In this edition of Out of the Shop, we list (eight) simple reasons why you should pick traveling by train in 2017. In addition, we talk about the Roomette, a private sleeping accommodation for two, as our newfound preferred form of short term travel while you’re “all aboard.” We hope you find these reasons for traveling in 2017 by train as compelling as we did.
1. Stop making a pre-commute commute a thing: stay within city limits for your port of exit and entry.
While almost any sort of commute to or from a train, plane, or bus terminal is inevitable, we recommend considering reducing the amount of time your spend commuting to your commute. Train stations, ubiquitously embedded within the heart cities, offer such a departure and arrival point for you. Taking a short Uber, using public transportation, or even walking to the station after work can save you time and money, money you can use for private accommodations while aboard. (See point #3, but don’t forget to read point #2 first.)
2. Waiting rooms in any terminal can be crowded. Arrive 5 minutes before your train leaves.
This seems like a strange point, but it’s true: you really can show up just minutes before a train’s departure time. Whether you’re at a train, airplane, or bus terminal, passenger waiting rooms can be crowded. The genius of booking train travel is that you can show up to the station within minutes of your train’s departure time, skipping any uncomfortable wait. Since there tend to be many more seats aboard a train, worrying about being the first in line for a seat is a non-issue. #winning
Cafe Dining Car
3. Book a Roomette and hit the dining car at the start of your adventure.
Amtrak offers a smart way to travel: the Roomette. At the start of your journey, while others search for their seats, you are dropping your bags at your private room and hitting the dining car before all the café tables are taken. Spacious tables with large windows await, and the panorama views can be some of the best you’ll take in during your whole trip. Snap photos, grab snacks, and chat up the conductor before you dig in for the rest of your ride. If you’re traveling by two, Roomettes cost just a little extra. We think the expense is worth it. Read on.
4. Reflect: Take in the sights and pack along reading material.
We like the Roomette for its generosity in providing private contemplation. Cars and buses tend to direct us along crowded and congested interstates. Airplanes, with their own allure, wing you far up above the sights and sounds of the natural and civilized. Trains, however, take you through town and countryside, which is one of our favorites reasons to board Amtrak. We traveled both through woods and the centers of small, quaint towns, through new construction and forgotten dilapidation. Through it all. Seeing America in both its rural and urban states is one of train travel’s thrills.
5. Have a conversation, face to face
With private space for two, a Roomette aboard one of Amtrak’s sleeping car accommodation trains can offer the comfort of conversation face to face. It also offers the comfort of not listening to others’ conversations, music, movies, video games, or vocal preparations for The Voice. Of course, side by side conversation with your travel buddy is perfectly acceptable, but we like the natural proclivity to converse provided by sitting opposite a friend.
6. Pack along drinking material; use receptacles provided.
A Roomette offers the privacy and convenience to kick back with a drink in hand. While Amtrak offers alcoholic concessions through its dining cars (and no, there is no room service -- ahem, Amtrak), we recommend packing along your own tipples for the journey. We chose a barrel-aged Slivovitz for ours. (If you haven’t caught up on our recommendations on new spirits, do so here: Our Picks for the Holidays: Spirits, Sparkling & Cocktail of the Year.) And with all the drinking material you’ve packed along, you’ll be glad to know that your Roommette comes with its own private, built-in bathroom.
7. Take note and take rest.
We find that travel aboard Amtrak in a private space serves as a prime opportunity to get things done: getting ideas out and getting a nap in. The steady movement of the train yields a really great, soothing working environment in which ideas can take shape. We also like that Amtrak’s Roomettes transform into sleeping accommodations for one or two: a bed pulls down from the ceiling that can be easily stowed back up, and the face to face seats can be left in place for someone to read or transformed into their own bed for the second member of your party to recline.
Union Station: Washingtion D.C.
8. Not for the faint of heart: Get on or get off.
Pulling into Wilmington, Delaware, we realized we were at the station for about fifteen seconds. “Wilmington! Last call!” was all it took for the train to seemingly immediately start chugging forward once again. I think this is why we like to travel by train so much: it reflects that very independence which marks our nation. A passenger can get up and out of their seats for a walk or to visit the dining car (heck, you can even change seats if you want). At Union Station in D.C., we actually got off the train for fifteen minutes to walk and stretch. I could even see getting off at a station you hadn’t planned to get off at simply for the adventure of doing something you hadn‘t planned. How about that for an adventure? Generally, it’s the notion that you should know where you are and that you’re responsible for your own experience. All in all, I think we like travel by train because it offers the reality of travel with dignity as opposed to travel like chattel.
Safe, and interesting, travels in 2017.
Brad Pace is part sommelier, part writer, and part epicurean guide. He has a passion for good food, good beverages, and good time spent with people. Most importantly to us, he is a strong friend to the Machine Era team.