My wife and I recently took a trip up to Indiana to see her family for Memorial Day. As you may know, my wife and I recently had a new addition to the family, and the thought of air travel with a two year old, a two month old, and all of the various accouterments necessary to sustain and entertain the two rascals was not terribly appealing. Add in high fees from late booking and a few other inconvenient booking impediments, and air travel was off of the table.
|Yea, not gonna be me|
It seemed that the only remaining option was to drive, but 16 hours over two days with an infant in the back seat was a sobering thought. But then I remembered the City of New Orleans, by which I mean the train, not the actual city. The City of New Orleans is an Amtrak train that runs between New Orleans and Chicago. The route has been in operation since 1947, originally as the Panama Limited.
|There's plenty of stops, including a convenient location in Hammond, LA|
It is an overnight route with no exchanges that takes about 19 hours. At first, it sounds crazy. It takes longer to ride the train than it does to drive, and a 19 hour trip seems to compare terribly to a 6 hour total travel time by air. But at the time it was vastly preferable to driving!
Having experienced the trip first hand, I can definitively say that it is an excellent way to travel! We booked a superliner sleeper car, which at roughly 6'x7' seems tiny, but it feels rather roomy, even with two adults and two kids. It also has a private bathroom and is treated pretty much like first class on an airplane, but without the free booze. You have an attendant for the sleeper car, meals included in the cost, and a cherished spot at the very rear of the train, well away from the noisy horn.
|I don't kn ow who these people are, but don't they look happy!|
The trip was easy, relaxing, and despite the 19 hour travel time it seemed to be over before I knew it. But it is so much slower, right? Why spend 19 hours in a train when for a similar price you arrive in 6 hours by air? But think about this. If I had booked flights for the family departing New Orleans at 10 a.m. with a 6 hour travel time, one layover, we'd arrive in Chicago by 4 p.m. or so. But you have to get to the airport at least an hour early. Now I need to leave for the airport at 8 a.m. which means a frenzied rush to get everything organized, get the kids situated and in the car, and then a battle through airport security with a stroller, car seat, bags to check, and the constant worry that my two year old is going to eat gum off of the floor or disappear into a crowd.
|I don't know who these people are either, but in an airport you're one delay short of wanting to kill yourself|
You have to squish into a tiny coach seat (hopefully you were able to get enough seats together), then repeat the dash during your layover. You may arrive by 4 p.m., but you arrive exhausted, and in no mood to do anything for the rest of the day, so the 6 hours of travel really ends up being a long, stressfully wasted day.
|There's a lovely lounge car, and watching the scenery go by is pretty mesmerizing|
With the train, we made our way leisurely to the station for a 2:45 p.m. departure, handed our check bags to an attendant in 5 min., and ate sandwiches while we waited for the train. We had a leisurely ride up, the bulk of it taken up by sleep (and I, who have difficulty sleeping in strange places, actually managed a decent amount of rest), had an enjoyable dinner, and we arrived at 9 a.m., rested and ready for the whole day.
|And you have a guy whose job it is to make sure you are happy and comfortable|
We were about where we would have been if we had traveled by air: rested and cognizant by 9 a.m. the following day. The only problem is that Amtrak is becoming increasingly popular, especially during the holidays, and the private sleeper cars go fast.