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How early should I purchase an Amtrak Bedroom?

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Learn how to check price buckets (I believe niemi has a current chart up somewhere). If the price Amtrak's asking now is low bucket, grab it now...it can't go down. If they're at mid or high bucket you might want to wait, but that risks losing the room altogether if they sell out. Safest option is to buy now and then, if the price drops, ask to have your original reservation modified to the lower price. You might lose 25% of the difference, but some of our members have reported that being waived. If you're sure you're traveling then, and you're sure you want a bedroom, that's what I'd do.

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It would help to know what train you're riding. I'm assuming you're riding the Lake Shore Limited, which gives you more options for a bedroom. If you're riding the Cardinal, there are only 2 bedrooms on the train at that time of year.  That cuts your availability by two thirds for most of the trip.

So, if you're on the Cardinal, I'd consider booking now.

 

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51 minutes ago, Thirdrail7 said:

It would help to know what train you're riding. I'm assuming you're riding the Lake Shore Limited, which gives you more options for a bedroom. If you're riding the Cardinal, there are only 2 bedrooms on the train at that time of year.  That cuts your availability by two thirds for most of the trip.

So, if you're on the Cardinal, I'd consider booking now.

Doesn’t the LSL New York section typically run with two sleepers? So unless the OP would be cool with switching sections in Albany, the Cardinal merely has half the capacity of the LSL, and not a third. I think that the main capacity limitation of the Card is that its thrice-weekly, which means higher demand on the days that it does run, and fewer options when looking for low bucket fares.

As to the best time to book, it seems that prices seem to drop about five months from departure, which isn’t too far from now. However as was said, if it’s already at a good price, don’t wait and just book.

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7 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

Doesn’t the LSL New York section typically run with two sleepers? So unless the OP would be cool with switching sections in Albany, the Cardinal merely has half the capacity of the LSL, and not a third.

 

I don't want to be mean to you, but you seem to react to the posts before you digest posts. I don't know if you're just eager, which is nice since you have a genuine desire to help and participate or you some times miss the subtleties.

To answer your question, yes..the LSL typically operates with two sleepers from NYP to ALB and I am well aware the third sleeper comes from BOS, which is why I chose my words carefully:

 

1 hour ago, Thirdrail7 said:

  That cuts your availability by two thirds for most of the trip. [/b]

 

Using the coach NYP-ALB to a sleeper ALB-BOS is a viable option to consider when you are looking at availability and costs..particularly if you're waiting for a lower bucket to appear.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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1 hour ago, ehbowen said:

Safest option is to buy now and then, if the price drops, ask to have your original reservation modified to the lower price. You might lose 25% of the difference, but some of our members have reported that being waived. 

Wouldn’t you lose 25% of your original fare and not just the difference?

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There's a lot of discussion of this topic here.  These are two related threads that are current:

I don't travel by train very often, so I am able to make a big deal out of the trips I take.  I book as early as possible, and watch for the fares to change by checking every day on Amtrak.com.  But I happen to have a financial situation where I can afford to buy tickets early or at higher fares than the lowest bucket.  Your situation may be different.

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24 minutes ago, VTTrain said:

Wouldn’t you lose 25% of your original fare and not just the difference?

If you have the agent MODIFY your existing reservation, all you should lose is 25% of the difference between the original fare and the new...in other words, 25% of the refund which you are due. Now if a ham-handed (or inexperienced) agent CANCELS your existing reservation, and then books a new one, then the system would charge 25% of the refund due on the cancellation...which would be 25% of your original fare. So check and make sure that the agent is doing it correctly; if you're not sure, cancel the transaction, hang up, and try again with a different agent.

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Also be advised it seem Amtrak is getting very sneaky with it pricing.  Test booking will cause your price bucket to go up.  Buying a round trip in a sleeper seem to cause the price bucket to go on your return trip.  Still testing this out but my trip in March is on hold.  AmSnag is showing low buckets on the day I picked,  when I went to book, I got a mid bucket on the return.  The next day it was high bucket for the return, but AmSnag still showing low bucket.  Will try to book from a different device at a different WiFi location to see if I can get that low bucket price.

 

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8 minutes ago, Just-Thinking-51 said:

Also be advised it seem Amtrak is getting very sneaky with it pricing.  Test booking will cause your price bucket to go up.  Buying a round trip in a sleeper seem to cause the price bucket to go on your return trip.  Still testing this out but my trip in March is on hold.  AmSnag is showing low buckets on the day I picked,  when I went to book, I got a mid bucket on the return.  The next day it was high bucket for the return, but AmSnag still showing low bucket.  Will try to book from a different device at a different WiFi location to see if I can get that low bucket price.

 

I have never seen or heard of Arrow doing anything like this. In my experience, test bookings have never had any permanent effect on price, and actual bookings have always only affected prices on that train. Has anyone else seen cases of test bookings having an actual effect on pricing or real bookings affecting other trains?

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I'm not sure what you mean by a "test booking." Merely making inquiries on Amtrak.com does not affect pricing in any way I have seen by checking three trains daily for the last several months.

I'll add that being flexible helps to finding the best fare.  If Bedrooms are too expensive, maybe book a Roomette and hope to be able to upgrade later if the Bedroom price falls.  If you can, use Amsnag to find the cheapest travel dates or just search different dates.

Edited by Maglev
addition

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2 hours ago, Maglev said:

I'm not sure what you mean by a "test booking." Merely making inquiries on Amtrak.com does not affect pricing in any way I have seen by checking three trains daily for the last several months.

I'll add that being flexible helps to finding the best fare.  If Bedrooms are too expensive, maybe book a Roomette and hope to be able to upgrade later if the Bedroom price falls.  If you can, use Amsnag to find the cheapest travel dates or just search different dates.

This!

I would note that if you start booking an Amtrak ticket, that room/seat is yours during the actual purchasing process, so I suppose it could theoretically affect pricing during that period, but definitely not anything permanent.

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I always book as soon as I know the dates of my travel. Sometimes it’s 11 months in advance and other times a few weeks. In my experience, the fares rarely go down after I book.  I would book ASAP if you want a bedroom. Sometimes they sell out quickly, other times they don’t. 

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Bear in mind that if you search for a fare on some specific date and find it at high bucket, there's some possibility it may stay at high bucket until your date of travel.  It may also remain at high bucket for a while and then become sold out before you decide to go ahead and get it at high bucket.

Everybody here seems to have their own pet theory on Amtrak fares.  Mine is "You can't always sometimes tell what you least expect to happen the most."

My bucket chart for all the LD trains will appear if you click on the partial image in Post #7.

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I’m with most opinions here. If you know your travel dates and they are firm, then book it as early as you can. I’ve been watching the west LD trains for a little while now and early on you can either book low bucket or a +1 fare if you’re the first one or two to grab (depending on the route). If your plans are flexible and you want to go as cheaply as possible wait until the 5 month mark, when a lot of low bucket fares are released and grab a low bucket on dates that you can live with. 

 

Good luck!!

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46 minutes ago, F900ElCapitan said:

If your plans are flexible and you want to go as cheaply as possible wait until the 5 month mark, when a lot of low bucket fares are released and grab a low bucket on dates that you can live with.

Bad advice, IMHO.  Low bucket fares can also be found 11 months out so there's no reason not to look as early as your plans are firmed up.  While they may be more commonly found at the 5 month mark that doesn't mean they can't be found 6 to 11 months out. 

How about this scenario?  The accommodation you want is available during that period of 6 to 11 months hence and you don't bother to look. Then the day before you finally look (at that magical 5 month mark) the accommodation you want is sold out - and got that way the day before you looked.  Either that or it was available at low (or close to low) bucket all during that period and jumped up a bucvket or two the day before you checked.  While not a likely scenarios they're not impossible ones.

Anyway, press on and follow that silly 5 month rule while others look and book 6 to 11 months out and possibly drive up the fares (or snag the last one) before you even look.

As far as I'm concerned that "5 month rule" is nothing but bad advice and one of those myths that will live on forever here at AU.

 

 

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After reading a variety of threads on this forum, I've learned much about the 'bucket list'...er...bucket system of pricing Amtrak uses.  And especially to note, that pretty close to exactly 5 months before the departure date, prices will drop if there hasn't been some percentage of space sold. 

Using the 5 month sort-of-rule, I scored some low bucket prices for my annual 'vacation' joyride on AGR points in this coming April (including the LSL) by daily using Amsnag to check the prices.  In my opinion, one has to get a 'feel' of what the prices are on a specific train over a period of time.  Assume a bedroom would go for $1000 a week before departure and it's the last one.  It may be initially priced at $750 for months 11 to 6 in the future.  Yes, there may be a couple of bedrooms sold in that time and those dates may show a $100 increase on dates a bedroom or two have already been sold.  But then, 5 months out, the prices will drop to perhaps $550 for dates that have no sales yet, $650 for dates with 1 room sold, etc.   At least, that's my gut feel from watching things.  

So, as it turns out, right NOW is probably the best price you'll see for April travel in a sleeper.  I wouldn't be surprised if the lowest priced rooms are already gone, so prices are possibly $75-150 higher than a month ago, depending on the date.

As a resident of suburban Springfield MA, when I do take the Lakeshore Ltd to CHI, I usually ride coach from SPG to ALB and then take a roomette in the NYP section to be away from the horns (the Boston sleeper is at the front of the train) but more so to save about $100, give or take.  One would think that a roomette from BOS and a roomette from NYP would initially be the same price.  But apparently, the demand for BOS section sleeper space bumps the prices up long before I contemplate making a trip on the LSL.

As noted above, the New York section of the LSL has exactly four bedrooms, and about 20 roomettes for sale.  The Boston section has half that available as there's only 1 sleeper in that section.  Also as noted, the Cardinal typically runs with a single sleeper, but only runs 3 times per week and always commands the highest room prices...typically $200-300 MORE than that on the Lakeshore Ltd.  In my opinion, the schedule of the Cardinal from/to NYP also leaves much to be desired.  Lastly,  there's the Capitol Ltd from WAS to CHI which in past years, I've preferred over the Lakeshore Ltd and the Cardinal.  There's also 12 bedrooms (maybe only 6, if one sleeper + trans dorm/sleeper in April) available, which makes the probability of getting one at a good price more likely.  Historically (for me), roomettes are consistently $100-200 less costly than the LSL, too...AND I get 7 hours or so additional train riding time from Springfield on #141 to Washington to catch the Capitol Ltd.

If your travel dates are flexible, check out Amsnag  HERE and give it 04/01/19 and 30 days to search.  It'll likely save you a bundle!

Edited by bratkinson

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Nearly 2 weeks ago I booked a bedroom on the Sunset Limited #1 NOL>LAX for a trip next October Wound up with Bedroom A !!!. Called right back to change it to something other than A and was told I got the last bedroom.

Just checked AmSnag and indeed, that train shows sold out for bedrooms for that day in October 2019 - a little more than 10 months out!

So, in answer to your question, "right now" may not be early enough depending on the train.

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Just for giggles and grins, I just did a 30 day AmSnag search starting 10/14/19 (ending out at the 11 month maximum on 11/11/19) for CHI to LAX and checked Roomette fares on: 

•  The SWC and they were were at low bucket of $544 (for 1 adult) for 24 of the 30 days,

•  The TE and they were at low bucket of $544 (for 1 adult) for 12 of the 13 days.

Anyone who thinks there's no reason to check for low bucket fares out as far as 11 months has his or her head in the sand.

The "5 month rule" is a myth, pure and simple.  Break, break, I say again:  The "5 month rule" is a myth, pure and simple. 

Edited by niemi24s

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It sounds like the Amtrak version of "yield management", airline style supply and demand pricing, is nowhere near as sophisticated at the airline version.

I believe they change their fares constantly, based upon some historic sales algorithm, with the goal of squeezing the most possible revenue from each flight.   

It sounds like Amtrak simply raises the fare as sales go on, with a possible second look at the five month out date, according to some?

 

Don't they try to drop the fares closer to departure, if sales are slower than expected?   So as to not leave a room unsold?

 

Forgive my ignorance of this, as I have only purchased one sleeper (last month) in a very long time...:unsure:

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4 hours ago, niemi24s said:

Bad advice, IMHO.  Low bucket fares can also be found 11 months out so there's no reason not to look as early as your plans are firmed up.  While they may be more commonly found at the 5 month mark that doesn't mean they can't be found 6 to 11 months out. 

How about this scenario?  The accommodation you want is available during that period of 6 to 11 months hence and you don't bother to look. Then the day before you finally look (at that magical 5 month mark) the accommodation you want is sold out - and got that way the day before you looked.  Either that or it was available at low (or close to low) bucket all during that period and jumped up a bucvket or two the day before you checked.  While not a likely scenarios they're not impossible ones.

Anyway, press on and follow that silly 5 month rule while others look and book 6 to 11 months out and possibly drive up the fares (or snag the last one) before you even look.

As far as I'm concerned that "5 month rule" is nothing but bad advice and one of those myths that will live on forever here at AU.

 

 

Well, first of all the OP asked about bedrooms. Of which most of the west LD trains start out (11 months) with lb+1 fares (the SEA-CHI Builder is an exception at low bucket, PDX-CHI, CHI-SEA/PDX all start at lb+2 ($947 vs $1474 for 2)). Then depending on demand, prices are dropped on the low days. Which is why I said “if your plans are flexible” and you can go with lower priced days whatever those days may be. Contrary to this, if you have a fixed schedule and you can accept the current price, then yes, I too would suggest to buy at that point, including 11 months out. 

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12 hours ago, F900ElCapitan said:

Well, first of all the OP asked about bedrooms. Of which most of the west LD trains start out (11 months) with lb+1 fares (the SEA-CHI Builder is an exception at low bucket, PDX-CHI, CHI-SEA/PDX all start at lb+2 ($947 vs $1474 for 2)). Then depending on demand, prices are dropped on the low days. Which is why I said “if your plans are flexible” and you can go with lower priced days whatever those days may be. Contrary to this, if you have a fixed schedule and you can accept the current price, then yes, I too would suggest to buy at that point, including 11 months out. 

And by all means, every now and then, double check the prices you paid for your room(s) to see what they are 'going for' AFTER you've paid for your ticket.  I did that and got a $244 voucher when I modify-ed my ticket to another room number for an upcoming trip!  The key is use the word 'modify' when calling Amtrak to change room and/or car numbers.  If not, they'll do a cancel and rebook, and you may be charged cancellation fees.

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17 hours ago, niemi24s said:

Just for giggles and grins, I just did a 30 day AmSnag search starting 10/14/19 (ending out at the 11 month maximum on 11/11/19) for CHI to LAX and checked Roomette fares on: 

•  The SWC and they were were at low bucket of $544 (for 1 adult) for 24 of the 30 days,

•  The TE and they were at low bucket of $544 (for 1 adult) for 12 of the 13 days.

Anyone who thinks there's no reason to check for low bucket fares out as far as 11 months has his or her head in the sand.

The "5 month rule" is a myth, pure and simple.  Break, break, I say again:  The "5 month rule" is a myth, pure and simple. 

I don't think anyone said that you should never check more than five months out. We simply said that there are cases where prices seem to drop five months out, and so it's worth looking to see if there's anything new around that time. Stop whipping out your straw man, niemi. ;)

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I take at least 3 long distance trains each summer/fall. I book as far out as I can in a bedroom. 6-8 months.  I always seem to find a lower fare a few months later either on the CL or Silver Meteor from WAS back to Florida. Never on the CZ or Chief. I call and ask for the lower priced room and have never been charged a fee. I get the lower fare and a voucher for the difference. Last trip was Sept 2018.

Edited by Sauve850
Correction

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