the same time of the year.
Stories like these make my heart happy.
 

Seaboard92

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I know exactly what you mean.

I once met a musician travelling with a 17th Century baroque cello. He said he would never fly with it because of the risk of it getting damaged. He had a two-bed roomette with one bed for himself and one for the cello.
Knowing my ground crews I would say that is a very smart choice. And that is what I love about the train you meet so many interesting people you wouldn't meet anywhere else. At every stop a little bit of America gets on and gets off. Unlike planes where everyone is going from point A to point B and you are mostly around people from your destination or origination (except regional flying because they are all going different places from one common point) you aren't meeting people fundamentally different than you. Where on the Empire Builder you have people traveling between two major metros like St. Paul and Chicago. And people traveling from small hamlets to a doctors appointment or to visit a family. You get a Dakota oil field worker next to a computer programer from Seattle. And that is a very special environment because of that.

Most people, and especially foreigners as I can attest don't realize the USA has multiple different cultures inside of her. The people in the upper midwest and the Dakotas are completely different than the people who live in the south. Same with the California Culture vs the Northeast culture. City vs Rural area. All of these people meet on the train because it transcends these artificial political boundaries.

Yes... that is the best way... to have seating available for reservations ahead of time... that way couples and groups could sit together and singles could have the option of getting that window seat. This works for all and it works better!

But the last minute random stuff is stressful... and with Amtrak unable or unwilling to move into the present with technology for seat selection like the airlines do... why not? No excuse!
Honestly I wish the airline would work on that as well. We have 2-2 seating and for some reason they like to split groups of 2 across five or six rows leaving me to be the one to fix it all on board. It isn't that hard to allot seats to couples I've done it for years on the rails. I don't understand why we can't do it.
 

20th Century Rider

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RE: Technology for seating reservations... most countries with advanced rail systems have this. And they've gotten rid of all things paper. An LED display above the seat tells when the seat is taken. They are easily able to manage seat reservations on trains that make multiple stops... and also quite simple for the traveler. A seat map pops up with seat availability between the two city pairs itinerary. And yes, a late booking might result in no through so it shows seat availability between point a and point b... and another map for c to d, and so on. [Book early if possible.]

This technology is available to Amtrak... but unfortunately technology is not an Amtrak priority.
 

jis

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This technology is available to Amtrak... but unfortunately technology is not an Amtrak priority.
That is one huge difference between Amtrak and many airlines. Even the not so great American carriers by world standards, such as Delta and United at least bet their future on superior, industry leading IT infrastructure, with excellent customer facing interfaces, as have many reputable foreign international carriers. Not so with Amtrak. The best they have done of late is hire a patently incompetent bunch to run the rickety IT system that they have such as it is.
 
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anumberone

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Traveling solo, I don’t want to get stuck in a coach seat next to a person I can’t relate to, nor do I want to sit in a roomette for long periods by myself. So, as long as I can eat in the dinning car with other folks, enjoy the lounge car I’m good to go.


What’s really bad is being attached to someone or some other reason that won’t allow you to go.
 

Ziv

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When I traveled in Czechia, Slovakia and Poland I had a vocabulary of West Slavic words that was almost 100 strong, on a good day. I had no knowledge of grammar or tense, just stringing 3 or 4 words into a sentence that made sense only to me. And the people in those countries would listen, try to figure out what I was asking and answer me in English or in a very slow version of their native language, fit for the foreigner. And quite frequently, they would stay for a minute to help me "polish" my phrasing a bit. Great memories of the Czech Republic, in Plzen and Prague mostly. Great beer and food, but the people were the best!
That was a solo train trip, with a few coach legs too. And traveling solo meant that I had to come out of my shell which was a very good thing. I find the same thing happens even here in the States when I travel solo. I talk more and meet more people.

My greatest solo travel adventure was threading my way on a series of smaller and smaller trains to find my grandmother's birthplace. From Vienna to Brno to Olomouc to Sumperk to Jesenik, Czech Republic (formerly Freiwaldau, Austria, when my grandmother was born there). The train station in Jesenik has apparently changed little since she and my grandfather chugged out, forever, in 1922. By the way, I speak neither Czech nor German.

I expect fewer communication challenges and easier station names (Zábřeh na Moravě, anyone?) when I make my grand COVID-delayed loop around the U.S. But solo travel? It's terrific.
 

jis

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When I traveled in Czechia, Slovakia and Poland I had a vocabulary of West Slavic words that was almost 100 strong, on a good day. I had no knowledge of grammar or tense, just stringing 3 or 4 words into a sentence that made sense only to me. And the people in those countries would listen, try to figure out what I was asking and answer me in English or in a very slow version of their native language, fit for the foreigner. And quite frequently, they would stay for a minute to help me "polish" my phrasing a bit. Great memories of the Czech Republic, in Plzen and Prague mostly. Great beer and food, but the people were the best!
That was a solo train trip, with a few coach legs too. And traveling solo meant that I had to come out of my shell which was a very good thing. I find the same thing happens even here in the States when I travel solo. I talk more and meet more people.
Yes. In my experience in traveling all of Western Europe and considerable part of Eastern Europe including parts of Russia, that technique of knowing just a bit of the language to get a conversation started worked very well. Very often I would be learning a bit of their language and they would be practicing their little bit of English. And given that English is ostensibly not my native language either (though it is probably almost as native as my other two lanugages, all three of which I have spoken since before I remember starting to speak any language), there was absolutely no resentment about it
 
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