Tips for wheelchair-friendly train travel

accessible train car

The accessible sleeper cars on Amtrak are roomy and comfortable.

Are you traveling sometime soon? With the taste of fall already in the air, it may be tempting to just stay home and kick back. But before you spend your holiday weekend watching train video footage on Netflix thanks to the latest ‘Slow TV’ phenomenon, I highly recommend planning an actual train trip instead!

My husband, George, and I packed our bags a few weeks back, made sure we were well stocked with activities, snacks, and the perfect soundtrack, and we climbed aboard Amtrak’s “City of New Orleans” to journey from Chicago to New Orleans.

It was our first overnight train trip, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how wheelchair friendly the train is for passengers like me.

City of New Orleans TrainWe reserved a wheelchair accessible bedroom, complete with an accessible restroom.  Our tickets were affordable, and meals are included.  The meals, which were really tasty, were delivered to us by an attentive porter because I wasn’t able to get to the dining car – it’s upstairs and the train aisle ways are too narrow for wheelchair access. Still, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, and it was nice having a private, fairly roomy, quiet car to ourselves. The beds were pretty comfy too. Although George, who rolled around on the top bunk, would tell you a different story.

Speedy travel it was not – our one-way trip took roughly 17 hours — but it sure was an adventure! I even had the time to try my hand at learning chess. Playing chess is going to take some more practice, and I plan to get some in on my next train trip.  Trust me… the real thing’s even better than Slow TV!

Sound interesting? Here are some tips for planning an accessible train trip:

  • Call Amtrak to make your reservation instead of booking it online. The agent will have questions about everything from wheelchair equipment to addressing special needs that aren’t accounted for on the Amtrak website.
  • Book early! The handicapped accessible “H” cars – or bedrooms — are very popular.
  • You don’t have to check your bags. There is plenty of room for a suitcase or two on the racks outside of the accessible sleeper car. That said, it’s nice to have an overnight bag handy in the car itself.  And if you want to check your bag, you must do so at least one hour before departure.

If you have train travel tips of your own to share, we’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment.


 

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