Is Amtrak train travel a cool experience or a budget friendly option or something else? Depends upon who you ask, I think. When I was a teenager, we took Amtrak from Miami to NYC, Washington DC and upstate NY. I remember it as an awesome experience with different cars for food, snacks, and games. So when my teenage daughter asked about it, I thought why not!
We experienced two different trips in one as we traveled from Jacksonville to NYC and back. On the trip there, we did not meet the staff and the bathrooms were never cleaned. That in itself ruins a train ride. (Think inside Port-a-Potty subject to the movement of a train.) The staff was not friendly and at one point, closed and locked the bathroom instead of cleaning a mess.
On the return trip, we met Joseph. He introduced himself to everyone. He offered to bring things from the dining car. He picked up the garbage. He cleaned the bathrooms on a regular basis. Totally different experience but still not as cool as I remember.
The cost was about the same as low cost airfare for the economy seats. The big difference is there is no charge for luggage. If you opt for the sleeper cars, it’s comparable to last minute airfare. But the benefit is that you have your own bathroom (still Port-a-Potty type) and your meals are included.
We found that the other travelers were friendly and most used this mode of travel on a regular basis. They traveled with coolers full of food and drinks, blankets and pillows. They purchased an additional seat so they would have a whole row to themselves. They spent time in the snack area working at the tables.
All in all, it was an ok experience and we were pleased to find that there was Wi-Fi and electrical outlets for electronics. I don’t think I will do it again though, unless it’s a short enough trip to avoid the bathrooms.