We just got back from an amazing adventure! Well, some parts were amazing and some parts were sucky. Overall, though, we had a great time and I can’t wait to tell you all about our Ratzlaff Train Trip 2016.
We decided that this year we were going to go on a train adventure. I had read a blog post called Across the US by Train for $213, and I was totally intrigued! I shared the idea with my family and received mixed reactions. Kinda cool. Kinda not. Last year we went on a 15 day road trip and LOVED it, so why couldn’t we just drive? Because it’s a TRAIN! I’ve never been on a train in the US!! We have to go on the TRAIN!
THEN, “all the people” told me that I HAD to get a sleeper car. I COULDN’T travel coach. I HAD to have a sleeper. Total bummer, because I had been looking into the cost of Amtrak tickets and it was going to cost our family at least $2500 more for sleepers.
Just to prove my point, a second ago I priced out the same trip for sometime in September (leaving Monday, coming home the following Tuesday, just like this trip) and for the four of us to stay in a family sleeper, it would cost us $3463. The same trip in Coach on the same dates costs $1275. That is a HUGE price difference, and not one that I’m willing to pay.
I was sad. I thought we just COULDN’T do it. Then, my wonderful husband said to just book it. We could be tough and sleep in coach. My 6’4″ husband would not complain!
What DID I pay? $1002 plus I bought travel insurance for another $68. SO, my family of 4 traveled round trip on Amtrak for $1070. That’s $267.50 each for 5 days of train travel on Amtrak.
Wait, FIVE DAYS?
Um, yeah. Well, actually, 5 nights. Here’s the itinerary:
Day 1 (2:50pm) – leave Portland on the Coast Starlight which travels south to California. It was pretty stinkin’ awesome! The adventure was new, so we were so excited. We found the Observation Car right away and watched the Oregon countryside go by. We went up through the mountains close to Crater Lake (didn’t see it) and fell asleep soon after Klamath Falls. The scenery was gorgeous, because Oregon is gorgeous! (I’m biased.)
Day 2 (6:15am) – Arrive in Sacramento – We were supposed to board the next train at 11:00am, but the train was delayed, so we actually left around 4:00pm. UGH. No air conditioning in the Sacramento train station! No food! It was insane. Thank God for the corner Starbucks. The boys napped on the hard wood benches and we killed time playing games. We boarded the California Zephyr around 4:00pm and our spirits were lifted! We were on our way! Once again, we explored the train and hung out in the Observation Car. We took lots of pictures of the scenery around Lake Tahoe and listened to books on our apps and played cards and watched movies. After our long day of hanging out in a hot train station, we were very ready to go to sleep! The train had several open rows, so Mitch and I snuck back to our own rows so we could stretch out. Bliss. (Well, bliss on a train.) On this day, we started in California, hit Nevada and woke up in Utah.
Day 3 – The next day we kept going and going, and we were running out of food! I had packed bagels and cream cheese, apples, cheese and crackers, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, Cup O’ Noodle soup, chips and instant oatmeal. We were trying to avoid the overpriced Dining Car, but we also wanted to have some fun (trying not to be so cheap!), so we “budgeted” a dinner in the Lounge Car (total junk food and quick service stuff) and one meal in the Dining Car.
Day 4 – Our train kept going and going. Very slowly. We rode through Nebraska, and hit some new states (Iowa, which was gorgeous, and Illinois) on our boys’ 50 State list, which was cool.
Our train was supposed to arrive at 2:50pm. The idea was that we would arrive in Chicago, take showers (our first since Monday), take much needed naps, then go find a nice restaurant to celebrate my 40th birthday. When it became evident that my plan would not pan out, I decided to come up with a backup. We would splurge on another dinner in the Dining Car and I would smile and have a good attitude about it.
Instead, the train ran out of food. I’m not kidding!! They announced “the plan” on loud speaker: the attendants would go through the train and call us up to the Dining Car a few people at a time. They served us 1/2 cup of rice and about 1/4 cup of stew over the top. We had a choice between coffee, milk or water. This was my birthday dinner.
Our train arrived around 11:30pm. We were SO ready to be off the train!
The good thing is, we were now in CHICAGO!!
Want to hear more about our trip? Chicago is next, and it was so much fun. AMAZING. Can’t wait to share!