Train Trip on Amtrak’s California Zephyr (Traveler Review)

Train Trip on Amtrak’s California Zephyr (Traveler Review)

Jeff and I took the Amtrak California Zephyr from Denver to San Francisco. It was an absolutely beautiful ride as we sat in the observation car and just stared out at the breathtaking landscapes that passed by. I’m a big fan of traveling by train. It’s nice to be able to walk around, have a dining car, and there’s just something special about it.


I’ve previously done a train trip throughout Western Europe, and this was my first experience doing one in the states. Here’s an honest review of how it went…


We booked a Superliner Roomette, which was quite small and pretty difficult for 2 people to be in at once unless sitting down in the chairs. When we were both just sitting in the room, it was fine.


Also, the top bunk didn’t fold up all the way and was leaning at a 45-degree angle, so we couldn’t fully stand up in there either which was a bummer.


Jeff and I each brought a carry-on suitcase and our backpacks. With 2 people, our carry-on bags had to stay downstairs on the luggage rack the floor below, because they simply wouldn’t fit in the roomette. This made it a pain to go get a change of clothes out of our bag, take it up to change in the room, and then go back downstairs to put stuff up.


I definitely wouldn’t book a roomette again for 2 people, but I am willing to try a bigger room.


The roomette is about $522 for 2 people (think – transport and lodging for 1 night). The family bedroom is about $1287 and the Superliner Bedroom is $1519. You can read more about the rooms over here.


Something we were pleasantly surprised about was that the dining car was included for guests with rooms. We had complimentary breakfast, lunch, and dinner and it was pretty good too! They announced when food was being served for each meal and you had 3 timing options for each one.


TIP: You can bring your own snacks and food/drinks on board if you’d like! If you want/need anything in particular or if you have any food allergies, I’d bring some of your own stuff so you have options.


We brought a bottle of wine and all the fixings for a charcuterie board along with us and enjoyed them while sitting in our chairs watching the landscapes pass by!


You can find more detail about the food onboard by going here.


I wasn’t expecting a 5-star situation or anything (I tempered my expectations), but the interior of the train was pretty dirty. It could use a renovation for sure and had so much potential to be really awesome. My enneagram 1 personality thought of all the incredible possibilities and how cool it could be if a little reno happened. The bathrooms were very tight, dirty, and washing my face in the tiny sink was impossible.


TIP: Bring your own washcloth and hand towel.


We work while we travel everywhere and had hoped we’d be able to do a lot of that in the observation car, dining car, or our room. Some of the trains have very basic WiFi on board and you can read more about that over here.


The California Zephyr does not have WiFi, so we used a Skyroam Solis to try and get some work done. It worked some of the time and you can read a full, honest review of it over here so we ended up using our cell phones as hotspots to do most of our work. We have Verizon cell service and we surprisingly had decent service throughout the trip.


It was fun though sitting in the observation car and our room working from there.


We didn’t take Leon on this trip because they don’t allow pets to travel on the train for distances longer than 7 hours. Since we were doing an overnight trip, it wasn’t the best situation. They do allow dogs and cats up to 20 lbs though on less than 7-hour trips, but they have to stay in their carrier. In my opinion, 7 hours is way too long to keep them in there. So, we won’t be taking Leon on Amtrak. You can find out more about the pet rules over here.


We had an awesome time and I just love train travel. I wish it had been cleaner, but for a couple of days was fine and it can be especially great if you decide to hop off the train and stay the night somewhere and then get back on. We’d do Amtrak again with a bigger room or do the hop on and off thing.


I hope this was helpful to you! If you’ve traveled by train with Amtrak before, what was your experience?

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