Last month, Rick invited me to take a trip with him on Amtrak from Los Angeles to Seattle. He had transferred 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak and booked a Sleeper room where he and Katy were going to take a trip… long story short it wasn’t going to work out, so now he had a pile of points sitting in an Amtrak account; hence this idea.
He had meetings in LA and I got myself out there. He spent two days with the folks at IB, and I stopped in to visit (we even suckered convinced the head of the travel and leisure group at IB to do a 5 card application; where he went 5 for 5 after two quick calls to Citi for the two browser trick).
Building up to the trip, every time we spoke the conversation always had some reference to our “choo choo trip”. Rick and Katy did a single overnight from Beijing to Xian … me certainly never overnight. My Amtrak experience had always been in the northeast on either the regional or Acela between DC and Boston. This wasn’t quite the same; but boy it was an experience I think everyone should have.
The nice thing about the booking, is the 25,000 points was for the room; not per person. The room sleeps 2 adults (a small child could also fit); so a family of three with a child under 6 could get away with it. Bunk style sleeping, and a bathroom. In total no more than about 70 square feet; it was close quarters. Other than sleeping, or going through our bags we spent the entire time of the trip in the Parlor car. Big glass windows and comfy lounge swivel chairs; we were set.
We left Los Angeles on Saturday morning at 10:30 am (5 minutes late) and at our 31st stop we arrived in Seattle. Of those 31 stops we arrived late on 27 of them… but the 31st and final stop, we arrived 56 minutes early. Based on what I had heard and read about Amtrak performance on this route I was skeptical about our timely arrival… Let’s just say Rick and I had a bet and he was even more skeptical than I was
Below is the stop by stop performance of our trip… late late late late late late late late late late late late late late late late, but the stop I cared most about… early.
Here’s my take on the trip for those that look to do this:
- Plan to spend -0- minutes in your room other than sleeping / changing / etc. Get into the Parlor car and socialize … you think we’re geeks with planes / hotels; wait till you talk to a train geek; it was excellent.
- Don’t eat all your meals in the parlor car (the parlor car has a special / separate / smaller menu then the dining car). The privacy and separate seating is nice, but you can meet new people and chat a bit more in the dining car. Your meals are all included in the trip (no booze though) regardless of where you eat.
- The one time you want to be in your room is when they’re coming around for dinner reservations (if you care when you eat) as the last place they stop is the parlor car.
- Plan for intermittent Internet and cell phone functionality. I have a Verizon MiFi and we used it throughout the trip. There were some places in Oregon that for an hour or so we didn’t even get SOS on our phones; just “searching for network”
- If you can sleep on a plane in business class you can sleep on the train
- Get up early, stay up late (it is very peaceful)
- Redeem Chase UR for this trip. Out of pocket it would have been $1250!
Whether you’re a train junkie, or just love to travel this is a must do. It was like an experience none other that I’d be glad to do again.
I’ll spare you the further play by play, but here are some pictures from the journey:
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day TopCashback is donating $50 cash (to be deposited to your TopCashback.com account) for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (along with your First Name, Last Initial, and Airport Code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post by TOMORROW at 11:59pm EDT to be eligible to win. That gives you two days to win!