1. Don’t bring luggage. This is especially true if you’re boarding the train from some Podunk train station that hasn’t been renovated since they put the plumbing in circa 1930, and is manned by one grumpy old lady. From this train station you will not be able to check your luggage and therefore will be forced to carry it all onto the train after trudging several hundred feet along the tracks while simultaneously trying to hold your 1 year old and keep your 4 year old from falling onto the tracks as he lugs his own little “That’s it I’m Going to Grandma’s” suitcase.
2. Dress in layers. You should be able at any point in time to modify your clothing levels from bikini to parka. Temperatures on the train will fluctuate often and without warning.
3. Bring barf bags. It can get quite bumpy and if you’re even the slightest bit prone to motion sickness you will vomit at some point in time. There are bathrooms on board, however there is not enough space between the door and the toilet to comfortably bend over and vomit so you’ll have to leave your ass hanging out the door to properly aim into the bowl.
4. Practice high level yoga before your trip. As described in tip #3 the bathrooms are quite compact (they make a porta-potty seem spacious) so if you’d like the ability to wipe your ass effectively then you’d better limber up before hand.
5. Do not expect to be treated with respect or cordiality. I found that 4 out of 5 Amtrack employees would rather spit in your face than to put forth the effort to be the least bit courteous. The remaining 1 employee who was courteous and friendly was obviously new and had not yet read the employee handbook “Customer dissatisfaction: How to create a degrading and hostile experience for all your passengers.”
Disclaimer: I tend to be a slightly negative person (shocking, I know) so I don’t want this entry to deter anyone from using Amtrack. I found that once the boarding process was over the ride was in general pleasant, and I’m sure the attitudes of the employees can be explained by years of dealing with cranky passengers who constantly complain when the trains are not on time. I might ride the rails again in the future . . . for a short trip perhaps without the kids and/or if I’m heavily sedated.