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Travelling By Rail - A Guide To Sleeper Cars

Travelling By Rail - A Guide To Sleeper Cars

While not the cheapest, and certainly not the fastest option, travel by rail can be an adventure unlike any other. Cross-continental trains are the way to go in Europe though they aren’t “all the rage” yet in the U.S.

Train options with sleeper cars are becoming more popular for travel in America with Amtrak, and it might be just the way to get to your next destination. Get on board with this trend that may just become the next big thing. Follow this guide to traveling via sleeper cars:

Determine Which Option Is Best For You

There are many options with a variety of sleeper car types. Amtrak features private bedrooms that fit either two or four adults, and even come with their own bathroom equipped with a shower.

“Roomettes” are perfect for one or two passengers, with seats that convert into beds. These rooms, however, share a bathroom, usually around 10-12 bedrooms sharing two bathrooms.

Before you book, take a virtual tour of the trains, rooms, and restrooms here.

Know The Tricks Of The Trade

Like plane travel, sleeper car travel also has a few tricks you should know before you ride. Make sure you do the following:

  • Bring an extra blanket. While the train might provide one, the cars are often cold, and the blankets are thin. Be prepared and bring your own.
  • Carry earplugs. Even if there isn’t a lot of “people” noise, it could be hard for some to sleep with all the noise of the train. Earplugs will help reduce this and allow you to sleep easier.
  • Keep your valuables close to your person at night. Even though you may have your own room or bed, keep your personal items next to you while you sleep.
  • Charge your electronics at night. Many sleeper cars have outlets, but they could be in obscure places. There could also be a limited number of plugs, so charging your gadgets while you sleep can prevent any issues involving dead cell phones, tablets, and music players.
  • Utilize all of the amenities. Many sleeper cars have reading lights, Wi-Fi, garment racks, fold-down tables, and fresh towels and linens. Make sure to take advantage of all the amenities offered during your trip.

Explore By Day, Travel By Night

In Europe, a common way to get around is to travel at night. This is where sleeper cars come into play, one of the most popular rails being is Eurail.

These trains often have full-service restaurants on board and many other amenities. Unlike planes, you can also bring your own food or drink and the best part is – there’s no liquid’s limit!

The City Night Line (CNL) is a great option because of its wide variety of destinations. Go to sleep in one city, wake up in another. CNL travels to Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Milan, Venice, and Rome. There are nine different seating options, with sleeping availability ranging from a reclining seat to a deluxe double sleeper bedroom.

The Thello night train allows passengers to get on in Paris and wake up in Milan or Venice. With tickets from as little as 35 Euros per person, this is a great option for tourists visiting these busy cities.

Learn more about the different sleeping options on these trains here.

Book Early

Like plane travel, train sleeper cars fill up fast. Since almost all trains and sleeper cars require mandatory reservations in advance, it’s best to book early.

It is sometimes possible to upgrade to a sleeper cabin once on-board the train, but if it’s full then this isn’t a viable option.

Amtrak recommends booking well in advance of travel, keeping in mind the needs of everyone in your party.

Where Can You Go?

Popular U.S. trains and routes:

California Zephyr: Chicago, Denver, Glenwood Springs, San Francisco

Sunset Limited: New Orleans, San Antonio, Los Angeles

Texas Eagle: Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles

Amtrak Cascades: Vancouver, BC, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Salem, Eugene

Empire Builder: Chicago, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Spokane, Portland/Seattle

Capitol Limited: Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago

Cardinal: New York, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago

Lake Shore Limited: New York/Boston, Albany, Chicago

Auto Train: Washington, DC, Orlando, FL

Northeast Regional: Boston, Providence/Springfield, Hartford, New York, Washington, DC, Lynchburg/Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk/Newport News, Virginia Beach


No matter which continent you’re in or what city you’re trying to get to, chances are there’s a train you can take. Why waste precious daylight traveling when you can get where you’re going at during the night? Next time you need to travel, consider getting there via sleeper car, and arrive well-rested and ready to go.

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