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Recently, our family of 8 took a train trip from the Amtrak Cincinnati Union Terminal cross country to Seattle.  We paid for half of it with Amtrak points (before they devalued their award chart), and used $1100 in Amtrak vouchers to pay for the other half.  Although you can’t get quite as much outsized value as you could before (SEE: My (free) $6500 family train vacation on Amtrak), but it is still possible to use points for sleeper travel at reasonable levels, you just have to find a “low level” ticket.

Riding Amtrak in the cheap seatstrain-picture

Last time we all took an Amtrak, we rode from Toledo to Chicago and then Chicago to Denver all in bedrooms in sleeper cars.  This time, because half of us were paying cash (vouchers), we decided to only pay for a sleeper car for the long haul part of our trip (from Chicago to Seattle) and just take 4 regular seats for the first part of the journey (from Cincinnati to Chicago)

Under the old chart, 2 roomettes (or 1 bedroom) was 40,000 points for 2 zones of travel, so we booked 4 of us in 2 roomettes for both parts of the journey.

Naturally the girls got the roomettes and the boys got the cheap seats 🙂

DRAMA in the cheap seats

Our train was scheduled to leave Cincinnati at 1:31 a.m. (boo), though it ended up being about 40 minutes late.  By the time we got everyone situated, it was going on 3 a.m.  We had myself and my 7 year old son in one row of 2 seats, with my 2 older boys in the row in front of us.  I tried to use some of my tips for sleeping on a red eye in economy, and I’m sure I slept a little, but not very much.  “Conveniently”, we were right across from a couple traveling with a ~2 month infant.  I tried not to smile at the irony (though actually their baby, while not 100% quiet, was not really a problem, noise-wise)

As the night turned into morning, we were just sitting there waiting for the train to arrive in Chicago (scheduled time: 10:05 a.m. CDT) when all of a sudden the man of the couple across from us gets up and starts yelling.  Apparently, liquid was pouring down on him from the luggage racks above.

water-pouring

It was quickly determined that another passenger had a water bottle or some other liquid up in the luggage rack above that was open and spilling on him.  The offender was quickly located and trying to mop things up with napkins and paper towels.  Then the lady in the NEXT row up finds that it’s starting to spill on her too!  The man with the baby is yelling how the water is spilling all over him.  Of course, other “helpful” passengers are yelling at the guy with the water bottle, telling him to move his bag.

In the meantime, my 7 year old son is making comments too “Look! The water is right there!” as I’m trying to shush him, hoping to not get involved in any impending physical altercation with my kids.

Thankfully, everything calmed down and we finished the rest of our ride in peace.

Ever ridden in the “cheap seats” on Amtrak?  Have any good stories to share?

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