10 Tips For Riding Amtrak That Will Make Traveling Easier

by Roni

Have you ever ridden Amtrak? I did and LOVED it! I purchased a business class ticket (which I recommend) for my trip from San Diego to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles (the ticket is easy to read, not like a train ticket in France). While of course I can’t speak for every single train in their fleet I thoroughly enjoyed this trip and here are 10 tips for riding Amtrak I hope you’ll find helpful!

tips riding amtrak

 10 Tips For Riding Amtrak 

While this posts focuses on the route from San Diego to Union station, the tips in it can be helpful no matter what your route is.

1. If you’re getting the train from San Diego it’s very easy to get a good seat.

San Diego is the start of the line so you get the first choice if you don’t buy a reserved seat. However, just because you’re sitting there doesn’t mean someone won’t come along on a later stop and make you move if they have purchased the seat you are occupying.

TIP: The side opposite the San Diego station gets ocean views along the route.

2. In business class, you are given complimentary snacks, wine and water.

You only get one small bottle of wine and you will need to go downstairs to the dining car if you’d like another bottle.  


The snack pack I was given in business class

3. There are bathrooms on board but be careful as train rocks a bit which may throw you off your balance. 

The bathrooms are spacious, but the rocking of the train can be a bit daunting if you aren’t prepared for it. 

4. If getting on at later stations, buy a ticket online to guarantee you get the seat you want.

This is important because the train gets filled and if you don’t have an assigned seat you will have to hunt for a place to sit. When you buy an assigned seat, you can have peace of mind and not have to worry about anything. 

5. The train can be cold.

The train has wonderful air conditioning and can get chilly so bring a travel blanket and/or scarf. 

6. In business class there is LOTS of legroom. 

One of the perks of being in business class is that you have tons of legroom. The train is so much better than a plane in this regard because you can actually be comfortable while you’re traveling. 

tips for riding amtrak

7. Each window has curtains which means you can always have a lovely view. 

The train from San Diego to Los Angeles has amazing views. If you want to look out of the window and take in the breathtaking scenery, you can. However, if you just wanna grab some shut-eye, you can close the curtains and relax. I like taking an eye mask with me when I travel.


8. There is one outlet at every seat. 

Being able to stay charged up for the duration of your train ride is a definite plus. If you need to charge several electronics at a time, you should travel with one of these chargers that make your life easier. 

9. You can buy food on the train if snacks are not enough.

10. You don’t have much time at stops so don’t get off and think you have enough time to hop back on.

You may think you do, but you absolutely do not. Please don’t try and get off of the train, because if you get off and the train leaves, what will you do?

Is train travel your thing? If it’s not and you prefer a different type of vacation, why not check out this dope post on Hawaii? Tomiko from Passports and Grub gives you all you need to know about heading to the Big Island.


What tips would you add to this list?

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Leave a Comment


Laura Funk August 15, 2018 - 3:26 am

Traveling by Amtrak has changed since I did the Denver to Oregon train 25 years ago! Great tips for sure!

Mike August 18, 2018 - 5:25 am

Just to clarify one point, the Surfliner doesn’t have assigned seating. Business class passengers get guaranteed seating, which just means there will be a seat for you, but it’s not assigned. Coach seating is first-come-first-served, and can be standing room only (this is pretty specific to this route, most Amtrak trains do guarantee you a seat with any ticket). They’ve added a second business class car recently (which lots of people don’t realize is there, so is generally not crowded), so it’s usually not too hard to get a good seat in business class. I’d highly recommend business class if you’re traveling at a peak time, especially as the trains seem to be getting more crowded from my limited experience.

I had to drive to L.A. last weekend because I was going to need my car, and I really, really missed the train.

JULIE WALDRON September 22, 2018 - 3:27 pm

I traveled from LA’s Union Station to San Clemente.
It was so crowded…some standing room only.
I was sorely disappointed.

You see, I was expecting an observation car
with eating booths to hang out in
and an assigned seat for every passenger.
I expected this
!across the U.S.

I loved the experience so much
I doubt I will ever fly cross country again!

BUT… the surf liner was a completely different experience.

Tandra - Thriller Mom August 7, 2019 - 2:54 am

I’ve definitely been considering a family vacation via Amtrak. My daughters will love it! These tips will be put to use when the time comes. Thank you!