Thoughts on The Zephyr in January...

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jha6

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Hi. I'm newly retired and interested in my first LD train ride. I'm considering going January 19 on the Zephyr from Detroit to Emeryville then flying home. Can anyone tell me if this time is a mistake. Any pro's and con's would help. I'm thinking maybe a roomette.
 

pennyk

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There are a lot of train cancellations due to weather and staff shortage, which is a con.
The scenery is beautiful on the California Zephyr route and even more so in winter, which is a pro.
January is generally a slow time of year for Amtrak and the fares may not be too bad, which is a pro.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Riding through the Rockies as it snows is truly magical. No way to guarantee it will be snowing of course, but worth a try!

I’d try to book your flight with southwest just in case the train gets cancelled. There are crew shortages because of covid and there have also been some weather delays / cancellations this year.
 

Bob Dylan

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Hi. I'm newly retired and interested in my first LD train ride. I'm considering going January 19 on the Zephyr from Detroit to Emeryville then flying home. Can anyone tell me if this time is a mistake. Any pro's and con's would help. I'm thinking maybe a roomette.
The Best of the Best , going West is the way to go. 😎

Hopefully you'll be in a Roomette ( or Bedroom if you can afford it) and get a good fare.( Low Bucket).If your Dates are flexible, you should go on the days that have the lowest fare ( amtrak. com)

With traditional Dinning returning to the Zephyr, you'll enjoy eating in the Diner.

As others have said, Southwest is a good way to fly ( Free Bag Check/ no change Fees)and Hopefully COVID,Weather and Staff Shortages won't cause Cancellations of any of your trip.

Please read the trip reports about the Zephyr and what to see and fo during this trip, tons of good info on AU!
 
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During the winter, the daylight hours are shorter. If the train gets seriously off schedule, there's thus more of a chance that you'll be riding through some of the scenic parts in the dark. This would be especially true for the crossing of the Rockies in the eastbound direction. I personally might consider waiting until March. There will be more daylight, but there will still be lots of snow in the Rockies.
 

niemi24s

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Congratulations on retirement and welcome to the forum!

If you're not too familiar with Amtrak's fare structure, each different sleeping accommodation has five different prices and coach has six. If your travel dates are flexible, the cheapest Roomette on the Zephyr for one adult from Chicago to Emeryville is currently $563 and is offered as early as 17Jan2022 through all the rest of the days in January after that except for the 21st and 29th. But that situation might be different tomorrow.

For comparison purposes, the highest Roomette fare on the Zephyr is $1052.
 
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Sidney

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I am riding the Zephyr later this month from Chicago to Davis. Low buckets $527 senior fare for one can still be found. I'm hoping my train isn't canceled. I've noticed the Empire Builder and Southwest Chief have occasional cancelations. Nothing on the CZ yet. Price is almost double in the Spring and Summer. It is one of Amtrak's most beautiful rides and the food is great.
 

jha6

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Wow, what a friendly bunch!! Thank you to all. My first day on this forum. I did not expect all the kind replies.

A little more info:

I just want to "get out town." I have read extensively about the Zephyr. I have kind of narrowed it down to: 1) Train from Detroit, business class; roomette to either EMY or Sacramento, thus, two trains. OR, 2) train from Detroit to Denver, spend the night in a hotel, relax, chill, walk a bit. Then roomette to either EMY or Sacramento. Any comments/suggestions? Would NOT getting a roomette in Chicago and waiting to get one in Denver give me the less desireable roomettes? Oh, and, I am travelining alone. Please tell me I get the roomette to myself and won't have to sleep with a stranger!
 

pennyk

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I would take a train from Detroit to Chicago in business class (you cannot travel directly from Detroit to Denver on Amtrak); then in a roomette from Chicago to EMY. You will get meals during the period you are in a roomette.

Generally, the Amtrak software selects the roomette numbers, unless you call and speak to an agent (which I always do). The waits to speak to agents are long currently. However, the Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) phone number generally has shorter waits. You can go on line and become a member now. AGR is open 8am-8pm eastern.

You will not have to share a room with a stranger.
 
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I'd say any January except this one is a fine time to go on the Zephyr. Right now, with Covid case rates spiking so very high---no way. I was looking forward to traveling on the Zephyr myself this January, with an overnight stop in Glenwood Springs. But I'm glad I've cancelled.

Please consider what happens if you get sick thousand of miles from home.
 

Sidney

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I'd say any January except this one is a fine time to go on the Zephyr. Right now, with Covid case rates spiking so very high---no way. I was looking forward to traveling on the Zephyr myself this January, with an overnight stop in Glenwood Springs. But I'm glad I've cancelled.

Please consider what happens if you get sick thousand of miles from home.

Having a sleeper,wearing a mask and social distancing should be enough to avoid getting Covid. I have taken several trips in the last two years and never had a problem. I really wish Amtrak would let solo travelers in Coach have both seats.
 

jha6

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I'd say any January except this one is a fine time to go on the Zephyr. Right now, with Covid case rates spiking so very high---no way. I was looking forward to traveling on the Zephyr myself this January, with an overnight stop in Glenwood Springs. But I'm glad I've cancelled.

Please consider what happens if you get sick thousand of miles from home.


Good point. I was actually thinking about that but not so much the Zephyr part of my trip where I will be, for the most part, in my roomette, but rather I was thinking about the Detroit>Chicago piece where I'll be in a regualar coach car. I remember how stuffy (stinky) the air got before when I took the Detroit>Chicago Wolverine! Horrible! By the time we got to Chicago I couldn't wait till they opened the door! Now with Covid germs in the mix, I'm not sure I would like that stench. I just came back from Florida and American Airlines touted the air in the plane recirculated 20x an hour. I doubt it's even ONCE "a trip" on Amtrak! Or am I wrong? Did they install air handlers/HEPA filters since the pandemic?
 

Cal

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I would recommend this trip, but for next year or in December of 2022. With the operation difficulties Amtrak is going through right now, the chances of you having a good and stress-free trip are far greater if you wait. And for your first LD train ride, it should go as smooth as possible.
 

jha6

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I would recommend this trip, but for next year or in December of 2022. With the operation difficulties Amtrak is going through right now, the chances of you having a good and stress-free trip are far greater if you wait. And for your first LD train ride, it should go as smooth as possible.

You're right. Because if this doesn't go well, it will probably be my last train ride. I'm still thinking what to do. I love seeing snowy mountains. I'm kind of wondering if I really want 3-days worth of seeing snowy mountains in a 25 cubic-foot container (roomette), that's probably going to be cold, clunky, crowded, and semi-dirty. LOL.... I lived in Colordo and so I know the mountains, but I have never seen them on a train. I just don't to spend all this money and get bored (and uncomfortable) after about 6 hours and then rather ENJOY the rest of the 50+ hour ride, I'm dreading it waiting for it to be over. Lot's to think about.
 
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Willbridge

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You're right. Because if this doesn't go well, it will probably be my last train ride. I'm still thinking what to do. I love seeing snowy mountains. I'm kind of wondering if I really want 3-days worth of seeing snowy mountains in a 25 cubic-foot container (roomette), that's probably going to be cold, clunky, crowded, and semi-dirty. LOL.... I lived in Colordo and so I know the mountains, but I have never seen them on a train. I just don't to spend all this money and get bored (and uncomfortable) after about 6 hours and then rather ENJOY the rest of the 50+ hour ride, I'm dreading it waiting for it to be over. Lot's to think about.
You could hunt for a low airfare Detroit<>Denver round-trip, spend a night or two in one of the hotels adjacent to Denver Union Station, ride to Winter Park on the ski train on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and then either come back the same evening (thereby saving repacking) or spend a night up there. Then another night or two in Denver.

This isn't an original idea. Amtrak results show that Winter Park overnights are popular with the addition of the ski train. Many of the passengers are not skiers or snowboarders. Even a New York Times travel writer eventually discovered this.

2015 Mar-Apr 029k wpe and dus dusk.jpg
 

SarahZ

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You could hunt for a low airfare Detroit<>Denver round-trip, spend a night or two in one of the hotels adjacent to Denver Union Station, ride to Winter Park on the ski train on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and then either come back the same evening (thereby saving repacking) or spend a night up there. Then another night or two in Denver.
This is a fabulous idea.
 

chickpea

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Here's my two cents:
I just arrived in Chicago via the Zephyr. It was my 3rd Zephyr trip the full distance and all were in winter and all were during COVID. I was told to wait last year as the "food isn't as good", but I chose the train for the isolation factor in a roomette! Very very safe. All meals last year were done by SCA order and delivered. And there were a ton of choices, I never even tried everything despite doing both the LSL and CZ both ways! I was happy and as I was seeing elderly parents, one with co-morbidities, I tested before going, isolated, then isolated on train then isolated when there then PCR tested clear before I was in the same room as them. All fine. FABULOUS scenery, absolutely 100% glad I did it.

When Omicron totally took off and a friend caught it (she thinks at an outdoor restaurant as she'd been almost nowehere else, though also not boostered), and then I read about people getting it vaxed & boostered, I decided to use the train again so I could isolate. I guess a short flight might be ok but I was just too nervous... plus I love the train! It is so much more relaxing. The scenery is fantastic and now the dining car is "back" that's all good. One thing I note: I did not know they were serving *in* the dining car and wanted everyone to do that. I told my SCA that I wasn't comfortable in a dining car with others, and could I get the food to go (for my room). He said no but he could take my order and bring it. So I did that. (Yes I gave him a Very Big Tip at the end, and I think he was really pleased.) So I basically saw no one. Lots of announcements about exactly how to wear masks. One passenger was removed from the train even. And yup, I finally got to try the steak and it was yummy!

So I think your idea is great, though I don't know what to say about getting here from Detroit. (Can you drive?) I think Denver is terrific and wished I had stayed overnight actually. I checked prices and for my itinerary breaking the trip was same cost but then I couldn't get my connecting train so I didn't stop. FWIW we arrived in Chicago an hour early today... happy staff. :)
 

tgstubbs1

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...all this money and get bored (and uncomfortable) after about 6 hours and then rather ENJOY the rest of the 50+ hour ride, I'm dreading it waiting for it to be over. Lot's to think about.

You could go part way. Once I took it only as far as Grand Junction. Salt Lake might be a good stop.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I would highly recommend going. The Zephyr is such a beautiful trip you won’t get bored and odds are that you will have very nice sleeper attendants and a car in good condition.

We all complain about the little problems on Amtrak, and they do exist, but trust me - it’s worth it! The zephyr is a fantastic trip.

If you want to break up the trip in Denver, you can stay right at Union Station - check Priceline, the hotel can be surprisingly affordable sometimes!
 

SarahZ

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So I think your idea is great, though I don't know what to say about getting here from Detroit. (Can you drive?)
Detroit has a direct train to Chicago that arrives well before the connection to the Zephyr.

Detroit also has an airport with direct flights to Denver.
 
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I would wait to see what the schedule is with the temporary January to March reduction to 5 days a week just so you’ll know which days it’s going to run. One benefit of this reduction though will hopefully be less likelihood of unpredictable cancellations due to Covid in staff. Should know more over the next few days. It’s an absolutely awesome route though I’d highly recommend.
 
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joelkfla

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I would wait to see what the schedule is with the temporary January to March reduction to 5 days a week just so you’ll know which days it’s going to run. One benefit of this reduction though will hopefully be less unpredictable cancellations due to Covid in staff. Should know more over the next few days. It’s an absolutely awesome route though I’d highly recommend.
Would it be advisable to grab a low bucket now if available, since we don't know whether or not they'll be adding sleepers?
 

chickpea

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Detroit has a direct train to Chicago that arrives well before the connection to the Zephyr.

Detroit also has an airport with direct flights to Denver.

Sorry, should have been clear: getting between the two safely i.e. in similar manner to a roomette. I think both those options involve riding in a train car/plane with others... for me that feels unsafe, but everyone has their own parameters around their own health since March 2020. :)
 
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Would it be advisable to grab a low bucket now if available, since we don't know whether or not they'll be adding sleepers?
That’s a good point - we know they’re doing that on the Star but uncertain yet in other places. Which days did the zephyr run tri weekly? It’s a fair bet those days plus two others will be included.
 

chickpea

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That’s a good point - we know they’re doing that on the Star but uncertain yet in other places. Which days did the zephyr run tri weekly? It’s a fair bet those days plus two others will be included.
From Chicago Mon/Wed/Sat and from Emeryville Tue/Thu/Sat
 
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