When my family and I travel through Europe, most of our travels are by train. I’m not sure why, but sometimes I forget that we have a friendly rail system right in our own backyard. Silly, I know, but I was so excited to have the opportunity to experience our own Amtrak rail line recently.
As I type this, I’m sitting in Car 9, Seat 3 of Amtrak Cascades 506 from Vancouver, BC Canada back home to Portland, Oregon. I just spent a whirlwind 24 hours exploring and adventuring in Fraser Valley, and I can’t wait to share my adventures and travel tips with you soon! (Visit my Instagram photos for a sneak peek!)
In the meantime, I wanted to share my experiences traveling by train. The ride from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, BC Canada is eight hours going north; the return trip is approximately 8.5 hours going south. There are 14 stops total between Portland and Vancouver.
It’s a smooth ride that takes you through some stunning landscapes that you won’t see if you drive I-5 from Portland to Vancouver (especially since you’re most likely focused on all that crazy traffic, am I right?).
Amtrak Travel Tips: Things You Need To Know Before Traveling by Train
If you’ve never taken the Amtrak Cascades before, here are some things you need to know before you go.
1. Once you arrive, the process is similar to air travel: there’s a ticket counter at each station where you check in and get your tickets, if you don’t already have your e-ticket. You then look for your train number on the reader board, and line up to get your seat assignment. In Portland, you can line up about 30 minutes before your train leaves, and for our trip, there was a long line, so be sure to get there with plenty of time to spare.
2. You’ll find car numbers on the side of each train car, and seat numbers are above each seat. Once you get to your seat, place your seat assignment paper in the little plastic slit that holds the seat numbers. This is how train personnel, and other travelers, know that seat is taken.
3. Each passenger is allowed two pieces of luggage and one personal item, just like most commercial flights. Like on an airline, there is space beneath the seat in front of you for a handbag or small backpack, and space overhead for carryon luggage. There are also luggage racks behind the last seat of each car, and you can check larger luggage pieces.
4. If you are hungry or thirsty, there is a Bistro Car, usually situated between Business and Coach class. On Amtrak Cascades, you’ll find breakfast sandwiches, bagels, yogurt parfaits, turkey sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and cookies, as well as a selection of soft drinks, wine, and beer. Note: if you have any dietary restrictions, I recommend bringing your own snacks and breakfast/lunch/dinner, as there are almost no gluten free, dairy free, egg free options in the Amtrak Cascades Bistro. In the pic above, you can see that I purchased the chicken teriyaki bowl and an apple, along with my own snack pack of Blue Diamond Almonds Blueberry Almonds, which I found to be a satisfying healthy sweet treat for the trip! If there’s an item you wish to purchase at the Bistro that is out of stock, you can check back after they restock the food inventory in Seattle.
5. Right next to the Bistro Car is the Dining Car, and I recommend enjoying your meals there if there is an empty table. The Dining Car gives you some room to stretch your legs a bit and eat on a full table versus your seatback tray. Try to be considerate and only take up a table here if you are eating or drinking.
6. Unlike air travel, you are not limited in terms of liquids that you can bring while traveling via train, so I highly recommend that you bring a bottle of water for the trip. And don’t forget snacks! I’m glad I brought these Blue Diamond Almond Blueberry Almonds and Blue Diamond Almond Salted Caramel Almonds with me to snack on while I worked on the train. They are both a good combination of salty and sweet, and either would be great to top off the yogurt parfait from the Bistro car.
7. Speaking of work, there is free WiFi on Amtrack Cascades route, and I found it to be fairly reliable on both trips. It’s a great way to get some work done while enjoying the gorgeous scenery!
Restrooms are located at the back of each car, except for the very last car, in most cases. There are also trash and recycling receptacles behind the last seat in each car.
8. While leg room is similar on Amtrak Cascades to commercial airlines, there is more space in the middle aisle, so it’s easier to get up and walk around as you need to. There are also spots between trains where you can stand and stretch your legs for a bit while enjoying the views. This is also where you should take cell phone calls so as not to disturb your neighboring travelers.
I really enjoyed the Amtrack Cascades route from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, BC. If you have travel plans anywhere between Portland and Vancouver in the future, definitely check it out!
Visit the Amtrack website for full details, including current ticket pricing and schedule, of the Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, BC Amtrack Cascades route.
Have you ever taken the Amtrack Cascades train, or embarked on other train travel within the US? Share your experiences in the comments below!
This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. All opinions and photos are, as always, my own.