What better way to begin our honeymoon than a two day train ride from Arizona to Louisiana? Adam and I chose to honeymoon in New Orleans because it was a place the two of us had always wanted to visit but neither of us had been. On top of that, Adam really wanted to travel the USA via train so we combined two great ideas into the trip of a lifetime!
We booked our train tickets about six months in advance in order to guarantee our seats. And even though we booked our tickets well in advance, our seating assignments were still confused. As we stepped onto the train in Tucson, and ascended the narrowest staircase in the world, we found two other people sitting in our seats. Luckily, as we were leaving on Christmas Eve, not many other people were on the train and it was easy enough for the conductor to re-assign us.
Our seats in coach class were comfortable and wide with plenty of leg room. There were electrical plugs at each seat for us to charge our cell phones, kindles, you name it! The seats reclined almost completely and there was a generous leg rest. We came prepared and brought a blanket, neck pillow, ear buds, and eye mask to ensure high quality beauty sleep. Our car was one behind the scenic viewing car and two behind the dining car. Pro-tip: although the dining car food was delicious it was over-priced. I suggest bringing your own food and water onto the train.
Our trip was scheduled to be 36 hours from Tucson, Arizona to New Orleans, Louisiana. But, there was a maintenance delay along the way which got us in to New Orleans three hours later than expected. I was thankful the New Orleans station was less than 5 minutes away from our hotel in the French Quarter.
Riding the train was relaxing. We drove (trained? railed??) through gorgeous scenery that changed along the way. We went through the red rocks and cacti in the Sonoran Desert to the swamps and marshes of Louisiana. We stopped in a few big cities along the way: El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston. I learned that Houston is hotter than Hades on Christmas day and muggy.
I also learned that slow travel is a fantastic way to unwind. Another great thing about the train is the freedom to stand up and walk around. Yes, it takes 10 times longer to travel from Arizona to Louisiana on the train than compared to flying but you miss out on the views and catching glimpses of how other Americans live their lives. When we stopped in El Paso we could see Mexico just across the border!
The dining car was my favorite part. Seating is limited and meal times are set to a few hours at a time. Typically, when the train is full the dining car captain will go through all the cars and ask everyone, if they will be eating in the dining car for the next meal and which time slot do they want to sign up for? Since it was only the two of us traveling together, we were seated with other people for each meal. We met a couple who only traveled via train. The husband was afraid of flying and they were on their annual winter vacation trip to visit their siblings. This trip involved multiple train routes criss-crossing the USA; from NYC they traveled to Los Angeles and then onto El Paso and finally New Orleans where they would catch a bus to Orlando because Hurricane Katrina had ruined the rails onto Florida. Phew! I’m exhausted just thinking about all of that. They did share that because of their extensive train travel they always purchased private sleeper car tickets which included all meals and beverages.
Our train trip was a ton of fun. We met some interesting people and experience laid back traveling. The next time I ride Amtrak I would like to go through Colorado and northern California!
Have you ever taken a long train trip? What was it like?
P.S. Make sure to check out my other alternative travel post on riding the Greyhound bus from Phoenix to Tucson!