Taking The Train From Los Angeles To Chicago For Christmas.


Well well well….after much discussion, my wife and I decided to bite the bullet and buy train tickets to Chicago for Christmas. After looking for weeks and weeks for reasonably priced airfare for the dates we wanted, we started talking about taking the train and turning our trip into an adventure. With some debates about the 40 hours on the train each way, we bought the tickets yesterday and there is no going back now! Figuring that we would be having children soon, we decided this would be a pretty cool adventure for the two of us to take by ourselves. Sure, it cost a little more than the expensive plane tickets would have, but we get our own bedroom on the train! Our food and drinks is included in the price, we get the newspaper delivered each morning to our room along with bottled water and coffee, and we even get turn down service after dinner. I have never even had turn down service at a hotel – never mind on a train. Add in the fact that we will be contributing way less pollution into the environment by traveling by rail instead of flying, and we are really excited about this experience.

Our route takes us from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, through the plains and into Chicago. The best part? Because of the different times that the trains leave going each direction, we will be awake for different scenery each way, so we won’t miss anything.

So really, what is this post doing on a personal finance blog? Because sometimes spending money is all about the experience. We decided that since it was going to cost us a fortune to fly to Chicago, we might as well spend that money on something we have both wanted to do for a long time – a pseudo-cross country journey by rail. Since we won’t be a 2 member family for much longer, we wanted to take full advantage of this fact in order to do something we really wanted to accomplish. Sure, we could still travel by rail later in life, but why not now? We have the money and we were going to spend it anyway on flying. But this way we get to have a pretty cool experience along the way, rather than dealing with the headache that is the airport during the holidays. Thanks to the fact that I work from home on my own schedule and my wife gets several weeks off at Christmas (she is a teacher), we have the luxury of taking our time getting to our family during this season. In January I will post again about this journey for those of you interested in trying out our rail system. I am hoping we have a great time and that we want to do it again sometime!

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Comments (12)

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  1. Patrick says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I’ve always wanted to try something like that, but I’ve never had the occassion. Have a great trip. 🙂

  2. bo says:

    That sounds awesome. You will definitely have to do a follow up post on it to let me know how it went because my wife and I want to do that too.

  3. This sounds wonderful! And you’re absolutely right in thinking that you should make the most of the couple time you have now – kids will change that like you wouldn’t believe!

  4. plonkee says:

    Sound great and reminds me that I still want to take the Trans-Siberian Express. I reckon kids would enjoy an overnight train ride more than a plane trip, but 40 hours might be a bit much.

  5. paidtwice says:

    I took the train cross country (from Boston, MA to Portland, OR) when I was in college and it was FUN. We were poor broke college students (hmm, only the college student part has changed, hmm) and we slept in our seats. no bedroom cabin for us! lol.

    So fun.

  6. Kyle says:

    Good for you guys! What a great way to see the southwest and the rockies!

  7. david says:

    I will be sure to let everyone know about the experience after we do it. So many people complain about Amtrak’s service that I guess we will see for ourselves!

  8. […] Two Dollars: Taking The Train From Los Angeles to Chicago For Christmas. Life is about experiences, and this will be a great on I bet! I once took the train cross-country […]

  9. Cap says:

    I took a trip from southern california to houston earlier this year, and it took about 36 or so hours, on the Sunset Limited (flew for the trip back due to time constraint).

    I’m assuming your route is the Southwest Chief. It should be an interesting and fun experience. Having dinner in the dinning cart w/ strangers is somehow warm and fun… just make sure you and your wife are prepare for the trip. There are numerous sites online w/ good preparation list, not to mention amtrak’s own.

    Stuff I regret not forgetting to bring w/ me were ear plugs and motion sickness medicine (didn’t realize I’d get slightly queasy). Thankfully I got a sleeper, so it was comfortable enough for one person.

    Try the search engine w/ phrases like “Southwest Chief Trip Report” to read up on other’s experience, so you have an idea of what to expect. Make sure to plan for delays (as long as 8-12 hours), as the freights own majority of the rail and delays are inevitable (even though they are supposedly factored in).

    Either case, should be a great experience! I plan to try one more route one of these days, most likely the Empire Builder (read that it’s an awesome route). Everyone should take Amtrak at least once!

  10. david says:

    Hey Cap, thanks for the comment and appreciate your input. We are taking the Southwest Chief and are looking forward to it. I will do some searching and will tell the wife to bring motion sickness medicine as she tends to be susceptible to it. Will certainly report back on the experience!

  11. Hazzard says:

    My wife, 4 year old daughter and I took the Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland a few weeks ago. It was the first time we’ve done that and it was great!!! Yeah, it’s only a little over 3 hours and we just had standard coach seats but it was so much better than driving. It was fun to just take a backpack and hit the rails. It felt like we were being far more adventurous than normal (yes boring lives).

    Anyway, having a cabin on the train should make it even better! I bet you have a blast and I’m looking forward to reading all about it.

  12. […] great example this is David over at My Two Dollars who has decided to take the train from Los Angeles to Chicago for the Christmas […]