Road Trips

How to Travel Coast to Coast USA by Train for $232?

Pacific-Surfliner-train
Written by Town & Tourist

Traveling on a Coast Coast train for just $232 –  The US Rail network, Amtrak travels to 46 of the 48 contiguous United States along with Canada! This means you can go almost anywhere. Trains depart from over 500 railway stations to give you a real slice of Americana.

A coast to coast train vacation across the USA is also very fast and one of the most cost effective ways of traveling.  In fact you can actually travel coast to coast across the USA for just $232

Amtrak Rail Network map USA:

The Map below details the Amtrak Rail Network across the USA. The different colors indicate the different rail routes, carriages and frequency. For the detailed Amtrak map you can download click HERE.

USA-train-map-amtrak

USA-train-map-amtrak

If you’ve previously read our: Ultimate Motorcycle Road Trip: U.S Coast to Coast!

You will be aware that it is a very long 3,000 mile Journey, which is one of the most memorable experiences you will ever do in your life! Traveling cross country by train is easy, cost effective, safe and comfortable alternative to flying.

Insider Tip:

On each train ask a member of the staff for one of the FREE ROUTE GUIDES which tell you what to look out for in the Window as the train “chugs” along. The scenery is some of the most captivating in the world.

New England in the fall train

New England in the fall train. Source: the great americabyrail.com

Coast to Coast Train Facts:

  • The 3,000 mile coast-to-coast train ride takes 3 nights, if you have no stopovers.

  • There are 4 or 5 different train routes to choose from each with their own character. I highly recommend stopping along the way to not miss out on all the great Americana passing by. But keep in mind a separate ticket is required for each leg.

  • If you book well in advance at www.amtrak.com, fares from New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle start at just $232! 
  • The $232 train includes a spacious reclining seat.

  • Optional Extras:  Private Sleeper Carriage for 1/2 people. Includes meals in the dining car, teas, coffees and juices.

Best Coast to Coast Train Routes:

1. New York to Los Angeles Train Journey:

  • Leg 1: New York to Chicago (One Night)
  • Leg 2: Chicago to Los Angeles (2 nights)
  • Alternative Starting Points (East): You can start from Boston or Washington DC
  • Alternative Destinations (West): You can head from Chicago to San Francisco or Seattle.
  • Train Type: On this route you will ride on a fantastic double deck Superliner Train.
Buffalo New York train journey

Buffalo New York train journey

2. Route 66 Train: Chicago to Los Angeles

On a coast to coast train vacation you will find some of the most breath taking scenery.!  For example, Amtraks Southwest Chief  rain journey from Chicago to Los Angeles will take you over the famous Santa Fe Railroad and alongside the iconic route 66, through Navajo Indian Country. You can even stop off at the Grand Canyon on the way.

Southwest Chief route 66 train

Southwest Chief route 66 train. Source: Latimes.com

3. California Zephyr (Chicago to San Francisco)

The California Zephyr is one of the greatest train journeys in the world! In terms of both Scenery, character and historical significance.  The Route runs from Chicago to San Francisco, where you can take a connection with the Lake Shore Limited from New York or Boston to Chicago, or the Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Chicago.

On this journey you will cross the farmlands of Nebraska, the Colorado Rockies, through the Sierra Nevada mountains before arriving at San Francisco. For a 360′ view of what its like in the sightseer lounge of the California Zephyr see this link HERE. (Be sure you allow pop ups)

Insider Tip:

Listen out for the Commentary of the most significant section of the California Zephyr route and try some classic american eggs and Bacon for breakfast in the diner carriage.

California Zephyr train

California Zephyr train

4. New Orleans to Los Angeles

  • Leg 1: New Orleans to Los Angeles (2 nights)
  • Alternative Destinations (West): You can also head to San Francisco or Seattle.
  • Train Type: On this route you will ride on a fantastic double deck Superliner Train
  • Train Frequency: New Orleans to LA – Three Times/Week
Mardi Gras New Orleans - train

Plan your train journey to coincide with the iconic Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans. See 12 Epic Parades in the U.S.A

Top 3 Coast to Coast Train Tips:

1. Check out the Dome Car

The Dome Car offers seat facing out of the windows offering panoramic views of the scenery. The Dome cars are common on Scenic routes but do fill up quickly, especially on trains like the California Zephyr which passes through the untouched areas of the Colorado Rockies. So get to the carriage early to avoid disappointment.

amtrak-california-zephyr-onboard-dome car

amtrak-california-zephyr-onboard-dome car. Source: flickr

2. Check in your bags

The Train Stations can vary in size from massive complexes with many bars, shops and cafés to a single platform with just a station sign and a bench. The Majority of stations allow you to check in your Baggage for FREE, like you would at an airport.

Just be sure to arrive at least 40 minutes before departure.This is certainly a great option if your on a long haul journey and leaves you free to wander around to the dining car, bar or vestibules without worrying about valuables.

However, if you prefer to keep your baggage with you there is ample overhead storage, even in coach. You can also check bags in to your final destination and they will be automatically changed over.

Luggage Policy: 

All passengers are entitled to check in up to 2 large items of luggage free of charge, plus an additional 2 large items for $20 each.  Maximum 50lbs (23Kg) per item, maximum dimension (length + height + width) = 75″.  Oversize bags (up to a total linear dimension of 100″) $20 per bag.

A name and address label must be attached to each item.  Hand luggage is limited to two items per passenger, maximum 50lbs (23Kg) per item, dimensions 28″ x 22″ x 14″.  For more details: www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy.

3. Head to the Bar Car

The Bar car is usually found next to the dining car. Here you will discover comfy leather booths for four people where you can play cards, enjoy a coffee, drink, snack and just chat to other passengers.

This is also where you will find the National Park Guides, these uniformed officers travel by train during the summer months as part of the Amtrak Trails on Rails Programme. They will happily give you educational leaflets and give you background and interesting spots out of the window.

Grand Canyon Railway live music

Live entertainment is common on the Grand Canyon Railway! Source; Xanterra Parks & Resorts

Want the best deals when booking a train?

Try out our: Best Public Transport Booking Tools

Do you have a decent Camera??

If not, Check out our Recommended Travel Photography Gear

Photography Gear

Make sure you are equip with some great Photography Gear!

Want to know the secrets of great Hotel Deals?

See this essential post:  How to find the Best Hotel Deals??

Got everything else you need?

Check out our  Travel Essentials   (Things You can’t travel without!)

Backpacks

Backpacks

If your still not convinced by trains and would still like to rent a car Check out: Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks!

Want more?

Ultimate Guide to the USA by Amtrak Trains

White Pass Yukon train alaska

White Pass Yukon train alaska. Source: wpyr.com

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Cross Country Steam Train USA

Cross Country Steam Train USA

About the author

Town & Tourist

A travel resource guide that has been carefully crafted and curated by travel bloggers to help you find the best places to travel to in the USA.