Few weeks ago I wrote about my plans to visit Washington DC in spring of 2019. Nancy (my blogging partner) made an interesting comment on the post:
Hmm, I wasn’t really considering this option until she mentioned it.
I have a love/hate relationship with overnight trains. I vividly remember going on a long-distance train trip at the age of nine. It was the first (and only) time I met my grandfather in Russia. We took a train that started in Berlin and ended in St. Petersburg (or Leningrad as it was called back then). It was the creme of the crop as far as Soviet trains go: clean bathrooms, decent bedding and even flowers in sleeping compartments.
On the other hand, I remember my overnight trips from Minsk to Grodno back when I was a college student. Ugh. It was a “milk run” train that departed at 1 AM and got to Grodno at 7 AM. You could barely get any sleep because the darn thing stopped every thirty minutes.
On top of it, the attendants were “angry babushkas” who kept shouting at you if you looked at them the wrong way. I remember dragging my suitcase at midnight to the train station, which was 1.5 miles from my dorm. You do NOT want to hang out at the train station at night. The folks there are usually not “creme of the crop”.
The thing is, my family took trains because we could not afford to fly. So, how ironic that even though I have more than enough points for a flight form DC to Florida, here I am, contemplating taking an overnight train on Amtrak instead.
It’s all about the kids. I think they would love it and I want them to experience a night train at least once. Washington DC- Orlando route would be an excellent option.
We could store our bags in a hotel till evening, and would save points by not having to pay for a third night. Assuming we end up in a category 3 Hyatt, that’s 12,000 points, which I speculatively value at around $125. The roomette has a tiny bathroom, which is a must for me. I’m a bit of a princess that way. We could book two roomettes for four of us at a cost of 35,000-40,000 Amtrak points total.
Here is a review of roomette on YouTube to give you an idea on what to expect (if you are a subscriber and can’t see the video in the email, just go to the site):
Honestly, I wouldn’t want to spend several days confined with my kid in this “cozy” contraption, but one night is OK. I think.
Accumulating Amtrak points:
There are two ways to do it. You can transfer SPG points on 1:1 basis or apply for BoA Amtrak credit card. I like the second idea much better, given the fact I currently don’t have any SPG points.
You can get 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in 90 days and paying $79 annual fee on your Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard Direct application link (pays no commission) So both my husband and I would have to apply in order to have enough points for two roomettes. But considering the fact that it would otherwise cost us $1,200 in cash, the points alternative is definitely the way to go. Not that I would ever pay $1,200.
There are quite a few.
1) We would have to wonder around Washington DC till 6-7 PM after checking out from our hotel. If the weather ends up being pleasant that day, it’s no big deal. If it rains, I shudder thinking what kind of mood my husband will be in.
2) We would have to get a shower on the train (twice). I’m guessing it’s not as well equipped as the one in the Hyatt Place. Did I mention that my husband is a very large guy?
3) I doubt we would get much sleep at night. It’s a moving train! It will already be a short getaway, and both my husband and kids will have to go to work/school ( respectively) the next day. There will be no time to recover from our train adventure.
4) We will have to entertain the kids on the train till almost 1PM the following day. They may go out of their mind due to boredom. Like I said, we’ve never done this sort of thing before, so it’s impossible to predict how they will handle the ride. But they are both super restless kids, that I know.
5) Bank of America has instituted a new approval rule where you can only get four new BoA cards every two years. So there is a very real opportunity cost here. If I go for Amtrak card, it will eliminate another potentially lucrative BoA offer.
6) Cancellation rules for Amtrak award redemptions are not as flexible as the ones for Southwest. This is a concern for me, especially given the unpredictable nature of cherry blossoms.
What should I do?
Despite all the drawbacks, I’m seriously thinking about it. Amazingly, my husband is actually on board with the idea. He hates flying, that’s probably why. And it would be a good chance to try out this form of travel as a family.
Of course, we would have to get approved for BoA Amtrak credit card X 2, which is not a guarantee. I also would have to take a leap of faith, hoping that 20,000 points will cover the cost of the roomette. But many things in this hobby (and travel in general) require a leap of faith.
And if things go wrong, I’ll just blame Nancy for putting this crazy idea into my head!
Guys, what would you do?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.