In March, due to multiple family emergencies and spring break, I took the long eight-hour trip back and forth from Berkeley to my hometown in Bakersfield three times by train. Here are some of the things I learned through my experience.
One of the first things I discovered was that working on my coursework on a moving train triggered massive and unpleasant headaches for me. It was a little frustrating, especially since my time on the train was often the only moments I had to catch up on school work. Luckily, though, during one of my last trips, I noticed that if I interspersed my screen time with long breaks to rest my eyes and brain, I was able to avoid any major headaches that could interfere with my work.
You should never schedule meetings on the days you are traveling, especially when it comes to taking trips on the train. The train ended up being late every time I traveled back to Berkeley, ranging from 30-minute to two-hour delays, depending on the day. Each time, though, the staff was really apologetic about the delays, especially since many were due to train malfunctions that had to be resolved before we left. Now, I always make sure to not schedule anything until at least three hours after the estimated arrival time, so I won’t have to worry about rescheduling plans.
Compared to the Greyhound though, the people at Amtrak were always really friendly and willing to help passengers when they needed it. The trains themselves were also pretty comfortable and pleasant compared to other Greyhound buses I’ve taken before. The bathrooms on the train were pretty clean, especially compared to the horror story that was the Greyhound bus bathroom (but that’s a story for another time). Also, in terms of mask mandates, most people seemed to be wearing masks on the train, especially the conductors and those who worked for Amtrak, which can be relieving for people worried about getting sick.
Thursdays were hands down the nicest day to travel for me, especially because the train was nearly empty, and I got most of the space around me to myself, whereas Sundays and Saturdays were always the busiest, and I had to sit next to multiple people throughout the day. So if you ever get the chance to travel Thursdays or any day in the middle of the week, I would definitely recommend it over traveling on the weekend.
Ultimately, traveling so many times during this past month was really draining, especially since I had to deal with other family issues alongside the long train rides. I did learn a lot of tips and tricks through my experience though, which I hope you find useful for your next trip on the Amtrak.