Empire Builder after Christmas

Discussion in 'Guest Forum for Amtrak Questions' started by Matt M., Jul 25, 2018.

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  1. Jul 25, 2018 #1

    Matt M.

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    Matt M.

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    Hello all! I did a quick search and didn't see this question answered before, but I apologize if it's a rehash.

    I'm flying from Portland, OR to Syracuse, NY to spend Christmas with friends in Vermont. I've decided to take the train back across the country on my way back, something I've always wanted to do! My friends think it's crazy, but I'm looking forward to it so much! Here are my questions though:

    1. I plan on taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland from Dec. 28-30. Should I brace myself for a full car packed with post-holiday travelers? Or will it be quieter during that lull week between Christmas and New Years? Does anyone have any experience during this time on the Empire Builder?
    2. I've bought my coach seats for the trip, but I just noticed that a Roommette on the Empire Builder is $500 extra. I think I might be able to afford that upgrade in a few weeks (I'm a poor college student), but it worries me that the website currently says that only 2 roommettes are left. This might be a silly question, but do you think it'll still be available in a month? Or do the roommettes sell out pretty quickly? And is upgrading my ticket easy?
    3. Are the roommettes noticeably more comfortable than a regular coach seat? My biggest concern is getting to sleep on the train. Are the coach seats adequate and spacious enough (I'm 6'3!)?
    Ok, thank you so much for any information you can provide! I'm really excited about this trip, and anything I can do to make it more comfortable and enjoyable I'll do!
     
  2. Jul 25, 2018 #2

    Tennessee Traveler

    Tennessee Traveler

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    I can't answer your crowded situation but checked the roomette prices on Amsnag 2.02 website. Most likely the price given for the roomette said "only two remain AT THIS PRICE". That does not mean that only two roomettes remain available. There are more and the price will increase once the two at the price you were quoted on THAT SPECIFIC TRAIN AND DATE are sold. Do check Amsnag 2.02 for prices as they may change from day to day.

    The roomette seats are much more comfortable than the coach seat and provide privacy and meals are included. Roomette convert to "lie flat" beds at night. Your sleeping car attendant will do this for you. And there is a shower available on the sleepers and not in the coach cars. If you are a young 20 something, you probably can sleep well in coach but this almost 77 year old just can't handle overnight coach.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2018
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  3. Jul 25, 2018 #3

    SarahZ

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    I would definitely book the roomette. Considering it's 3 days/2 nights on a train, it will be much more comfortable and well worth the money. Your meals are included in the cost of the room, so take that into consideration too. It will save you having to pack enough food for the trip, along with whatever you spend in the cafe or dining car. Plus, you will have access to a shower. That's one of the best perks. You will also have access to the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago.

    Keep an eye on the website. People tend to change their plans back and forth this far in advance of the trip. Tennessee Traveler was correct about "two seats left at this price" meaning the rooms aren't necessarily close to selling out, but you may lose that price. If you see it change to "one seat left at this price", you might want to call Amtrak and ask them if they will hold the room. I have found that if I am super polite, they will hold a room for a week or two and then let it go if I fail to purchase it within that time frame. This all depends on demand, of course. Since that train runs during the holidays, they might not do it. It never hurts to ask, though. The worst they can say is no. [​IMG]
     
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  4. Jul 25, 2018 #4

    Bill M.

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    Bill M.

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    Good for you! You will never forget that journey. Please afford the roomette - for your own comfort and enjoyment. A roomette is small, sure, but it beats sitting in a chair for two nights and three days. And you're 6'3" remember. Don't forget to factor in that your meals are included in the fare for the roomette. That's a biggie; and you'll have a grand time meeting people in the diner. And another plus is that you won't have to worry about a crowded train! It's a win-win for you. Have a wonderful trip to Vermont, capped with a memorable and unique experience. Bon Voyage, Matt.
     
  5. Jul 25, 2018 #5

    the_traveler

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    I am 6ā€™0ā€, and could sleep in coach for 1 night but this trip is 3 nights! I would go for the roomette!

    Another thing to consider to reduce your costs is to go Business Class on the Lake Shore Limited. It is also a seat but more spacious, and it is only 1 overnight to Chicago. I would still chose a roomette on the Empire Builder.
     
  6. Jul 25, 2018 #6

    Bill M

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    Bill M

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    Oh, and another thing, Matt; remember that the showers (yes, showers!) are down the hall and you will need to go there to change for sleep. A Roomette is 6'6" x 3'6". So you have 3 inches left. Do your research on what exactly a roomette on a Superliner is, how it functions, etc. I know so many single Amtrak travelers who prefer roomettes, and have travelled all over the USA in them. And it's nice to be alone with your thoughts, BTW. Once you have seen America from a train, you will understand America.
     
  7. Jul 26, 2018 #7

    ehbowen

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    I've never had a problem changing for the night in a roomette, even with the bed down. What you can do if you are a "person of size" is to change into night attire...gym shorts and t-shirt work well...before the room is made up for sleeping. You will need to wear something adequate at night as the restroom facilities are all down the hall or downstairs.

    Edit To Add: If you can possibly afford the roomette, do so. I have taken several overnight Amtrak trips in both coach and sleeper. Many times, after a coach overnight, I have wished that I had spent the extra and taken a sleeper. There has never yet been a time after a sleeper trip when I have wished that I had saved the money and gone coach.
     
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  8. Jul 26, 2018 #8

    Mystic River Dragon

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    This sounds like a bucket list trip, so definitely choose the roomette! (Think of it like saving up for a cruise--something that you may not be doing all the time and that is a special treat.)

    If you search for "Amtrak Superliner roomette" online, you will find a lot of descriptions, from Amtrak's own "virtual tour" to YouTube videos that people have taken of their own trips. If you also search for "Amtrak Superliner coach," you will find videos of the coach cars. You will be able to see the difference immediately! The coach seats are not bad--lots of room compared to what we have in the east--but I agree with others that you don't want to go coach for such a long trip.

    If you have a roomette, you can choose privacy, or you can go to the Superliner Lounge if you want company (and the dining car, of course).
     
  9. Jul 27, 2018 #9

    Matt M.

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    Matt M.

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    Thank you guys so much! I really appreciate your help and information, and the fact that I got so many helpful replies so quickly is awesome! This website is an amazing resource for first-time (and perhaps overly-enthusiastic) long-distance Amtrak travelers like myself. I'm sure I'll have more questions in the future, but for now a sincere thank you.
     
  10. Jul 27, 2018 #10

    the_traveler

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    Your welcome![​IMG]

    Consider joining AU! There is no cost and we do not bite![​IMG]
     
  11. Jul 27, 2018 #11

    cruisegary

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    I find it interesting that most people suggest going for the roomette. Sure it is much nicer and we are doing it in September. Then again, we are not poor but are Seniors.

    This guy is a college student with limited funds. $500 goes a long way for him doing other things in life. Unlike the airline, the seats in coach have lots of room for a 6 footer.

    And with only a few roomettes and LOTS of coach seats, where do you think most people ride?
     
  12. Jul 27, 2018 #12

    ehbowen

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    If it was a single overnight and funds were limited, I would travel coach...even today at the age of 55. I would consider coach for a two-night trip, and in fact I was thinking of doing so as recently as my "Railfan Madness Part I" trip back in 2015...but I had an Amsnag fare watch and a low bucket on a lower level roomette (LAX-HOS, Sunset Limited) came available a couple months before my travel date, and I grabbed it. Never regretted it.

    For a three night trip, though, I would want (need!) to break the trip up somewhere...either with a sleeper accommodation or a night in a hotel. This would apply if I were driving or flying as well...I've made banzai overnight drives, but always regretted it the next day. And while I've done foolish things, I haven't yet been foolish enough to drive straight through on a two-night trip. The OP has hinted that his financial situation allows him to at least consider a roomette. I urge him to give it serious consideration, especially for the two nights west of Chicago. East of Chicago he can (and I probably would) stick out coach with no ill effects...it will mean that he will be even more ready for a good night's sleep once aboard the Empire Builder as he digests his good steak dinner (hopefully still available!) and retires as the sun sets along the headwaters of the Mississippi....
     
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  13. Jul 29, 2018 #13

    JRR

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    On the Superliner, if I could afford it, Iā€™d take a bedroom.
     
  14. Jul 29, 2018 #14

    Tennessee Traveler

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    I travel alone and prefer the roomette. 1) bed is along the side of the car thus you can sleep feet first while the bedroom bed is at right angle with side and I don't really like that angle, 2) bedroom sofa can be either backward facing or forward facing since every other bedroom is alternately facing, 3) roomette has much less rattle since the bedrooms have removable partitions between bedrooms and they tend to rattle and squeak, and 4) last few times I traveled in bedroom I smelt the odor from both the in room bathrooms on second floor and the community bathrooms on the lower floor. There are no bathrooms on the roomette end of the car.
     
  15. Aug 2, 2018 #15

    cpotisch

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    It might be there in a month. It might not. It really depends. If you think you can make coach work in the event that the rooms sell out, I would say its fine to wait. Its very easy to upgrade and theres no change fee. Just call Amtrak and tell them to modify your reservation to a roomette. Youll pay the extra cost of the room, but there arent any change fees or anything like that.

    Roomettes are vastly more comfortable than coach. Its not even remotely close. The fact that you have complete privacy, a bed, complimentary meals, etc, mean that, in my opinion, if you can afford it, definitely go for it. The lower bunk is I think 24 wife and 62 long so you probably wont be able to completely stretch out. However, again, its still way better than coach. The train sort of rocks you to sleep, and you can look out the window and enjoy the scenery as you do so. Im sure youll sleep fine.

    Have a great trip!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2018
  16. Aug 10, 2018 #16

    chakk

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    I think the lower bunk is 72 inches long, at a minimum.
     
  17. Aug 10, 2018 #17

    cpotisch

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    Lower bunk is 78" long. Top bunk is 74".
     
  18. Aug 10, 2018 #18

    penguinflies

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    I'm 6'3', I had enough room in the roommates to lay flat. One previous trip I rode in roommette 10 and I didn't fit. Might've been something odd with with way I was sleeping though as two later trips in 4 and 7 I fit perfectly. You will fit in coach, you might have a seatmate however.

    Random Hacks:

    Chicago: If you upgrade to a sleeper, use the free shower in the Metropolitan lounge. If you remain on your coach ticket, the otherway to get access to the lounge is to buy a business class ticket on an illinois serivce as amtrak allows for free cancellation and full refund up to departure time, then refund it after you're done with the lounge. Business class tickets are allowed access to the lounge.

    Chicago-portland...the sleeper is behind the portland coaches (seattle sleeper is in front of the diner). So to move to the SSL and Diner, you have to go through the coaches each time. There is a coffee trailer in Minot to get a great cup of coffee. The crew usually goes there too, it's across the street from the station. I feel like breakfast and dinner were in the dark. Lunch was in daylight. Not much to see outside and you cross the national park at night. Being in a sleeper, we brought our own adult beverages and soda to consume and save money on drinks (there is a CVS next to union station in Chicago where you can stock up. There was free water,( oj, coffee in the morning). You're breakfast spokane to portland is a cold box from the cafe car attendant as the portland train keeps the SSL, and Seattle keeps the diner.

    If you elect to purchase a sleeper, also keep tracking prices till departure, I have had success in modifying my reservation till day of and getting refunds if the price goes lower then when I purchased the ticket. This was in 2017. I don't know if that policy has changed since some new rules when into effect in 2018 but always worth the call to see if you can get a refund or voucher.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2018
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  19. Aug 14, 2018 #19

    NorthShore

    NorthShore

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    Is she pretty?

    And will her husband mind?
     
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