**You might recognize Jennifer All-Finn's name: She is the creator and co-administrator of the popular Facebook group "The Real Housewives and Friends of Hendricks County"!
The All-Finn family in Raton, New Mexico
Our family hadn’t been on a family vacation in a couple years, so we were long overdue. My husband had the grand idea to drive to Los Angeles. The thought of spending three days driving across the country made me anxious and overwhelmed. As a compromise, we booked an Amtrak train from Chicago to LA. Our train adventure would take us 41 hours total. That was a bit overwhelming to grasp, especially since the extent of my train riding experience was a Thomas the Train ride many years ago with my now 13-year-old. However, I was game for the excursion, as I could only imagine the memories that this would make for our family. I know my kids will recall memories of this trip for the rest of their lives.
Our adventure began bright and early, as we loaded the minivan and trekked up to Chicago for the first leg of The Finn Family Cross Country Adventure. Our van was packed full of luggage and my family- my husband, 13-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter, and me. It was recommended that we park at Park and Ride near O’Hare Airport and then take the Chicago Transit Authority train (with a station at the lot) to the station just down the road from Union Station. The Park and Ride cost only $8.50 a day to park, as opposed to nearly $30 a day to park at O’Hare or Union Station. We arrived several hours before our train departed. Looking back we wouldn’t leave quite so early; however, it was better to be early than running to the ticket counter with minutes to spare.
For our train ride, we booked two sleeper cabins- one for the girls and one for the boys. On Amtrak, there are a few options to make based on your travel budget: You can ride in coach, which I would only recommend for a short train ride. The coach passengers have access to restrooms but not a shower. Another option is the one we chose, the sleeper cabin. I expected our cabin to be similar to the size of a cruise cabin. To my surprise, the sleeper cabin was more like a sleeper closet. It was essentially only two reclining seats facing each other. Those two seats could be pushed together to make a bed. The bunk bed was overhead and pulled down from the ceiling. When I saw the true size of the sleeper cabin, I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. I was going to spend 41 hours in this space with my seven-year-old.
Our Sleeper Car for two with seats that fold into one bed with bunk overhead.
Katie in the sleeper car with folded down bed and bunk pull-down overhead.
We shared the restrooms and community shower with a few other sleeper cabin rooms. These families also shared a cabin attendant, who assisted with making our beds and any other needs we had. The sleeper cabin guests also had all meals provided, as well as access to a guest lounge at Union Station while awaiting departure. The third option, was a small bedroom. It was nearly double the cost of what our family paid for the sleeper cabin. This space was comparable to a cruise ship room. The rooms had the same amenities that we had, plus a private bathroom and shower. Looking back on our trip, I would go with a sleeper cabin again. While the space wasn’t huge, we were able to explore the train, so we had the opportunity to leave our cabin often. Frequently, we made our way to the observation car, which had floor to ceiling windows and seats facing the windows to watch the world pass by. Plus, this option gave us more spending money for the California leg of our trip.
The observation car we had access to.
Overall, our family enjoyed our first Amtrak adventure, and we’d book again in the future. We were provided three meals a day, and they were much more tasty than airline food. The price was right. We paid around $1500 for our family of four to travel one-way from Chicago to Los Angeles. That included transportation, lodging, and our meals. It was recommended to us to take the train out to LA but to fly back. That was the perfect decision for us because after spending a week exploring California, we were ready for a quick trip back home to Indiana. Also, the scenery was gorgeous as we ventured across the country on Amtrak. We couldn’t recreate that by flying out to LA. We got to sit back, relax, and enjoy the great wonders of our nation.
If your family is up for an Amtrak adventure, grab your shower shoes, a blanket, and get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime!
Katie and sea lions at La Jolla Beach near San Diego.