In 2017, my kids and I traveled on the Amtrak California Zephyr train from San Francisco to Denver in a sleeper car (see my post here). Since then, my kids have repeatedly asked for another overnight train trip. We finally made that happen when we traveled on the Amtrak Texas Eagle from Chicago to Dallas last month.
I booked this train trip ~10 months in advance and paid cash. For me and my two kids, we booked two separate roomettes in a sleeper car at a cost of around ~$300 per person. That price includes meals in the dining car. For sure, we could have flown back home faster and cheaper. But, this was all about the experience.
Chicago Union Station and Metropolitan Lounge
We arrived at Chicago Union Station about 90 minutes ahead of our train’s departure. What a gorgeous train station!
There was no need to get there too early since there is no security to go through and nobody is checking tickets before you board.
Since we were booked in a sleeper car, we had access to the Metropolitan Lounge. We had a big breakfast at our hotel, but we wanted to eat some light snacks for lunch.
The lounge had plenty of areas to sit down, and it spanned a few levels of the station.
The lounge also had a kids’ area:
The snack bar had a selection of pre-packaged snacks. I was pleased to see several varieties of protein bars.
My kids were excited with the variety of cold drinks in bottles that were available. Overall, the lounge was comfortable, and we appreciated the snacks.
Boarding the Amtrak Texas Eagle
About 30 minutes before departure, we heard an announcement for sleeper car passengers to gather at the front of the lounge to board the train. An employee escorted all of us to our correct sleeping cars.
Our room attendant guided us to our sleeping compartments, which were on the upper level of the train car. We stowed one of our small suitcases in a luggage rack downstairs, and took the other suitcase upstairs with us.
Roomettes on Amtrak Texas Eagle
We had two roomettes that were across the hall from each other. Both roomettes were identical:
Each roomette had two wide chairs facing each other with a tray table that pulled out from the wall. Near the door, there was a bit of storage where we placed our backpacks and snacks. We fit our smaller suitcase in my son’s roomette (since he would be solo in his room).
Roomettes look small, but they are actually quite comfy and cozy with large windows. My son and I could both fit on one seat (although we wouldn’t want to do that for the entire trip).
Each roomette has a door that locks from the inside.
In the evening, our room attendant converted our seats to a lower bed and pulled down the top bunk from the ceiling.
My daughter easily climbed up to the top bunk via the storage shelves, but I imagine it wouldn’t be so easy for elderly travelers.
Both of my kids slept well, and my son appreciated having his own roomette. I did not sleep as well because the bed was a bit hard for my taste. But, I still got a decent amount of sleep.
Bathrooms and even a shower were available down the hall.
Food on Amtrak Texas Eagle
Our fare in a sleeper car included meals in the dining car. I must admit, the food has gone downhill on Amtrak since Covid. There are fewer choices on the menu, we had to pre-order food hours in advance, and all food was microwaved.
Shortly after we boarded in Chicago, the dining car manager took our dinner orders and asked us to pick either 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. for dinner. We picked 6:00. Apparently, the rest of the sleeping car passengers chose 5:00 p.m., because we had the car to ourselves!
The food wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. It’s comparable to airplane food. Each meal came with a salad, roll and dessert:
We had the chicken parm, salmon, and chicken enchiladas.
Breakfast was adequate:
There was also a snack car on board where you could buy chips, candy, small microwaved items.
Our train trip from Chicago to Dallas took 21 hours. What did we do the whole time?
We relaxed to the sway of the train. We talked to each other, played on our phones, read, conversed with our sleeping car neighbors, and looked at scenery. Granted, the scenery was not nearly as impressive as the scenery we saw on the California Zephyr train through Utah and Colorado. But, it was cool riding by the St. Louis Arch:
Amtrak trains are famous for running behind (way behind) because the freight trains have the right of way. Surprisingly, we arrived in Dallas 30 minutes EARLY!
Overall, the three of us really enjoyed our overnight train trip on the Amtrak Texas Eagle. There is just something about riding on an overnight train trip in a sleeping car that is so relaxing. The trip allowed us to slow down and just chill as we gradually made our way back home.
I’m not replacing air travel with train travel go forward. But, train travel holds a special place in my heart, and both overnight Amtrak train trips with my kids have been memorable. My kids and I all agreed that we should plan another overnight train trip in the future.