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In summer 2015, we took an epic family roadtrip, where we took an Amtrak train from Ohio to Denver, followed by renting a car and going to Yellowstone Park and Mt. Rushmore, among other sites.
(SEE ALSO: My (free) $6500 family train vacation on Amtrak)
I thought I’d report on the trip with a 2 part report, one focusing on the good parts of train travel and one on the bad. Today’s post – 4 reasons our Amtrak train trip was a blast for our family. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about the…. “not so good” parts of the trip.
1. Did I mention… a train?!?
Kids love trains! This seems to be an international law for all kids. There’s just something about traveling by train that is just super appealing! My older son even got some time to work on the Railroading Merit Badge. The conductor that he interviewed (as one of the requirements) was super nice and helpful.
2. The food is all paid for
A sleeper car reservation is considered “premium travel”, and as such, all your meals are paid for. I wouldn’t call the meals onboard the Amtrak train “5-star restaurant quality”, but they were good, and a huge step up from airplane food!
One downside is that there are only 3 or 4 options for each meal, so it can get a little monotonous. Personally, that wasn’t a huge problem for me, and it seemed that my kids had no problem eating french toast and hot dogs non stop, but my wife mentioned it. PRO TIP: You can often order the lunch meals for dinner as well – I had the Angus burger for dinner a few times, and my 6 year old amusingly loved to order the Herb Roasted Half Chicken 🙂
3. Going off the grid
Being “off the grid” can be simultaneously frustrating and liberating. Most of Amtrak’s long-haul trains do not have any sort of wi-fi onboard, so I was totally off the grid. As part of the budget for our family of 8, we have chosen to not pay for a cellular data plan. The cell service is mostly good (depending on where you’re traveling), and I did see some folks using my-fis or other similar devices to power their laptops.
We used the time to hang out, read books, and play games together in the lounge car
Not having Internet was a little frustrating when trying to recover from train delays. Nowadays you get so used to just being able to Google information that you need, that when you can’t for whatever reason, it gets really annoying! Luckily I’m a super planner, and had hard copies of things like car rental company phone number and hotel reservations, etc.
4. Not having to drive
It was definitely relaxing to be able to just go across the country without having to drive. Similar to traveling by plane, but the advantage of the train trip is that there’s just SO much more room (especially when you have a sleeper car, like we did). Especially since as a family of 8, we’re a 2 rental car family
On a plane trip, you’re pretty much trapped in your seat where you are. Tight quarters can lead to situations like the one where a fellow passenger told my wife and I that we were “the type of people that shouldn’t have children“…
But on the train, you can go back to your sleeper car, or hang out in the lounge car, or just walk back and forth. Some Amtrak trips even offer “Trails & Rails“, which is a partnership with the National Park Service where a park ranger comes on board and talks about various landmarks or national treasures.
So, these were the good parts of the trip – stay tuned tomorrow for the flip side: “… but I’ll probably never take another Amtrak trip“