All Ages

The Thrill of Riding Amtrak

See recent posts by Wendy Irvine

Remember when the travel leg of your trip was the best part? When you’d visit the cockpit, talk with the pilot and receive gold wings? And real meals? Hard to believe, but those days aren’t gone completely.

An Amtrak train arrives at the station.

Take a page — like my family did — from kid-literature and board a train. We know kids are drawn to trains; we’re just not sure why. Maybe it’s the powerful engine. Or maybe it’s that real trains seem like toys come to life to kids. Whatever the reason: kids are devoted.

With this bit of wisdom in mind — and wanting to get sanely from Virginia to LEGOLAND FLORIDA — my husband and I shelled out for two Amtrak roomettes (meals included), each with two seats-slash-bunks, a small sink, and a well-covered toilet. I’d sleep with one son in the first roomette; my husband would sleep with the other in the second. At first we were hesitant, but up for the adventure. Turns out it was the best money we’ve ever spent.

With a train there’s not a pat-down, scanner or airplane virus in sight. Nor is there a long drive with psychotic kids in the back seat. But do keep in mind, trains offer a whole new level of annoyance for parents. Example: our boys were so overjoyed to be doing a train sleepover that they touched everything over and over in our roomette: switched on lights, flipped the little sink down and couldn’t wait to use the potty. They barely mellowed in time to be allowed into the hushed, fancy dining car. The spasms of ecstasy resumed when the train attendant converted the roomette’s two seats into a bunk bed.

Little boy stares out a train window at passing scenery.

The next morning, after a great French toast breakfast in the dining car, I realized I would not get to read in peace. My boys were still high on train excitement. Everything they spotted in and out of the train was reason for exclamation. Other trains speeding by. Cute little farms. Wide rivers. Did Barney still live in Raleigh? It was all chatter-fodder.

Would I call the train ride the best part of our trip to LEGOLAND? Put it this way: I’ll take train “annoyance” any day over backseat or airline torment. It was thrilling, wondrous and totally memorable hanging out with my family for those two nights down and back. And the train ride was pretty cool too.

More From Family Vacation Critic:
10 Best Train Trips for Families
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Route for Families
10 Great European Train Trips for Families

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