Sugested trip for for 5 from Chicago

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Joined
Feb 16, 2020
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Looking for a suggestion for a one way trip for 5 (three kids) to/from Chicago. Only requirements are some sort of sleeper car, and a great experience. I work for an airline so we will most likely fly one way.

Thanks for the advise in advance
 

the_traveler

Conductor
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Nov 14, 2007
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Since you work for an airline, and you want to start or end in Chicago, the choices are easy. Almost all trains with sleeper cars start or end in Chicago.

My recommendation would be the California Zephyr, to or from a point west of Denver. Maybe between CHI or DEN and GRJ, SLC, RNO, SAC (SMF) or EMY (SFO or OAK).
 

me_little_me

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The biggest problem re the experience is that if you are thinking about scenery and dining experience, most of it is west of Eastern Colorado or Fargo,ND. For going east or south, your best bet would be Washington DC but the trip itself would not be that great - the destination is the big thing.

You don't say how far you want to travel. What ages are kids?

Two best one-train trips IMHO would be the Empire Builder to Glacier Park (or on to Seattle or Portland) or The California Zephyr through Denver to Sacramento. The scenery will be spectacular and the dining is the traditional rather than "contemptible" as in the new and disappointing "Fresh Choices" meals going east. Third choice is Southwest Chief through Albuquerque to Williams, AZ where you can take a tourist train to the Grand Canyon.

Give us more info on your limits, time frame, kids approximate ages (infants or teens?) and whether the trip is a turnaround or you want to spend a few days or more at the destination and we can offer better suggestions.
 

ehbowen

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While the Grand Canyon is certainly not-to-be-missed, an alternate destination on the Southwest Chief line would be Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's a very scenic and walkable city, and if you have time for a side trip and rent a car the spectacular Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railway is just a short drive north. You'll also traverse the scenic highlight of the line, the crossing of Raton Pass and Glorieta Pass, during daylight hours.

If you're planning to fly home, you'll find it easier to make connections homeward from Albuquerque than from Flagstaff, Grand Junction or Glacier NP, most likely. Probably best to take the train all the way to Albuquerque and rent a car there unless you just want a quick turnaround visit; in that case take the shuttle from Lamy to Santa Fe when you arrive and take the Rail Runner from Santa Fe to Albuquerque when you leave.
 
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Michigan Mom

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Jan 28, 2012
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So 2 adults and 3 kids? Depending on the age of your kids, the room cost is going to add up. Look at either the Capitol Limited to Washington DC, or the Lake Shore Limited to New York. Both trains have some nice scenery during the daytime hours and both are a one night trip. Going to be much more affordable than a Western LD trip and the flight options are plentiful.
 

ehbowen

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Mar 22, 2011
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Please note that with two adults and three kids a Superliner Family Bedroom is a possibility. Two of the kids will have to sleep in the berths for small children (they're 4' 7" [upper] and 4' 9" [lower] long) and two of the rest of you will have to share the adult lower berth, which is an inch wider than a standard twin bed.

You cannot book five in a Family Bedroom on line, but you can if you call the Reservations line and book through an agent. They will want to make sure you understand the size of the room and the berths; a sensible precaution. This will most likely be your most economical option if you wish to book a family of five in sleeper.

On The Other Hand, if your budget is generous you might enquire into a Bedroom Suite (two connecting Bedrooms). Two of you would still have to share one of the lower berths, but you'd have more room and two private bathrooms all to yourself (the Family Bedrooms, as well as all Roomettes, use shared bathrooms down the hall). Again, you would need to book this option over the phone with an agent.
 

Rasputin

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If you are just looking to give the kids the experience of an overnight train ride I would go from Chicago to Denver and fly back from there. The scenery is not the most dramatic but the experience should be good including the dining car experience. If you want to include some tremendous scenery go from Chicago to Grand Junction and fly back from there.
 

the_traveler

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Even fly to/from Denver and take the train and fly back to/from Sacramento.

Although you may think GJT is a “nothing” airport, I was surprised by it being a “large” small airport. I flew on AA from GJT nonstop to DFW! True, it was a CRJ, but I get them also from ALB to ORD.

I’m not certain, bur I think both DL and UA also fly into GJT.
 

peteypablo

Train Attendant
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Jul 17, 2015
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If your choice is two bedrooms, there's room to put someone on the floor connecting the rooms if you bring a plastic sheet, a foam mattress, and blankets or a sleeping bag. I've done it.
 

Saddleshoes

Train Attendant
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Jun 12, 2015
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I did exactly what you are planning when my kids were small. We went to Washington DC and stayed in a hotel that was close to the Smithsonian and only a couple of stops away from Union Station on the metro. The kids loved it. At the time my kids were small enough that we could all stay in a Family Room.
 

Trollopian

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Sep 19, 2014
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"For going east or south [from Chicago], your best bet would be Washington DC but the trip itself would not be that great - the destination is the big thing."
I'll politely disagree. I think the Capitol Limited stretch between Pittsburgh and Harper's Ferry is one of the most beautiful on the Amtrak system. And for traveling with small children in a sleeper, the schedule could be perfect. Board the train in Chicago, eat dinner on board (yeah, we adults loathe Contemporary Dining, but for the kids it'll be an adventure), lull them to sleep as the train rolls through the relatively boring parts of Indiana and Ohio, wake up soon after Pittsburgh and view remnants of the U.S.'s industrial heritage followed by long swathes of wild river that probably looks little different from what General Braddock and his army saw in 1755. Arrive in Washington DC for a late lunch. But the train trip may be their favorite memory, even more than the nation's capital.
 

me_little_me

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I'll politely disagree. I think the Capitol Limited stretch between Pittsburgh and Harper's Ferry is one of the most beautiful on the Amtrak system. And for traveling with small children in a sleeper, the schedule could be perfect. Board the train in Chicago, eat dinner on board (yeah, we adults loathe Contemporary Dining, but for the kids it'll be an adventure), lull them to sleep as the train rolls through the relatively boring parts of Indiana and Ohio, wake up soon after Pittsburgh and view remnants of the U.S.'s industrial heritage followed by long swathes of wild river that probably looks little different from what General Braddock and his army saw in 1755. Arrive in Washington DC for a late lunch. But the train trip may be their favorite memory, even more than the nation's capital.
While that portion of the trip is nice, it doesn't come close to the spectacular morning, noontime and evening views of America's west, the Rockies, the National Parks and more of a western trip IMHO.
 

MccfamschoolMom

Service Attendant
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Feb 28, 2020
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While that portion of the trip is nice, it doesn't come close to the spectacular morning, noontime and evening views of America's west, the Rockies, the National Parks and more of a western trip IMHO.
The scenery on the western routes would indeed be great, but for a family with small children, one might not want to try more than a single overnight at a time on the train, at least initially. One can travel the entirety of many of the eastern routes with a single overnight on the train, but most western routes (with the exception of the Coast Starlight) would be multiple-overnight trips. I was just watching a YouTube video yesterday of a family with 3 kids (including a toddler) on VIA Rail's Canadian, and they seemed to be OK - but they apparently had a Premier Class deluxe bedroom, and a VERY long consist on the Canadian to explore.
 

hlcteacher

Train Attendant
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Feb 17, 2020
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I did exactly what you are planning when my kids were small. We went to Washington DC and stayed in a hotel that was close to the Smithsonian and only a couple of stops away from Union Station on the metro. The kids loved it. At the time my kids were small enough that we could all stay in a Family Room.
did you sty at the historic Harrington? did that with my kiddo several times' capitol to dc, couple of days there and then the silver service to florida
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
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Mar 30, 2019
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262
A note about Family Rooms: you can see out of both sides of the train. Switching sides gives the kids more to do.

And some kids do better at traveling than others. The only way to find out is to do it. Right now there are single parents with three kids riding on two-night coach or Greyhound trips. (I still remember two little kids from the South Side of Chicago who were thrilled when we stopped in Winnemucca in the night. They were sure we were in Las Vegas! Their behavior CHI to RNO (where I left the train) was fine.)
 
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