Solo train travel is not something most people gravitate toward for travel planning. Train rides are longer than plane rides and can have multiple connections. Yet, traveling by train is one of my favorite forms of travel.
But why trains? Well, they are more relaxing than planes and buses. If you want solitude, you will have a higher chance of sitting alone. Also, routes are more remote and unique since you can only enjoy train rides. And with scenic train rides, you can sleep in a roomette.
So if you are considering solo train travel on Amtrak, here are more tips and details to make sure you are ready!
What you need to know about solo train travel
Is it safe to travel solo on a train?
In short, yes! I have ridden trains worldwide solo from Milwaukee to Chicago, Orlando to Charleston, Chicago to California, and even around Portugal and Spain. Overall, I think solo train travel is a safer form of travel. Although I stay alert to my surroundings as a Black woman traveler, I feel like I do not have to be “on” as much on trains.
But just because it is safer, doesn’t mean you don’t use common sense. Solo train travel is still isolated as you only can walk around the train. I recommend upgrading from the coach class to the next tier for maximum comfort and privacy. Upgrading could mean you have more freedom as a solo train traveler. You could leave your belongings in your room unattended and not have to worry if they are stolen.
Is it boring to travel on a train?
Yes, solo train travel can get boring if you are not prepared. For most of my childhood, traveling on road trips prepared me to sit for long distances. If you are new to long train rides, I recommend bringing things to do. Card games, a book, a journal, and downloading movies, podcasts, or music are ideal. Any activities that you enjoy and are portable will help you prevent boredom.
Solo train travel tips you need to know
Be prepared to mingle
Solo train travel means people will have questions! Why are you alone?” “What’s your story?” Everyone is curious about the mysterious traveler. It can be exhausting, but also make for insightful conversations.
If you are not an extroverted person, have talking points. Chances are most of your conversations will be one-off interactions. Prepare a few key things to discuss with people such as hobbies, why you love to travel, your opinion of the food on the train, etc. Think of these points as your “small talk toolbox” for solo traveling.
Split your time in the roomette and observation car
It is easy to get caught up in roomette life. But remember to go and sit in the observation car for another train view! Most roomette travelers sit on the opposite side of the train than their roomette. This way you can observe both sides of the scenery.
Splurge on the roomette
After years of riding the train solo in coach, I splurged on the roomette on the California Zephyr. I appreciated not worrying about food and having a bed to sleep more comfortably. As a solo train traveler, I also loved the alone time. Using your small talk toolbox with strangers can get tiring. The roomette was a much-needed place to retreat.
Bring things to do
Solo traveling via overnight train for a long time does go quickly. But it can be easy to get bored as you are traveling by yourself. So for anyone, especially solo train travelers, bring activities to keep you busy. Some ideas are books, your journal, games, and downloading movies or tv shows on your computer.
Get to know the Amtrak staff
People are more likely to speak to you when traveling solo via train. In my experience as a solo train traveler, the Amtrak staff is friendly (overall) if you want to have some basic interaction while on the train, talk to them! They are full of stories and tips – just make sure they aren’t actively working when you decide to bug them.
Plan for delays
Amtrak train travel tips are not complete without noting the delays. Since Amtrak shares the tracks, train delays are bound to happen. Do not plan anything immediately after your train is scheduled to arrive. Leave that time open just in case you come later than expected.
Pack earbuds, plugs, motion sickness medication, and a sleeping mask
Train travel essentials are not complete without these four items! Earbuds or headphones are necessary to listen to music, podcasts, lo-fi music to sleep, etc. Earplugs are ideal for light sleepers and a sleeping mask to shut out all light. And of course, you cannot forget motion sickness medication such as Dramamine, Sea Nausea Relief bands, or ginger chews.
Use the time to unplug from social media
Solo train travel on Amtrak often means no wifi. While you can use cellular data, I encourage you to unplug. Leave your phone in the roomette and hang out in the observation car to relax and enjoy the views. Social media can wait!
Get up and use your breaks and stops
While on the California Zephyr, I made the mistake of not utilizing my breaks. If you are traveling solo via train for two days or more, I recommend using those fresh air stops. Your body needs to stretch and get some sunlight. Also, it is fantastic to see different stops along the routes.
Don’t let the long hours dissuade you
Since the U.S is a large country, the most scenic Amtrak train rides can be 35 to 52 hours long. However, do not let the travel time stop you from taking the trip. With your activities and taking the time to relax it flies by quickly.
What you need to know when traveling solo via train booking with Amtrak
Roomette price is technically for two people
Roomettes can be shared! My sister and I rode the Amtrak Coast Starlight together from LA to Seattle and booked a roomette. Though I can admit, it isn’t the most comfortable setup when traveling with another person. It felt a bit snug for us! But it is not impossible.
Be sure to register for the Amtrak rewards
I’m a big supporter of occurring points to get travel rewards. Amtrak has its rewards program like Delta, American Airlines, and other aircraft carriers. It is in your best interest to register before you go. A scenic train ride can amass hundreds of points.
You can’t choose your room
With a few scenic train rides under my belt, I never picked my room. I am unsure how Amtrak decides which car you stay in during the trip. It may be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Yet, I do not think this is a big deal for solo train travelers or anyone else unless you have access needs. A simple fix to observe sights on the opposite side of the train is to sit in the observation car.
Amtrak solo train travel isn’t as bad as you think
For me, solo train travel has completely reignited my love for traveling. There is something relaxing about being on a train and going along for the ride. Amtrak’s roomette option is costly, but it is my go-to from now on when I can afford it.
I also like that you do not have to plan much on a solo scenic train ride. I could sightsee from my roomette bed if I wanted to. The only thing I needed to coordinate was my transportation, including my room and board on the train.
Thus, if you have the opportunity to ride the train solo, I say go for it! Yes, the delays and small talk with strangers can be annoying. However, I think it is a unique travel experience you can only get on a train ride. So make your ride an overnight one if you dare!
Are you interested in catching the train to New Orleans? Then, check out my solo travel guide to New Orleans.