Booking Amtrak From Chicago To Glacier
What is the best way to get a family stateroom. We want to go in August 2007 from Chicago and I know they are hard to get. How far in advance can we call, and does it have to be from the return trip since it would be a round trip.
Thanks in advance for any ideas.
Keep a watch on their weekly specials. They change and if any of your family members are AAA or students you should be able to get a discount. You have 2 drop off point one being East Glacier and the other being West Glacier (
I suggest going to West Glacier, that way you can go through the south part of the park before getting off the train. Are you looking at the family bedroom? We booked in February for this August, and they still had some left.
We plan to go to East and then to West, do others think we should do West and then East.
Thanks for all the info, and yes we are planning on getting a family room if we can. We have 2 adults and 2 kids
Glacier National Park
Day : Traveling Across The American Midwest On The Amtrak Empire Builder
Sometime in the wee morning hours, we had crossed into the fourth state of this rail trip, North Dakota. When we awoke, the landscape outside the window had changed yet again. The lush forests we rolled through as the sun set in Minnesota had transitioned to rolling plains, farmland, and the sporadic small midwestern town.
The Amtrak Empire Builder soon pulled into one of these towns. We had arrived in Minot, North Dakota. And the Empire Builder rolled into the open-air Minot train station about a half-hour earlier than scheduled. Here, we had a planned 37-minute fuel stop. So the early arrival now gave us a full hour to stretch out legs around this city, which was founded during the construction of the very railroad we had come in on.
Most stops along the Empire Builder route are only for a minute or two. It can give smokers a chance to quickly puff on a cigarette on the platform adjacent to the train. But there are a handful of lengthier stops where passengers can actually get off the train to wander around town. Minot, North Dakota, is the first daytime stop that allows passengers to do so. You dont want to stray too far though, as these trains do NOT wait for missing passengers.
So we took the calculated risk to stretch our legs through Minots antique district and the historic river walk. It was a pleasant stroll, albeit nothing remarkable. We even had time to grab a quick breakfast at a McDonalds, several blocks from the Minot Amtrak station.
Amtrak Empire Builder Crew Review
The crew aboard the Empire Builder was friendly from the café attendant to the conductor. We did miss the first jovial conductor throughout the remainder of the trip. Once he got off the train, no other Amtrak crew provided any sort of indication about the areas we were passing, aside from calling out the station stops. He set a high standard that subsequent conductors did not continue.
Even when approaching the highlight of Glacier National Park, surprisingly not a word was uttered. It was as if this awesome sight didnt even matter. That was disappointing. It would have been nice if other crew members contained even half the enthusiasm as the first conductor we encountered on the Amtrak Empire Builder.
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Amtrak Empire Builder Condition & Cleanliness Review
The train cars were clean and in good condition when we boarded. But the conditions of the bathrooms deteriorated the further we got. They could have been maintained better, particularly on the latter half of the trip. That said, the restroom compartments seemed to hold up better than other facilities weve encountered on long-distance trains around the world.
When pulling out of Chicagos Union Station, at least the bathrooms were sparkling clean then. We cant say the same about the windows. We were annoyed by the fact that those beautiful panoramic windows on the dome car hadnt been washed, from the start! The views are a big part of the appeal of a rail journey across the US. So we felt that the lack of window washing to be the Empire Builders biggest blunder and such an easy remedy!
Cost Compared To Airfare
Fares for Amtrak and air travel vary greatly by season. Those looking for smaller investments of time and money will prefer air.
But coach seats on Amtrak sometimes are cheaper than on an airline. One example: a search for late-August from Chicago to Whitefish round trip on Amtrak was $286, while the cheapest roundtrip airfare from nearby Kalispell was $336.
Roomettes, Amtraks sleeper accommodations, typically house one or two people, although a few family bedroom suites will sleep two adults and two children. Some include private toilets.
Most roomettes include two seats and a table by day. Seats fold into a lower bed at night. An overhead bunk folds down from the ceiling, with bathroom and shower facilities down the hall. Roomette rates include full-course meals in the dining car.
Sleeper accommodations vary in price according to season, trip length and facilities offered. Expect to pay between $400-$1200 for a roomette between Chicago and Whitefish, $300-$800 from Minneapolis, and $200-$500 from Portland or Seattle.
Note that a couple traveling together only pays one accommodation charge. For example, a single round trip roomette passenger could pay $862 for Chicago-Whitefish, but a couple would pay $1,216.
Unlike airlines, free baggage allotments on Amtrak include two carry-on bags and two checked pieces.
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How Much Does The Empire Builder Cost
The 550-mile, 14.5-hour Empire Builder journey from Seattle to West Glacier costs less than $100 in a comfortable superliner seat, or around $250 for a private “roomette” that includes meals. From Chicago , the prices are equally reasonable. Equipped with a restaurant car, reclining business class seats, sleeping compartments and a seemingly never-ending supply of magnificent scenery, the Empire Builder echoes the golden years of 19th-century train travel but without the inflated prices. Instead, it has become one of Americas great travel bargains.
After a couple of days spent chugging through the landscapes of the Old West, the well-worn travel adage about the journey being as important as the destination starts to sound a lot less trite.
What To Expect On The Train To Glacier National Park
The trip from the west begins in Seattle at 4:40pm with a complimentary glass of champagne, sipped while you enjoy the watery vista of Puget Sound with the snowy volcanic dome of Mt Rainier winking in the background.
By dinner at 7pm you are crossing Washington States Cascade Mountains via the longest rail tunnel in the United States at almost 8 miles long, and by the time your purser has made up your bunk, you are in Idaho amid the Rockies. The panoramic observation car opens just in time to enjoy sunrise over the rugged peaks of western Montana as you tuck into a hearty breakfast.
Located at the parks western entrance, historic West Glacier station has changed little since the days when train loads of pasty-faced city dwellers were met by horses to be transported to a handful of backcountry hotels and lodges.
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Chicago And Minneapolis/st Paul To Glacier
The Empire Builder departs Union Station daily in downtown Chicago at 2:15 p.m., proceeding through Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Dells and along the Mississippi River shoreline to St. Paul/Minneapolis. The Chicago-Whitefish trip is 31 hours and 1626 miles.
Passengers embarking in the Twin Cities can go to sleep shortly after boarding, as the train arrives about 10:45 p.m. Their trip to Whitefish takes 23 hours and covers roughly 1200 miles. The prairie scenery in North Dakota and eastern Montana is peaceful if not spectacular. The train passes a wide expanse of the Missouri River and the Williston oil fields. Travelers can stretch their legs on platforms at Minot and Havre stations.
Around 6:45 p.m. on that second night, the train arrives at East Glacier and then makes its way through a winding, scenic section of railroad that is inside the boundaries of Glacier National Park. Stake out a seat in the domed observation cars well in advance of this two-hour segment, as space fills quickly. The westbound Empire Builder arrives at Whitefish just before 9 p.m.
Going home, Chicago and Minneapolis passengers board early morning trains and arrive home the next day: Minneapolis at 8 a.m. and Chicago at 3:55 p.m.
Sometimes, Amtrak trains stop to allow freight trains right of way, because of this late arrivals are common.
Glacier National Park On The Empire Builder
En route daily between Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, the Empire Builder allows travelers to experience the rugged splendor of the American West, from major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail to Big Sky Country in Montana. Passengers on this route can stop at the East Glacier station at the edge of the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Visitors have access to more than 130 lakes, five National Historic Landmarks and an abundance of wildlife, and more than 700 miles of hiking options among the glacier-carved peaks and valleys.
Prices for Chicago to East Glacier: Roomette: $497.00 Coach: $145.00.
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Passing Time On The Amtrak Empire Builder With A Few Drinks
It was nearing the five oclock hour as we passed by the brewing plant. So this was also a prompt to consider a beer. People sitting around us were already kicking back a few. The quiet dome lounge was becoming more social, as the Empire Builder changed from its northbound trajectory to heading west.
A café & bar was actually right underneath us as we sat in the domed viewing lounge. Each of the Empire Builders train cars is actually a double-decker train car. So we descended the stairs to scope out drinking options, which seemed like a natural activity to pursue while on a 48-hour train ride.
But with a drinking preference towards craft beer in combination with a penchant towards budget travel, $7 Coronas were not a strong selling point for us.
Thankfully, unlike regulations during air travel, Amtrak allows passengers to carry-on and consume their own alcohol aboard trains. So we most certainly planned ahead and stockpiled a small cooler with some of Chicagos great microbrews to enjoy while on this scenic train ride across America.
Our Experience: Riding Amtrak Across The Us On The Empire Builder
In our mission to circumnavigate the globe without flights, taking the Amtrak Empire Builder across the US fit perfectly into our travel agenda like a missing puzzle piece. It had always been a dream journey for us travel across the country by rail.
We love train travel and are certainly no strangers to lengthy train trips. Over the past few years of roaming around the world, weve taken rail journeys across exotic locations like Ukraine, Bolivia, Thailand, Cuba, Serbia, Zimbabwe, even a tequila train across Mexico, and the DMZ Train to the North Korea. Yet we had never crossed our home country by train. It was time to change that.
We regularly see viral videos about this rail journey across the US shared on social media, which play up the romanticism of rail travel and show what appears to be a great value. Those buying Empire Builder tickets in advance can take advantage of the Saver rate, which gets passengers from Chicago to Seattle by rail for a mere $150!
So thats exactly what we opted to do. This economical ticket covers two nights of accommodation, a scenic rail journey, and transportation from one side of the US to the other. For budget travelers like us, it all sounds like fantastic value!
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Amtrak Empire Builder Coach Seat Review
The coach seats were a bit on the hard side, but comfortable enough and extremely spacious. The Empire Builder seats are way more comfortable than any overnight flight weve been on.
The seats had electrical outlets to keep our many gadgets charged. The ride itself was a bit rocky and bumpy at times, but that also provided some charisma to the trip. The domed viewing car was a great place to pass time in the day and somehow never got crowded despite the train seeming relatively full.
Amtrak Empire Builder Dining Review
Meals in the dining car were surprisingly good quality. The burgers for lunch exceeded are expectations. The seared Norwegian salmon dinner was tasty and cooked perfectly. Plated on a branded Amtrak plate that was filled with plentiful sides of wild rice pilaf and green beans, it left us pleasantly full.
At first, the seating arrangements seemed quite awkward since strangers in parties less than four people are sat together. But it ultimately enhanced our experience, meeting new people along the journey.
We found meal and drink prices to be on the high side for what you get. But thats to be expected, given the captive audience. Reminder: dining car service is included for those with superliner roomettes, which helps to justify the higher cost. But those who purchase coach seats will pay a premium for their meals.
Meanwhile in the cafe car, snacks and impromptu meals in the café car are more reasonable in cost, but consist solely of microwaved items such as pizza and hot dogs. The cafe car is below the domed lounge area. Most people got their food from the cafe car to eat back in their seats or in the lounge upstairs, which provides more scenic ambiance.
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Crossing The Us By Train Brings People Together
Back aboard the Amtrak Empire Builder, we journeyed onward to the fifth state of this rail adventure. The tracks continued right into Montanas big sky country. In between farms, we passed quaint towns full of old-timey brick buildings. The Empire Builder cruises across Montana at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour. But we would slow a bit whenever passing through these charming settlements.
We continued westbound across the Great Plains. Its where the deer and antelope play. During the rail journey, that song rang true. When gazing out the windows long enough, we absolutely were rewarded with wildlife grazing in the distance alongside the tracks.
But no one was pointing out the wildlife we saw outside the window. It was easy to spot, yet just as easy to miss if you werent looking. Earlier in the day as we pulled into rural Amtrak stations, we noticed the jovial narration we had enjoyed the day prior, was now missing. Our enthusiastic conductor had apparently departed overnight. With his excitement gone, the feeling of tedium had taken its place as we approached the 24-hour mark since departing Chicago.
Instead of staring mindlessly into those screens we love so much, we were instead forced into conversation with fellow travelers to pass the time. In fact, when venturing into the dining car, any parties of less than four are purposely sat with strangers.