Have you traveled on Amtrak? Do you like it? Is it better/worse than flying? Thanks.
The trip dh wants to do will be 18 hours on Amtrak. Our kids are 10 and 15 so I think they'll be fine, but I'm wondering how comfortable we will be for that long.
I haven't done it with kids but I definitely preferred it to flying when I lived on the eastern seaboard. I liked that I could get up and move around, there was more room, there was a cafe car to visit, and there was scenery. I would definitely pick it over flying with kids if I had the choice... that said, with a 10 and 15 year old they might start to go stir crazy. 18 hours is a long time!
Did Portland OR to San Francisco with then-21 y.o. DS1 last summer, which I think is the same-ish time frame. Much of it was overnight, which helped. We just had regular coach seats and were comfortable enough. I will say that DS1 geeks out on transit, so he was predisposed to love it.
Have done northeast corridor trips with both DS1 and DS2 when they were a couple of years older than yours; that went well, too, and they liked it much better than flying.
I would say it's way more comfortable than flying, much less hassle, and you can walk around too. Great way to see part of the country; I'm from the east coast, so the PDX-SFO trip was a spectacular chance for me. I've got family in the midwest who invited my mother and me to visit, and I told my mother I was taking the train instead of flying, thanks. This is for an over twenty-hour trip.
Do you have a sense of whether your kids would like to do it?
I like flying because I like getting to places quicker. However, if you have the time and want to take it slow and enjoy staring out the window into the country, then the train can be fun.
I think with older kids it might be a lot of fun.. Mine are younger so I wouldn't even try it honestly.
My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.
We travel by Amtrak once or twice a year for shorter weekend trips into the city. Something I have noticed, on the east coast, is that the trains can get VERY crowded. Coach class is comfortable enough but if keeping the family seated together (I am mostly thinking about the 10yo) is important, spend the money to upgrade to business class, those cars are much nicer (larger seats) and less crowded and if memory serves me correctly, you get free non-alcoholic drinks in the cafe car.
The past two times we travelled by Amtrak, the coach cars were sold out and the routes that we travel do not have assigned seats, it is first come, first serve. I would have had anxiety over trying to find seats for DS and I together (he is much younger than you LOs) so the extra few dollars to business class was well worth the cost.
I love travelling by train soooo much! It isn't the best in every situation, but if I ever have the option I am all over the train! Flying with my daughter as a newborn was easy as pie, but now that she's 16 months and running all over the place, I think a plane would be the worst experience ever and I'd rather take the train with her. Even though it may take longer, it'll ultimately be much more pleasant.
-Way more comfortable. The seats seem to have more space, you can get up and walk around, and if you have the money you can get your own room (its definitely more expensive, but do-able usually and worth it for long trips)
-You don't have to deal with airports. Airport food, airport security, all that shit that I hate.
-Lounge cars, viewing cars, dining cars, plenty of places to explore and you aren't confined to a tiny seat.
-May be cheaper than driving (For example, San Diego to San Francisco is cheaper to take the train than to buy gas for our car)
-Much less stressful than flying or driving. Once you are on the train that is that and you can have fun. No layovers to worry about, and no traffic.
-Slower than flying, and if you have limited vacation time that might be the deciding factor.
-Usually more expensive than flying (but that really depends on where you live, how far you are going, etc)
Just an FYI, it is not like Europe. I expected prices to be fixed. I looked them up online before our trip, and the fare for our leg was 80/person. The day we arrived at the train station, the tickets were 250/person. When I told the woman at the counter that I expected 80/person tickets, she thought I was an idiot for not buying them at the time I looked them up. Well, I've only ever traveled by train in Europe where the prices did not fluctuate, and I was unaware thy would do so here. She was actually very helpful and found me comparable fares at a much later time, but since we were flexible with our departure time, it was no big deal.
Travel by train was great, but just buy your tickets in advance!
Did a trip from Montreal to Vancouver (96 hours) this summer and it ranks as one of the top 10 trips ever. Have also done a shorter (20 hours) from Halifax to Montreal and also loved it.
Biggest pro in my opinion is not having to deal with airport security.
This sounds like my dream vacation! What did you do for sleeping? I mean, take a compartment, or just use your seats? This sounds so spectacular. Was this, by the way, with any child/ren?
Ditto re your comment about airport security. Hate-hate-hate it.
The train is fun! If you have the dough, I'd do a sleeper car for an 18 hour trip though. I used to take the train home from school too, and I always met tons of really cool people. Way better than flying, way more room, sure it takes longer, but it's really romantic. My brother and I did two 18+ hour plane rides (waaay less comfy than a train) in coach class the summer we were 8 and 10. My mom had us bring a bunch of books and a game boy and she packed a bazillion snacks, and I don't really remember much of the plane rides at all, but that trip is one of the best memories of my life.
I hate airport security, too. I think we're leaning toward driving. It will take us about 10--11 hours in a car, and we can break up the trip by staying somewhere (halfway) overnight. Plus we'd have to rent a car when we got to our destination, anyway. Maybe we'll do the train another time.
I've done an 18 hour-ish trip with two small children on Amtrak and loved it. I'd definitely like to do it again now that my kids are a little older. We had a bedroom, which was fun, but can be pricey. I think my kids are nearly old enough that we could do it without a separate bedroom. Oh, and we do 5-8 hour trips this way a few times/year, which are great. We walk to the cafe car, they can switch seats sometimes, always something to see, no hassles or carseats as in cars... What do the kids think about it?
Book loving, editor mom to 2