Any time I mentioned our plans of riding the Amtrak from Colorado to California I’d get the response “I’ve always wanted to do that”. But, I never found anyone who had actually done it. We booked our trip not really knowing what to expect.
Colorado to California In An Amtrak Superliner Family Bedroom
If riding the Amtrak California Zephyr is on your bucket list, or if you are researching a future trip, read on. Included in this post is everything I would have liked to know before embarking on our thirty-hour Amtrak adventure.
*Because we booked the family bedroom for our Amtrak trip, the following information relates only to sleeper car accommodations and not economy seating.
Booking Your Amtrak Trip
If you are wondering which Amtrak sleeping car accommodations to book, read this post- Amtrak Superliner Roomette vs Family Bedroom to learn all about the different options.
If you are flexible with your travel dates, check out the website amsnag. Amsnag is a convenient way to search for the best deal based on travel dates. Fares can vary wildly and amsnag helps find the cheapest dates to travel.
Sign up on Amtrak’s website to receive notification emails about Amtrak fare sales. Some of the deals can save you a significant amount of money so it’s well worth signing up.
If you are planning on booking a Family Bedroom, you will need to book well in advance. There are only two family bedrooms per Superliner train and they sell out fast.
Packing For Your Overnight Train Ride – What You Should Bring
*Make sure to check Amtrak’s luggage restrictions before packing for your overnight train ride. You don’t want to pack too much and have to pay an extra bag fee.
Pack an overnight bag with a change of clothes and your toiletries. The rooms are tiny so a small overnight bag is the way to go. You will have access to your luggage during the trip. The luggage for the sleeper cars is stored in the hallway next to the bathrooms. But, it is easier to have an overnight bag and not have to dig through your luggage in the crowded hallway.
Pack a mini-cooler with snacks and drinks for your room. Although meals are included with sleeper car accommodations, it’s nice to have your own snacks and drinks. You are allowed to bring your own alcohol as long as you don’t take it out of your room.
Bring a refillable water bottle. Amtrak provides unlimited bottled water but the bottles are small. There are recycling bins on the train but using your own refillable water bottle is still a better option. The servers in the dining car will fill your bottle up for you.
Bring your own spill-proof coffee mug. There is coffee available at a service station in the hallway all day. Amtrak does provide small cups for coffee but it’s nice to not have to go back for a refill or worry about spilling coffee.
You will want to make sure to have small bills to tip the servers in the dining car. Although meals are included with all of the sleeper cars, tips are not included.
There is no wifi on the California Zephyr Superliner train! Make sure you download movies, podcasts, books, music, and whatever else you need to be entertained without wifi. There is an outlet in each sleeper car so you will be able to re-charge your electronics.
If you are traveling with kids don’t forget to pack some small toys to play with. Thirty hours on a train is a LONG time for kids.
Good To Know Before Boarding The Train
The California Zephyr frequently runs late. Really late. Hours late. That’s the bad news. Now for the good news. If you are boarding in Colorado, the train has been en route from Chicago for more than 24 hours.
Amtrak knows approximately how late the train will be and posts this information on their website long before your scheduled departure time. It’s not like the airlines who notify you of delayed flights after you have already arrived at the airport. Also, if you sign up to get text messages when you buy your ticket, Amtrak will text you updates on your estimated departure time.
If you plan on leaving your car at the train station make sure you look into parking options before the day of your trip. When it comes to parking, every train station is different. We were lucky that one of the ten first-come-first-served parking spots were open at the small Granby station.
Boarding the Amtrak train is much simpler than boarding a flight. The train pulls into the station, the conductor gets out and yells your name, scans your tickets, and on you go.
Enjoying Your Ride
Riding the Amtrak superliner from Colorado to California is all about watching the beautiful scenery go by. The view car is where you want to be. The windows are gigantic and the seats are comfortable.
Research the route before you board so you can plan to be in the view car for your most anticipated scenery.
Everyone on the train has access to the view car. If you are reading a book or taking a nap, go back to your sleeper car and give someone else a chance to check out the beautiful view.
Under the view car is the snack car. Here you can buy basic snacks, candy, and drinks. If the tables in the view car are full you can head down to the snack car. It’s usually peaceful and quiet in the snack car but the windows aren’t as big and the view isn’t as good from the first floor of the train.
Depending on which sleeper car you are in, you might have to go through several cars to get to the dining and view cars. You can only walk through to the next car on the second floor of the train.
If you didn’t book one of the superliner bedrooms that has a bathroom in the room, there are three bathrooms on the first floor of each sleeper car. There is also a shower/changing room with fresh towels, washcloths, and soap.
*There is no lock on your door so make sure you keep all valuables on you when you leave your room.
When the train stops at one of the larger stations you have the opportunity to get off the train and walk around. It’s nice to get some fresh air and exercise. The conductor blows the train whistle and hollers “all aboard” when it’s time to get back on.
Meals in the Dining Car
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included in the price of a sleeper car. Even if you book the budget-friendly superliner roomette. That’s a good deal considering the train restaurant menu is really expensive. Breakfast options range from $9-$14, lunch from $12-$15 ,and dinner from $16 up to $39. If you are in coach and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the restaurant, you could end up spending as much as you would have if you booked a sleeper car.
Another perk of booking a sleeper car is you get first priority seating for mealtimes. The train car attendant will come to your room and sign you up for the mealtime you choose.
The food is actually good considering they are all pre-made meals heated up in the train kitchen. One dinner option is steak and crab cakes! The menu offers a good variety with vegetarian options available.
The dining car is packed for every meal and if you are traveling alone or with one other travel companion there is a good chance you will be seated with other passengers.
Sleeping On The Train
When you are ready to go to sleep you push the call button in your room and the room attendant will come to fold down your bed and make sure you have pillows and blankets.
The fold-down bed is extremely narrow. There are straps hooked to the ceiling so you don’t fall onto the floor if you roll over.
The pillows, blankets, and sheets are all good quality and comfortable.
The motion of the train will rock you right to sleep.
Our experience riding the Amtrak Superliner exceeded our expectations, but there were a few minor annoyances.
There was a strong sewer smell that would randomly waft into our room. I mean strong, it would stop us mid-conversation. It got worse as the journey went on.
You can’t turn off the in-room announcement. The announcements cease during quiet time from ten to seven but if you have kids there is a good chance they are trying to sleep before ten and the announcement is really loud.
Minor annoyances aside, riding the Amtrak Superliner from Colorado to California was an amazing experience. It was so relaxing to sit and watch the beautiful scenery go by.
Keep in mind – riding the Amtrak is all about the journey and not the destination.
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