Amtrak Train Travel

Amtrak Train Travel for First-Timers

I first rode with Amtrak in December of 2015 for my Christmas in New York City solo trip, and these tips on Amtrak Train Travel definitely came in handy for a first-timer like me.

Since then I’ve ridden the train for many trips and although I love to fly, I like the convenience of stepping on the train, heading straight to my seat, and skipping the security debacle that airports ensue. 

Amtrak Train Travel for First-Timers!!

“All Aboard!!”

Upon boarding the train I was given a slip of paper with my designated seat row and number on it…I notice they do this when the train is already filling up.

When I boarded the train at Penn Station for the trip home it had first-come, first-serve seats, and I was very pleased to find a window seat to enjoy the view on the ride home.
Once you find your seat there is an overhead rack for any extra bags you may have brought.

I’m a minimalist packer so at most I have carry-on luggage or a backpack, which I put above in the overhead compartment.

I keep my day bag at my feet that has all of the items on my train travel checklist.


Amtrak Train Travel

Much roomier than an airplane seat… plus you have a handy little footrest and you can recline your seat back quite and bit by pressing the round silver button on the armrest.

Amtrak Train Travel

Most Amtrak trains have WiFi. I know for a fact the Crescent Train, which goes from New Orleans to New York City, does. Each Coach seat has a plug-in to charge your electronics if needed, which I did.

Dining & Drinks:

Amtrak Train Travel

All Amtrak Trains offer some sort of food and drink option.

The short-distance trains have a Cafe Car offering carry-out food like sandwiches, snacks, and beverages.

For medium-distance trains, the Cafe Car is available as well as a Lounge car that serves up basically the same items as the Cafe Car but offers more seating. The long-distance trains offer a full-service Dining Car with hot meals 3 times daily. Reservations are suggested in advance for the Dining Car. 

Liquor, beer, and wine are also available on all dining cars.


Amtrak Train Travel

This is something I truly enjoy about riding the train…

watching out the window as the train rolls through the beautiful scenery of backwoods America and into major cities and stations. 

Amtrak Train Travel


“wanderlust consumed her; foreign hearts and exotic minds compelled her… she had a gypsy soul and a vibrant hope for the unknown.”

Amtrak Train Travel

I typically use this time to write or catch up on my reading, but I always make a point to gaze out and take in the sights and appreciate the world around me.

Amtrak Train Travel
New York City Skyline from the Amtrak Crescent ©

The Restrooms:

The restrooms on the Amtrak are located at the front or back of each passenger car.

They are tiny…no doubt about that.

I am standing completely against the wall to take this picture. 

Amtrak Train Travel

As you can see it’s a pretty standard restroom.

I have seen one that had a full sink and countertop space on the train from Clemson, SC to New York City so they do vary as far as the inside, but they are all basically this size right here.

I would suggest holding onto that handrail…

the train ride can get a little bumpy…just sayin’.

Additional Tips:

  • The Amtrak App is extremely useful in looking up delays, dining menus, or answering any other questions you may have while in transit. 
  • Each person may bring (2) personal items: 14 x 11 x 7 inches and 25 lbs. max each, and 2 carry-on items: 28 x 22 x 14 inches 50 lbs. max each.
  • You can check (2) Bags Free. Additional Checked Bags are $20 each.
  • Some Amtrak Trains allow special items such as bicycles, sporting equipment, strollers, car seats, etc… 

Enjoy Your Journey!!!

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Amtrak Train Travel


  • Linda Tann

    My siblings and I are thinking of taking Amtrak from Chicago to San Francisco. How do we plan the trip so we don’t miss any of the gorgeous scenery out West? Thanks for any suggestions or recommendations.

  • Connie

    I’m so glad I found you. My 3 daughters and I are taking the Amtrak Auto train to Florida on Saturday!! This train you take your car with you!! Great info!! And great comment about the motion sickness (my daughter has it) Thanks for the great info!!

  • Stacey

    Pack something for motion sickness if you’ve never done a long train ride before. I’m fine on long car trips, but the constant swaying of the train really got to me. And you don’t get rest stops on the train like you do the car. I was much more prepared (and less sick) on the ride back home!


      Great tips Stacey!! I definitely take Dramamine about 30 minutes before I travel…mostly as a precaution. I also like to walk to the dining/observation cars during the train ride because, like you said, there really aren’t any “rest stops” during the ride. Glad you had a great trip home!! 🙂