Long distance overnight travel in Amtrak sleeper?

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David Simpson

Amtrak travel from Washington State to Washington DC for a conference. Has anyone done that travel with sleepers.
I am sure quite a few members here have traveled cross country in sleepers. I personally have many times, however, not specifically for conferences.
I have traveled by train to conferences, but the longest trip was 2 nights/3 days.

Train travel is time consuming and expensive, but enjoyable. However, if you are on a time constraint, it may be stressful since trains can run late and/or be canceled at the last minute for numerous reasons.
I would not recommend a cross country trip for one's first Amtrak trip.
Yes, several times, both in the US and in Canada, all the way across the country.
The only real answer is "it depends".

If you have to be at the conference at a certain time & date - you can't count on arriving when the schedule says it will arrive. If something goes badly wrong, you might have to "bail out" and buy a plane ticket if your presence is required.

A bedroom, with your own shower and toilet, is (to me) pretty comfortable.
Bear in mind that a bedroom will likely cost much more than a first-class airline ticket.
Picking a random date: Amtrak bedroom is $2,900, Delta first class is $567.

A roomette is smaller, but bearable for a night or two (IMO), but still more than twice the first class airfare.

Food is problematic. If you like microwave dinners you'll be ok. Don't expect fine dining.

Personal opinion for what it's worth: I wouldn't do that now, considering the condition of the trains, food, service, and on-time performance that seems to be the new normal. A few years ago, I would, and did make those trips - but not for business purposes.
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When I was working, I would sometimes use overnight trains for travel, but no more than one night. Thus, trips from Baltimore to Chicago, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Otherwise, I flew. I thought it would be asking a bit much from the boss for extra travel days on company time.

I will be taking a trip from Seattle to Washington DC in November, but not for business. Also, there's a connection in Chicago that is not always reliable due to the late arrival of the Empire Builder. Thus, I am scheduling an overnight layover in Chicago. For work travel, that would be another day on company time, plus the extra hotel and meal expenses, and hotels in Chicago located near Union Station are costing $200-$300 a night.
I've done NY to Florida, and NY to Denver, Colorado with rental car to Colorado Springs a number of times, but never all the way to the end. I have a family event in Piedmont, CA next summer, I'm already looking at NY to Emeryville (next city over) on the Zephyr.
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When I was working I had traveled from NJ to Savannah GA or Jacksonville FL on business by the Silver Service Sleeper. After moving to Florida I did several business trips to Raleigh NC and surrounding areas by Silver Star overnight in Sleeper. As long as one stops thinking just end to end runs, there are many such opportunities for those traveling from one en route point to another. At least there have been many that have tended to work for me.

OTOH, there are the few pure adventure ones too, like the trip I am taking from Rolando to Meridian MS for the RPA Fall Council Meeting there - ORL - RGH - GRO - MEI
I find myself traveling once a year overnight in sleepers - for work that is.
Very occasionally in this country, there are instances where sleeper train travel makes more sense than other forms of travel. When it works that way, its really great.

I agree with @pennyk however. Generally speaking, overnight sleeper travel on Amtrak is expensive and time consuming, and you always run the risk of the train being extraordinarily late - only way to avoid this completely, is to build in buffer time, which in turn could make everything even more expensive.
I have travelled cross country in a sleeper and found it to be enjoyable and relaxing. However, my vacation was the train travel so I wasn’t worried about delays or missing connections or missed activities. You mentioned traveling for a conference so I would highly recommend you plan your arrival two days before the conference starts. If you cannot or will not do that then I recommend you fly.
We have taken over 35 overnight trips in a Amtrak sleeper and have done a three night trip to SEA-WAS. We found it comfortable and enjoyed the laid back pace that trains offer. If you have never slept on a train before; on the first night it might be difficult but once you get used to it, you may find it much easier.
I have traveled by Amtrak to conferences a number of times. I think the longest trip was Boston to Solana Beach, CA. I only recall one problem due to a seriously delayed CZ and missed the morning session of the conference.

As long as you have a sense of humor, taking Amtrak long distance to a conference is fine (Well, as long as you carry a decent supply of your own snacks.)
Food is problematic. If you like microwave dinners you'll be ok. Don't expect fine dining.
There would only be 1 day and night of reheated Flex food, from Chicago to Washington. The other 2 nights, from the West Coast to Chicago, would be traditional dining, which most find quite enjoyable -- not fine dining, but at the level of a full-service family restaurant.
I've done cross country, PDX to Chicago, South Bend, NYC, DC, and FLA and back in '22. Connections between long distance trains tighter than 4-5 hours are problematic, but as long as you've got that much cushion between long distance trains you should be ok. Heading east I'd do overnight in Chicago and then the Cap Limited the next day. The food on the Empire Builder from WA State to Chicago should be to your liking, Chicago to the east coast is a step down. If you don't have the money or flexibility to do an overnight in Chicago, plane there and train back would be an option, or train there booked straight through as one trip a day early and if you miss the connection in Chicago they should put you up in a nice place and get you to DC on the train the next day (possibly in coach but with a refund). Unfortunately business travel by train all the way cross country is a little iffy, I was on vacation.
Why not fly to your conference and return by Amtrak to revive

I am flying from Austin to NYC for my brother-in-law's funeral, next Monday - flying in Sunday. Staying at my other brother-in-law's home in Montgomery County PA overnight Tuesday after driving back with him from the funeral.

On Wednesday, rather than flying back, I am taking the Northeast Regional from Philly to DC, 2 hours in Union Station, roomette overnight to Chicago, couple of hours in Union Station, and roomette on the Eaglette to Austin. Two overnights from Wednesday at noon in Philly until late Friday afternoon in Austin. I have no worries about delays, of course.

I'll suffer the eastern food, but I will get home rested and somewhat recovered from an emotional experience, with [libby] library audiobooks and books, podcasts, music, etc.to keep me company.

I will be free to walk around the train, and not be stuck in a cramped seat surrounded by strangers. I can eat my gruel in my roomette or in the dining car. I can shower down the hall. Train seating is more confortable than plane seating.

Note: Western food is very good, eastern food is typically plain bad on AMTRAK.

Caveat: My decision was easy because I had a voucher, an upgrade coupon, and points to spare, and no time limitations.
We just finished New Orleans to Los Angeles, and a connecting ride from LA to Portland in a bedroom. I have two observations that are, or will become huge problems for us to continue to travel by rail.

1. The mattresses are WAY TOO FIRM—triggering muscle spasms in my back. Unless I decide to bring my own overlay in the future, I can't do this again
2. For those of us who have matured like a fine wine, upper births will/are a huge problem. While at 77 I am still nimble enough to do this. My 76 year old husband is not.

New designs/refurbished cars should design at least a portion of the bedroom accommodations with a double bed configurations. Convertible couch to beds should be doable. Even two lie flat airline type chairs would be preferable to the current bedroom configuration.

As much as we enjoyed this journey—the scenery, not having to drive, the great food, and meeting interesting people during mealtimes (we ended up with a wedding invitation from New found dinner companions)—we will be aging out of this kind of travel.

Amtrak will not, in my lifetime, be able to keep from losing a huge segment of the population that have the means and time to travel by train.
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