Let’s be real for a sec, airports are in absolute shambles right now, so how can we get from point A to point B without flying? The U.S. has a decent rail system and sleeper trains may just be the answer.
Whether it’s domestic or international travel, flights are being delayed or simply unceremoniously canceled as a general rule, and passengers are being warned to expect the worst, including no help at all from understaffed airlines. Way to go when we’ve had two years of Covid and travel confidence had already hit an all-time low…
Even though most would agree Covid is yesterday’s news – there are of course exceptions – the days of widespread travel disruption, especially in the United States, have not yet been overcome. Maybe it is time, then, we look at alternatives to flying, which may not be as fast, but have become much more efficient and reliable means of travel than planes.
Instead of booking that flight from New York to the Sunshine State, only to have it canceled last minute and your entire vacation plans ruined, have you ever considered, perhaps, taking a sleeper train instead? Before you put a frown on, allow us to explain how they might just save your summer, and why you could be actually saving some time traveling:
Taking A Sleeper Train Might Might Get You Faster To Your Destination Than Flying
All of America’s most popular carriers, and most notably Allegiant Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest, have put travelers through misery lately as they fail to fulfill their flight programs – at times, providing no substantial compensation to affected passengers and leaving them to fend for themselves. In the current volatile scenario, you get to pick one out of two options:
Either playing Russian Roulette with flights and risking a night at the airport without comfort, possibly no complimentary meals, and zero assurance your flight will leave as promised… Or you could hop on an Amtrak train instead, where you’ll get your own room, travel stress-free and (probably) arrive earlier, even though it is, only technically, the longer route to take.
Believe it or not, sleeper trains might even get you faster to your destination than most airlines these days. As reports of delays quickly spread across the industry, air passengers are learning the hard way they must prepare for long wait times at the airport in case their flight does not depart as scheduled – or even on the same calendar date.
While those flying abroad from the U.S. have little room to maneuver, as there are only a handful of countries you can travel to without flying, there are several summer destinations within the country that are easily accessible by rail. By the way, have we mentioned already train journeys can be incredibly scenic?
Here are five of the most popular sleeper trains you can use for travel this summer:
5 Sleeping Train Routes You Could Take
NYC – Chicago
Are you planning a city break in either New York City or Chicago this summer? Maybe Amtrak’s Cardinal Train is the right pick for you: it offers service between these two cities, via Washington D.C., three times a week, and although the journey takes 28 hours, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will not want to miss.
This route has some of the most amazing scenery in the Eastern U.S., views of the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah Valley, the Ohio River and so much more. Even better: you will be swapping sitting on the airport floor during excruciatingly long hours for a private room and complimentary food.
- Despite the longer journey you will definitely arrive on time
- Private Viewliner roomettes or bedrooms
- Incredible views
- Free WiFi
- Flexible dining service
- Up to two 20 kg checked bags included
- Open cafe
- The journey takes longer than a day
- Only suitable for slow-paced travelers
- Additional bags can only be added at a cost of $20 each
- Oversize luggage is charged starting from $20
NYC – Miami
If you’re heading to the Sunshine State this season, Amtrak has two train lines operating on this route. First, there’s the historic Silver Meteor, introduced all the way back in 1939 and calling at several vacation destinations along the way, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, Savannah, Jacksonville and Orlando.
The duration of the trip is 28 hours, and there is surely no shortage of breathtaking sights. The second option, the Silver Star, follows a similar trajectory, with a few more stops in North Carolina and Tampa. Even before the aviation crisis, this Eastern Coast tour was already considered a bucket list item for many, so what better time to tick it off the list than now?
- The Silver Meteor/Silver Star train adventure is a landmark trip
- Guests have access to a dedicated Sleeping Car attendant
- New towels and linens available
- Turndown service
- Bedrooms feature a sofa and armchair by day, and upper and lower berths by night
- Meals included in the ticket price
- This trip lasts longer than a day
- Not ideal for travelers who feel uncomfortable in small spaces (room length is 7’1” – 7’6”, width 6’6” – 6’8”)
- Roomette and bedroom prices may increase in the high season
St. Louis – Nola
Summer in New Orleans may be excessively hot and humid, but that is not keeping domestic tourists from flocking into the city’s old historical quarter, where a blend of French, African and American cultures dominate the scene. Luckily, those traveling from St. Louis can completely avoid the flight chaos by taking a 16-hour train instead.
Because rooms start at $350 one-way, fares may be more expensive than an Economy Southwest ticket ($161), but we would still not place our trust in them when they ranked among the worst airlines for flight delays recently. After all, a cancellation does not involve only flights: there are additional costs incurred, such as emergency hotel bookings and extra meals.
- Cancellation risks are minimal
- Station lounge access
- Free meals onboard
- About as expensive as an airline Business Class seat
- Access to private shower facilities
- 46% more expensive than the cheapest flight tickets on this route
- There is a short 26 minute transfer in Carbondale, IL
- Bedroom availability may be limited during peak dates
Chicago to L.A. (Via Texas)
Going East to West this season? If you’re not on a super tight schedule, you can easily book one of Amtrak’s hotel on wheels that will get you from Chicago to Los Angeles, via Texas, in 65 hours. You may think we’re crazy for suggesting a 3-day journey, but have you actually checked out the perks of a Texas Eagle train vacay?
It is a double decker train with a lower level for showers, bathrooms and sleeping facilities, and an upper level for just one thing: sightseeing. You can either slowly make your way to L.A. as you gaze out the window, whooshing past Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso and the like, or you can arrange tickets to get off sooner at any of the line’s 9 stops.
- It serves not only Los Angeles, but basically the whole state of Texas
- Meals and coffee are included at sleeping accommodations
- Tickets are cheaper when traveling between Chicago and Dallas, Forth Worth Or San Antonio
- Not the most affordable option on this list, with roomette prices starting at $600 one-way
- Although 4G coverage is generally good throughout the trip, the train has no WiFi of its own
L.A. to Seattle
There are many perks to traveling by rail, but one of them is surely seeing natural wonders as opposed to a sea of clouds. Luckily, if you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the iconic Cascade Mountain Range, as you travel up the Pacific Coastline on your way from Los Angeles to Seattle, then you should maybe consider Amtrak’s picturesque Coast Starlight route.
It is the West Coast’s answer to the East’s Silver Meteor, boasting numerous beach views and city stops along the way. As Amtrak states, passengers can get off and back on the train again whenever it pleases them, but they will need to ‘book each leg of the trip separately‘. Fortunately, there are both one-way and multi-city options.
- Multi-city tickets can be purchased
- Rooms start at only $432, equal to or cheaper than most Business Class flight tickets
- Meals and coffee are available for free for Sleeper Car guests
- The direct route between L.A. and Seattle takes 35 hours
- Despite good 4G coverage for the most part, there is no WiFi
You can find all of Amtrak’s train routes in the map below (please open the image on a new tab for better visualization):
Trains Are Both The Past And Future Of Travel
As you may have noticed, sleeper trains are not meant for travelers who are in rush. If you’ve got somewhere to be ASAP, then flying may be considered, even though there are no guarantees at this point you’ll depart on time. In that case, we strongly suggest you purchase travel insurance covering cancellations, and make contingency plans.
However, if you’re not following a strict itinerary, especially when you’re a digital nomad or solo traveler wanting to take it nice and slow now that the travel world is in turmoil, long train rides may be worth the investment. On top of being more reliable than most airlines, trains are also much better for the environment.
The staffing issues affecting the aviation sector will not be solved for months to come, and now that some airlines’ percentage of flight disruption is rising above 30%, resulting in thousands of passengers stranded and/or separated from their luggage, we can safely state train travel is about to see a much-needed resurgence.
Plus, who wouldn’t prefer waiting long hours from the comfort of their own berth, free snacks in hand, watching beautiful landscapes from the window and, on top of that, having a precise arrival time? Otherwise, passengers will probably find themselves calling customer service incessantly from a tumultuous airport, desperately trying to rebook a flight that may not be available for days.
We’re not sure about you, but we’ll go with the former any day.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories