Kid-friendly Trip Ideas

Your Guide to the Amtrak Family Room

Like a ship’s cabin or a pod-studio, the Amtrak Family Room is a tight squeeze. Let’s be really clear here, the Amtrak sleeper cabins are not luxurious. Think somewhere between European budget hotel and a bus.

An overnight trip aboard a long-haul train is incredibly fun, and something your children will remember for a lifetime. It’s not particularly comfortable, efficient or a good value — it’s probably far cheaper for you to fly or drive. But an Amtrak overnight is perfect if you’re seeking an unusual family-travel experience.

What’s in the Family Bedroom?

The Family Rooms on Amtrak trains has two picture windows on each side of the room, small fold-down tables, overhead lights, a tiny closet, a reclining sofa and outlets for recharging devices. So, the room is mostly seating.

In the evening, a car attendant (an Amtrak employee assigned to your sleeper car) folds the seating out into a bed and pulls upper berths down from the wall. The attendant folds your bedding back up in the morning.

How Big is the Amtrak Sleeper Family Room?

The room itself is around around 47 square feet, or about half the size of a New York City pod hotel. Very small.

Is There a Toilet or Shower in the Family Bedroom?

No, there isn’t. There’s a sizable shared one down the hall with a shower, changing room and bathroom. We never had to wait to use the bathroom, and it was cleaner than most Amtrak bedrooms.

How do the Family Room Beds Work?

The Amtrak site states that the Family Bedroom accommodates two adults and two children, but realistically, they can potentially accommodate three children, so ask when booking. Some members of the family need to be able to climb a ladder to access a bed.

However, the beds are fairly narrow and would be hard to accommodate a taller family.

The child beds can really only accommodate kids under 4’9 (the bed length) and are only about 2 feet wide. Teens or tall children might have a rough time feeling comfortable.

There are also two adult berths, and you need to be able to climb a ladder to access them.

At night, two seats convert into a bed, and an upper bed folds down from the train car’s wall. The adult beds can fit those up to 6’3. One of the adult beds is a bit wider (3’4″), slightly larger than a twin bed. He’s on the child bed.

Each sleeper will buckle him or herself into what the kids and I called a “sleep-belt” or a seatbelt preventing you from flying out of the bed in case of sudden stops. Yes, it’s a little weird, and I had a hard time sleeping with it on. The kids snored right through everything.

Superliner Family Room vs Bedroom vs Roomette

Don’t like the idea of sharing a room with family, or maybe you have more than 5 people in your large family? You have a few other options.

Superliner Bedroom.

This Amtrak sleeper has a private bathroom with toilet, shower and sink. If you have a smaller family, up to three people can squeeze into a Bedroom, as the lower couch-bed can sleep two petite people, whether children or adults.

Superliner Bedroom Suite.

The next step up is the deluxe Superliner Bedroom suite, which connects two bedrooms to accommodate four to six passengers. Two private bathrooms included.

Superliner Roomettes.

The Roommette could work if you’re traveling with a baby, parent-child or want to connect more than one Roommette. But they’re tiny. How big is a superliner roommette? About three feet three inches by six feet six inches. Yes, around 20 square feet, about half the size of a Family Bedroom.

Which Amtrak Routes Offer a Family Bedroom?

Most long-distance U.S. train offer sleeper cars on the two styles of trains: Superliner (two floors or levels) or Viewliner (one level). The Viewliner is primarily trains going to or from New York City, while you’ll ride a Superliner in other parts of the U.S.

The sleeper cars have rooms with different sizes, and some have private bathrooms while others have public bathrooms. Only the Superliner offers a Family Bedroom, and there are just one or two on each train, so you need to reserve early.

Routes with Amtrak Family Bedrooms: Auto Train, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle.

Any must-pack items for overnight train trips with kids?

Warm clothes for sleeping in are a good idea, as is a robe or other cover-up for midnight bathroom visits.

Wet wipes come in handy, as the bathroom is down the hall. Sometimes you just want to wipe off jam/grease/traingerms without waiting for a sink.

You might pack earplugs. My kids slept well on the train, but I had a harder time due to brake noises and stops, and the odor of diesel wasn’t exactly relaxing. The diesel fumes were particularly bad when waiting to depart, so I’d avoid the room during that time.

Playing with Legos on the Amtrak Family Bedroom car

What Do I Get with an Amtrak Family Bedroom?

You get three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner for which you must reserve dining time in advance), fresh bed linens and towels, all the bottled water you can drink, two to three checked suitcases stored nearby, plus soap and shampoo. You’ll also benefit from boarding first and having plenty of time to get settled.

Warning: Regular meals included are only up to the room’s max capacity. So if you have five people in a four-person room, you’ll only get food for four.

There’s also turn-down service, which is actually just taking the beds out of the wall. You should tip your sleeper attendant, though.

How Much Do Family Bedrooms Cost?

They’re not cheap, and may run you more than $2000 for a long-distance trip. It’s calculated by adding up regular rail fare for all passengers, then adding on one family sleeper car room. So you’ll want to book as soon as you can, to score the lowest rail fare.

Tip: Booking a family room through Amtrak is a fine idea if your trip is overnight. Anything less than that, a family room is probably not worth the extra cost, even if you’re going on the rather-long ride betwen Seattle and Eugene.

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