Amtrak is a great way to see the United States. As the train company celebrates its 50th anniversary and many people are avoiding air travel, train travel is seeing a resurgence. Not only do you not have to deal with the security lines at the airport (worth the price of the ticket right there), but you get to do some great people-watching. You can see the landscape of the country. And you can bring food on Amtrak! So if you’re looking for some Amtrak travel tips, look no further. We’ll not only give you tips for traveling on Amtrak, but also five things not to do on Amtrak.
Amtrak Travel Tips
We decided to ride Amtrak to take a trip to visit the National Museum of African-American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. An overnight trip from our home in Florida, we rode to Alexandria, Virginia. The station there was easy to navigate and it was an easy the next day to head into D.C.
A great way to travel and really get to see the country, while it is fun, there are some Amtrak travel tips to be aware of. Two common questions asked are can you bring food on Amtrak and can you talk on the phone on Amtrak. Yes and yes! I often bring a small cooler with snacks and drinks when I’m on the train. While food and drinks are available to purchase on board, I don’t always want to get up and change cars to get go to the snack car. So for me, to bring food on Amtrak is just a little easier.
And while it can be a lot of fun to take a train, there are some Amtrak travel tips and things you shouldn’t do while on Amtrak. Okay, these five things not to do on Amtrak aren’t necessarily their rules. But they’re standard courtesy rules. So here are some Amtrak travel tips for a great train ride.
Talk on the Phone on Amtrak
Don’t talk on your cell phone for extended periods while sitting in your seat. And by extended periods, I mean more than 2 or 3 minutes. No one wants to hear your personal stories. I promise. If you need to make a longer call, go into the club car. That’s the car where you can chat with people, play card games, etc. And don’t me started on phone calls in the Quiet Car.
I love cursing as much as the next person. The correctly placed curse word can emphasize the point you’re trying to get across, in my opinion. What I don’t want to hear, and your train mates don’t either, is to hear cursing in public settings. Even worse? Repeated cursing. There are children, older people and even younger people who don’t swear on the train with you. It’s a small, enclosed space. Have courtesy and respect for the people around you. For me, this is one of the top Amtrak travel tips.
Have you heard the story of how the 1960’s tv show Gilligan’s Island is a representation of the 7 Deadly Sins? It’s an interesting theory. Gillian is supposed to represent ‘sloth.’ He’s lazy, doesn’t care about much and wants people to fix his mistakes and pick up after him. Well, on Amtrak, the conductors are there to collect trash and clean the bathrooms. But they shouldn’t have to pick up wrappers and cans you leave on the floor. Most times, once you get to your destination, someone else gets on at the same spot and takes the seat where you were sitting. No one wants to sit with trash on the floor and in the seat pocket. So this Amtrak travel tip is don’t be Gilligan. Carry a small plastic bag to hold your trash for the ride, or get up and throw it in the trash bins at either end of the car.
Sleeping on Amtrak
Of course, you’re going to sleep on the train. Believe it or not, there are some rules about sleeping in your seat. Don’t sneak into another seat and stretch out, especially at night. People are getting on at all spots and get assigned a seat. When you’re sleeping across two chairs that aren’t yours, it’s awkward (for you) to have the conductor wake you up and tell you to move.
Also, don’t encroach on your seatmate’s space. On one trip, my husband and I and our daughter took the train to New York. I sat with our daughter and he sat with a woman who fell asleep on his shoulder. All. Night. Long. And not in a good Lionel Richie way.
On our trip to D.C., two men behind us got into a verbal altercation because one kept falling asleep on the other, and after asking a few times, the guy who was the pillow got upset. If you are one of those who fall over when you sleep sitting up, a good tip for train travel: consider purchasing a small sleeper room.
If you can handle sleeping mostly upright without disturbing your seatmate, Amtrak seats have plenty of legroom and recline far back without interfering with the person behind you. I take my earplugs and face mask along with a small travel pillow to help me sleep a little better. And my daughter changes into pajamas to help her get comfortable. Besides the argument that happened behind us (which the conductors quickly de-escalated), we slept very well.
Listening to Music/Watching Movies Without Headphones
See Phone Calls — same general idea. No one wants to hear your favorite movie or song blasting. Cheap earbuds are available at the dollar store. Grab a pair before your trip.
Bonus Amtrak Travel Tip: Wear a Mask
Due to COVID-19, Amtrak currently requires riders to wear a mask over their nose and mouth in train stations, on the train or on the transfer buses that take you from the station. If you have a private room, you can remove the mask in there. The dining and beverage service is limited, so be prepared. You can have your face mask off when eating or drinking, but don’t push this. The tip is: don’t try to take your mask off or refuse to wear it. You risk punishment by being removed from the train before you reach your destination and since it’s a federal law, other consequences.
These rules are super simple and boil down to common courtesy. Be respectful to the other passengers and the crew. Don’t get into arguments with others. Keep what’s coming out of your audio devices to yourself. Wear your mask. With these Amtrak travel tips, everyone will have a more enjoyable trip!
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