Train Trip to Oregon/Washington from the Bay Area

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Emeryville to Eugene via Amtrak

Sept 2008

My husband and I would like to take our soon to be 15 month old in November to Eugene, Oregon to visit friends around Thanksgiving. Flight prices are mighty high and neither one of us want to drive 9 hours with our already on the go son and are considering Amtrak. We were just going to get regular seats for the 14-15 hour ride. I am terrified that it could take us 24 hours to get there as I hear Amtrak is always late but I love the idea of being able to get up and move around and potentially sleeping through the night-plus it's a fraction of the flight cost and cheaper than driving. Has anyone out there taken Amtrak's Coastal Starlight overnight in that direction before? Good, Bad, I'd love to hear it all. Thanks beth

Yes, take Amtrack to Eugene. It is so fun! We've taken the Coast Starlight from Oakland to Seattle, then across the country, up and down and back. We did it years ago when our 17 yo was 10months old. Since we were on a long trip we got rooms and dinners on the train, but for a trip to Eugene (not that long) you could totally do coach seats. You can walk around all over the train, eat on the train, stand, etc. It's really nice to look out the window while someone else does the driving. Nice views, green forests. My son loved it. I don't know about Amtrak being late. We never ran into that problem, but that was 17 years ago. Definately do it...and have fun. Amtrak fan

About 7 years ago we took Amtrak to Bend Oregon on the overnight train. My kids were in the 8-12 yo range not 15 months. I liked that you could get up and walk around, stretch your legs etc. The chairs are pretty comfortable to sit in but not that great for 'sleeping'. The other problem was that the train made lots of stops with people getting on the train and making a lot of noise. On the way back my husband got a sleeper car; more money but definately worth it. We left at around 10 pm got in at around 10 am and felt like we had made good use of the time. have a good trip

We take the train from emeryville to portland once or twice a year to visit family. I love it, but it does require a relaxed mindset. Yes, it is often late, because it has to pull into the sidings to let freight trains pass: this seems to occur with greater frequency as you approach Portland. We are often only a couple of hours delayed as we approach Eugene, and then we are 4-6 hours late by the time we get to Portland. The worst is when you skip meals because you are ''almost there'': expect that you will be at least 4 hours late, eat accordingly, and demand a seat/reservation at at lunch/dinner! Seating: you will want three seats for the overnight, so pay for your child (half price). Free seat sharing is tempting (permissible under 2 years), but it is hard for three to sleep all night on two seats! Don't count on occupying empty seats: the coast starlight gets booked solid, especially near holidays,and I'm sure gas price increases have increased ridership. My son has a hard time falling asleep with all the excitement boarding at 10pm. He does better when we get a sleeping car, but I don't like the ''exclusive'' feel of the sleeping car end of the train. The only affordable sleeping car has two narrow bunks: this doesn't work so well for 3: narrow bunks are hard to share with a toddler. We only do the sleeping car when my son and I travel alone: if all 3 of us go, we go coach. Also, I wouldn't recommend taking the train both ways if you can't stay for a week, at least: the overnight trip with a toddler is tiring: plan for many nights of good (bed) sleep before your return trip. have fun, I looooove the train. ms

I've made this trip twice, the most recent being last summer (2007). We went coach both times.

Yes, AMTRAK is usually late. This is often because the RRs that own the track hold up the passenger trains.

However, it's a great way to travel. Low stress, other than possibly waiting for the train to pick you up. Comfortable seats, and great scenery. Our first trip we pulled out of Dunsimuir as the sun was coming over the mountains....just spectacular. And you get to enjoy the scenery (which is really super north of Redding all the way to Eugene) instead of concentrating on driving a car.

Being able to walk around, etc. is nice. No leg cramps! The food is not what it was in 1996 (it was really quite good then), but it's fine and reasonably priced.

I recommend the experience. Ray

Taking the train to Seattle

Feb 2006

My husband wants to take the train to Seattle this year with our kids, at the end of May (21-27). I am looking for recent recommendations for kid friendly places to stay for a couple of nights, midweek. I have read the recs on things to do with kids and I imagine they are still accurate? Nothing about where to stay. Any suggestions would be appreciated. clueless in seattle

Hello, Seattle is a great place but I have to warn you about the train travel part of your plan. I took Amtrak with my two kids to central Oregon last year. It was beautiful and parts of travelling on the train were nice... but it was EXTREMELY behind schedule! According to family members who I was visiting there (who have used Amtrak regularly for years for shorter trips), it is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS behind schedule. For the record - I am not talking about being a little late here... on our way home, we were supposed to arrive around breakfast time and we did not get back to Emeryville until after 3:00 in the afternoon. Because the train was so far behind schedule, it had to serve more meals than planned to each passenger... which means, for example, that there was no milk at breakfast, since we had not yet made it to Sacramento where the train was scheduled to pick up provisions. Delays of this length are, unfortunately, very common for Amtrak on this route. It is a VERY long journey via Amtrak from the Bay Area to Seattle; it will be even longer with certain delays. If you decide to do it, I would highly suggesting packing extra food and drink, and I would say that getting a sleeper compartment is a must. The seat configuration in the regular cars is like an airplane, not a European train (no compartments, in other words). It would have been absolutely miserable had we not had the sleeper. Unfortunately, the sleeper compartment is rather expensive - so if you're set on vising Seattle, driving or flying is a better option, in my experience. If you really want to take the train, I would recommend a closer destination. Feel free to email me if you have any additional questions. Sarah

Re: taking the train. Train travel is fun. However check the schedules or with other travelers who have recently done it. I've taken it twice and it has been HOURS off schedule, which may work for your family fine or not. anon

I took the train back from Seattle last summer and it was 4 hours late arriving. It is frequently late, and I thought folks should know that there are many reasons why. One big reason is that Amtrak only leases track from the other railroads, and has to wait every time another train needs to get through. So you spend a lot of time waiting. My 3 year old son and I road coach from Seattle to Sacramento and it was fine. The sleepers are grossly overpriced. We both slept fine in the seats. I grew up in Seattle and love it! So many great places to visit. Summer and early fall are the best time to go, weatherwise. Seattleite and Amtrak lover

I second the other responder regarding the train...It's great and usually late and springing for the room is extremely important if you have kids. Also, then you can get room service for dinner to your room, and you won't have to wait for ever for a dinner seatting (that was horrible with young hungry kids!). We got a 2 bunk ''room'' with a toilet. It was nice to have the toilet in the room so that we didn't have to leave the kids by themselves. Regarding the timing, we were supposed to get in around 8 pm and got in at 2 am after a delay in oakland and 3 hrs stopped in Portland with the power out (glad we got our dinner before hand!) Other than that, the trip was fantastic. Lots of amazing scenery and lots of nice folks. Great memories. anon.

Feb 2002

RE: Overnight train travel with 4 and 6 year old?

We traveled from Berkeley to Seattle with a 4-yr-old and a 1-yr-old; it was tolerable but would have been much more enjoyable with a 4 and 6 yr-old. A train is more like a car than a plane, in that you can *see* a lot more from the train than you can from a plane. Also, you can walk up and down the train as much you need to get some exercise. There is also (at least on our train - call Amtrak about yours) a kids car where there were some toys and sometimes a video; there was also a small movie theatre playing Shrek which we watched twice in one day.

I wouldn't look forward to changing trains in Los Angeles but once you get through that headache the rest of the day should be nice. Have fun!

Oh, one more note of caution: the dining car fills up quick so get there 5 minutes early for meals (waiting an extra 90 minutes once was murder); and have some healthy snacks on hand just in case. John

Four of us traveled by train from Oakland to Seattle last August. My daughters were 4 years and 18 mo. We had a great time. Lodgings are crowded and expensive, but also tons of fun. Trains often get delayed for hours, however most folks (passengers and staff) are really nice. The two bed sleeper rooms on the Coast Starlight were very small. There was little to no room to stand in them once the beds were pulled out. Most people climbed into the top bunk from the hallway. You should check the width of the bed to see if it is even possible for two of you to share a bed. We rented a more expensive sleeper with one large and one small bed and a toilet/shower in a closet in the room. My husband got the upper bunk. The girls and I shared the big 3 foot wide bed below. There are other options for 4 beds. Each train (e.g., Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, etc) has its own particular sleeper car set up. Out 4 year old used the upper bunk for play space during the day.

If you stay in one of the sleeper cars, your meals are included. We also had use of a lounge car and a room where they show movies. Everyone on the coast starlight had access to the more crowded playroom. You also have priority for seatting in the dining car - if you choose to use it. Next time we will ask for room service mroe often as you can get your food much faster than waiting for a dining car table!

We liked haveing the sleeper as it was much quieter than the coach, and it was less crowded with folks.

Make your reservations as soon as you can. See if they take an AAA discount.

We hope to do it again...once we save up enough money! Suzanne