Sleeper Car Advice Wanted

Old May 20, 14, 9:57 pm
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Sleeper Car Advice Wanted

Took the family to train day at LA Union Station:





We toured some very interesting old pullman sleeper cars. Fortunately, we queued up early for this; as an aside, I was blown away at how long the line was when we made our way to the train that took us home some hours later. I guess anything free in LA will attract substantial crowds in this day and age.

In any case, after a couple of conversations regarding this (for example, a coworker took his grandkids from LA to Seattle via Amtrak on a sleeper car, the kids loved it), we're thinking to take the whole famn damily on a trip via sleeper car. It looks like about 25,000 Chase UR points, transferred to AGR, will cover it. So we wanted to ask you wise folks a few questions before we commit.

We're considering either LAX to SEA or SEA to LAX. One direction by plane, one direction by Amtrak. We want to book the bedroom suite. I've searched and read that it needs to be booked by phone or in person, which is not a problem.

Dates are flexible, but we do have to keep to the school calendar. So basically, travel in summer (late May/early June, or possibly August) or travel in winter (December or January). We think longer days would be better, but we're happy to travel at non-peak times. That's one question: assuming we can book as long in advance as needed, does the season really make that much of a difference in terms of the quality of the trip/scenery?

Another question: is traveling one direction better than the other? Do the suite windows face west regardless of the direction of travel?

Any other advice you care to offer? Anything we should be careful of?

We're a family of four. Our oldest will be a teenager this year. We're open to other routes, but we have friends & family in the PNW, so this route seems good to us.
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Old May 20, 14, 11:39 pm
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I can't answer your specific questions, but just want to point out that your bedroom redemption would include connecting Business Class travel on other trains, if necessary. So you could, for example, travel between Los Angeles (or San Diego) and Bellingham, WA, or Vancouver, BC for the same price as LAX-SEA.
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Old May 21, 14, 12:37 am
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Yes, I noticed that. I planned to get to/from LAX via business class from our local station and likewise at the other end as needed.
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Old May 21, 14, 6:11 am
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post

Dates are flexible, but we do have to keep to the school calendar. So basically, travel in summer (late May/early June, or possibly August) or travel in winter (December or January). We think longer days would be better, but we're happy to travel at non-peak times. That's one question: assuming we can book as long in advance as needed, does the season really make that much of a difference in terms of the quality of the trip/scenery?

Another question: is traveling one direction better than the other? Do the suite windows face west regardless of the direction of travel?
Amtrak Guest Rewards has blackout dates but does not have restricted award inventory. If they're booking rooms for cash, you can use points.

One can't predict if the bedroom window will be facing east or west. There aren't that many miles of coastal scenery such that you would be unhappy spending a few hours in the parlour car - or standing in the hallway outside your room.

The point about connecting trains within the award zone is a good one. Stopovers aren't allowed on an award but you could travel LAX-Portland-Yellowstone (West Glacier), for example, and fly back from Kalispell, MT. (This suggestion needs Amtrak to resume guaranteeing connections from the Coast Starlight to the Empire Builder or perhaps you staying overnight in Portland on your own dime).
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Old May 21, 14, 7:04 am
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One thing to think about is this time of year you get to see much more because of early sun rises and late sunsets... compared to early Dec.

Also, Amtrak long distance trains are double deck cars like the one in the right of one of your shots and have sight seeing cars with very large windows that let you see out both sides.

Bob H
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Old May 21, 14, 8:30 am
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
we're thinking to take the whole famn damily on a trip via sleeper car. It looks like about 25,000 Chase UR points, transferred to AGR, will cover it.

...

We want to book the bedroom suite.
One quibble: a bedroom suite is just two adjoining bedrooms, and costs as much as two bedrooms. Booking that would cost 50,000 points.

While in general I'd recommend summer for longer daylight hours, the morning trip over the Cascades in fresh snow is magical. (You'd have to be traveling northbound, though, since that section is in darkness on the southbound schedule.)
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Old May 21, 14, 12:36 pm
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
We're a family of four. Our oldest will be a teenager this year.
In that case the Family Bedroom should be a possibility for 25K. There's only one per car, so availability might be more difficult to find, but it does have windows on both sides (and unlike other bedrooms is on the lower level, with toilet and shower down the hall instead of in the room).
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Old May 21, 14, 3:33 pm
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Originally Posted by SkyBuck View Post
In that case the Family Bedroom should be a possibility for 25K. There's only one per car, so availability might be more difficult to find, but it does have windows on both sides (and unlike other bedrooms is on the lower level, with toilet and shower down the hall instead of in the room).
Except keep in mind that two of the beds in the family bedroom are "child sized". If one child is going to be a teenager they might already be too tall for the family bedroom.

These are the dimensions of the child sized beds:
Lower Berth 2'3" x 4'9"
Upper Berth 2'0" x 4'7"

While I love the bedrooms and think a bedroom suite at 50,000 points would be lovely for your trip, if you aren't prepared to use that many points you might consider booking two roomettes. At 15,000 points each, that would be a total of 30,000 points for your trip and you can hopefully get them across the hall from each other. The toilet is down the hall (with two more downstairs) and then you can use the shower downstairs, too.
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Old May 21, 14, 4:11 pm
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I really appreciate all the savvy answers. You have helped us to think more carefully. The collective and individual experience/wisdom on FT can be really excellent.

I had looked at the family bedroom but had missed the fact that the beds are too short. The oldest is way too big for those little beds, so it looks like we have to go with the suite or the roomettes. Either way seems to be a good value for points, even though I was clearly careless in assessing the point cost of the trip; the real question seems to be whether the private bathrooms we'd get with the suites is worth 20K.

Our youngest is on the autism spectrum, so for that reason I am inclined to spend the additional 20K in points for the privacy, even if the trip is only 36 hours on the schedule. I think the kids would enjoy having their own "room" as well, even if the door may not totally cut off the sound of dad's snoring.

Thanks so much for your assistance.
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Old May 21, 14, 7:30 pm
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You might want to consider booking a bedroom and a roomette. As long as you don't wait too long to book, they will both be on the upper level and a short distance down the hall. This will save some points and still provide privacy and a shower/toilet. I usually book a roomette for one night trips, and bedrooms for 2 or more. I can take two roomette trips for one bedroom trip. All rooms will have access to the parlor car and include free meals.

I highly recommend traveling in late spring through fall so you can maximize your daylight viewing hours. We were on the Coast Starlight a few weeks ago and it was snowing in the mountains. Flowering trees were blooming so the scenery was spectacular. The train will be more crowded during July-August summer vacation, so if you can go a little earlier or later you won't have to fight for a spot in the parlor car or sightseer lounge.
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Old May 22, 14, 11:22 am
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Smile

Remember that this Train has the Wonderful Pacific Parlour Car for Sleeping Car Passengers and you can have Meals,(Special Menu) Drinks(Unfortunately the Nickel and Dime cuts from the "Financial Excellence" Idiots in WAS has eliminated the Wine and Cheese Reception)etc. in style as opposed to the Regular Diner Meals!

Also the Time of Year doesnt really matter since the Beach around Santa Barbara and the Cascades Run is spectacular any time of year! Especially colorful is Winter with Snow in the cascades!) Hotels will be pricey in Seattle during the Summer so look for a Good Deal on the Travel Sites or maybe you have Points from a Loyalty Program??

As was said, a Suite is Two Bedrooms connected by a Door (B & C & D and E) with Bedroom A (smaller) being a Standalone! If you cant get a Suite (this is a Very Popular Route most of the Year!) consider a Bedroom and a Roomette!

Great trip, Wonderful Memories are made of stuff like this!
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Old May 22, 14, 1:11 pm
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Originally Posted by jimhudson View Post
Also the Time of Year doesnt really matter since the Beach around Santa Barbara and the Cascades Run is spectacular any time of year! Especially colorful is Winter with Snow in the cascades!)
Sorry Jim, but I have to disagree with this just a bit. It does matter what time of the year if one is going southbound to LA. During the Winter months, and especially if the train is running late, one will arrive in the dark for the run along the Pacific coast. This is NOT something to be missed!

In fact, I think it's part of the charm and uniqueness of this train that you get both mountains and the ocean all on the same trip!
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Old May 22, 14, 6:27 pm
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My first real train trip was the Coast Starlight, I've since taken another seven more sleeper trips so I think it worked. Personally, I've found that the more daylight you get, the better. Summer months are the best but they are expensive so I like April or October as the prices can be a little cheaper but you still get enough daylight. Also, have you considered just going as far as Portland? That's how my Dad and I did it because we went northbound and getting off there meant we could have a nice dinner in the city...just a thought.

Hope you and your family have a great trip
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Old May 22, 14, 9:53 pm
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Originally Posted by 3Cforme View Post
(This suggestion needs Amtrak to resume guaranteeing connections from the Coast Starlight to the Empire Builder or perhaps you staying overnight in Portland on your own dime).
My recent experience is that they won't let you book the overnight in PDX even on your own dime. If the website won't display it as a single trip, you can't book it as a single trip.

(I did get an exception because my trip was previously booked.)
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Old May 25, 14, 12:26 pm
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Third CS northbound

Recently and for the several hours leaving LA you will be delighted with view of beach so short a distance from train. As well, one month back, still snow in Cascades-don't know how long into season that will last. PPC a big plus even without wine-tastings(crew talk was it's coming back).
Again, northbound is my recommended itinerary. 20K AGR redemption.
Used 10K AA points to stay at Marriot branded hotel centrally located, $12 cab ride from King St station. About $3 for light rail to SEATAC for AS FC into ORD(after $150 credit, $12).

I wish all travelers such an excellent(and value-laden)travel experience.
Happy Rails-and give greetings to Monica in PPC!
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