How an Amtrak Train Trip Sparked a Romance, and Changed the Way I Date (2023)

Train travel taught me to be my own matchmaker.

How an Amtrak Train Trip Sparked a Romance, and Changed the Way I Date (1)

One day while I was home sick, languishing in bed and binge-watching reality TV, I stumbled upon The Millionaire Matchmaker. The matchmaker, Patti Stanger, asked a cadre of beautiful women, “Where are you going to meet the people you want to meet? If you want to meet a doctor, you’ve got to hang out at restaurants by the hospital. If you want to meet a lawyer, frequent bars by the courthouse after work. You must go where the people you want to meet are, increasing the likelihood of crossing their path."

This piece of advice stuck with me. I had been single for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t that I was looking to meet and marry a millionaire, but I was interested in meeting a man whose life experiences dovetailed with mine. A man who was financially independent and successful. I was entrepreneurial. A writer. A business owner. And I was a full-time single parent of a 10-year-old boy. These experiences shaped my worldview so much that I often found it challenging to connect with men who I didn't have more than one in common with. But unlike doctors and lawyers, identifying a place to meet an entrepreneur or writer with kids seemed a little trickier.

Since my divorce, most of the men I'd dated, I’d met online. But I found dating online to be an uneven experience. While I’d met some good guys, I’d also encountered men who had misrepresented themselves: on a sabbatical as opposed to unemployed, on a road trip as opposed to living out of a car, single as opposed to married. I was working hard to provide for myself and my son, and I was interested in finding a partner who could do the same.

I’d often thought traveling would be an excellent opportunity to employ the matchmaker's advice. For instance, flying first class might provide a perfect opportunity to meet a worldly man who was also self-sufficient. But traveling lay outside my budget, much less first class.

(Video) The Don'ts of Amtrak Train Travel in the US

However, with a few days to myself last February, my college roommate invited me to join her at her family's condo on Coronado Island just off San Diego. She suggested I take the train down from my home in Los Angeles. While flying first class was out of the question, I thought first class on a train might suit my budget. And indeed, it did.

I met Mark on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner en route to San Diego. We sat across the aisle from each other, the gleaming Pacific Ocean whizzing past us on our left. We struck up a conversation when we both ordered Chardonnay at noon. Thanks to our business-class tickets, Amtrak's equivalent of first class, wine was free. Snacks, too. Mark said he was an investor in the restaurant industry, and bound for Tijuana to check out the food scene. Perhaps I was apprehensive given my difficult dating experiences, but I'd adopted a healthy dose of skepticism regarding any potential suitor.

He looked clean-cut, buoyant, and business-y. Outfitted in sportswear, donning earbuds, and with a close crop fade hairstyle, he looked like he’d just sprinted for the train while on a conference call. Banter came easy to us. Air felt lighter around him. I enjoyed his company. And thanks to the masks Amtrak required we wear at the time, for much of the ride, I could only see half his face — though the half I saw, I liked.

When Mark pressed pause on our conversation so I might “get back to work,” he said, referencing the papers strewn out before me, there was plenty on the train to distract me. Prominent outlets to power my laptop, Wi-fi (though it tended to be spotty), and a majestic ocean competing for attention on my left. I enjoyed the gentle rocking motion of the train. In fact, I found it so soothing, it lulled me to sleep. The wine may have helped. (Mark told me later I’d fallen asleep snoring with my mouth open.)

When I woke from my nap, I was surprised (and disappointed) to find Mark no longer seated across the aisle from me. Two girls were sitting there in his place. My disappointment was short-lived when I learned Mark was now seated behind me. He confessed he had relinquished his seat so two friends could sit together. Most travelers on the train had commandeered one of the two seats on either side of the train. I found it interesting that Mark chose to sit behind me instead of next to me. I had an open seat on my right. Was he afraid I'd get the wrong idea?

(Video) How to Survive 3 Nights in a SEAT on U.S. TRAINS, Solo | Amtrak California Zephyr

Despite how much I enjoyed his company, I wasn't sure if Mark was interested in me. Or, if so, in what way. When the possibility of meeting up in San Diego arose, it quickly dwindled after Mark revealed he wouldn’t be back from Tijuana till Saturday. I was scheduled to leave San Diego on Friday. Though upon this discovery, Mark suggested we meet for a drink back home in L.A. I bounced my brows and replied in no uncertain terms, "I'd like that." I stopped short of clapping and jumping up and down. In the meantime, Mark offered to text me some restaurant recommendations my friend and I might enjoy during our stay in Coronado.

How an Amtrak Train Trip Sparked a Romance, and Changed the Way I Date (3)

While meeting Mark that day seemed fortuitous, I now realize several calculated steps I took on the train in hopes of meeting a man with whom I had more than one thing in common — everything from where I sat to what I ordered to how I chose to carry my luggage.

For instance, I purchased Amtrak’s one-way business-class ticket on the Pacific Surfliner, instead of a fare in coach. The Pacific Surfliner runs along the southern coast of California between San Luis Obispo and San Diego. I told the conductor it was my first time traveling on the Surfliner and asked him where he suggested I sit. He said, if I wanted a good view of the Pacific Ocean, sit on the left-hand side of the train. He also added that the second top-floor cabin (top-floor cabins are reserved for business class) was nicer and more comfortably upholstered than the first. Fate also played a role on the train that day. Unbeknownst to me, Mark had already selected the seat across the aisle from mine when I sat down. He was in the forward cabin when I arrived.

How an Amtrak Train Trip Sparked a Romance, and Changed the Way I Date (4)

(Video) The One Tiny Law That Keeps Amtrak Terrible

I didn't initially order wine on the train that day, concerned about what my fellow travelers might think. Wine on a weekday at noon? But I was on a trip on a weekday, by myself, without my boy. This was no ordinary day for me. I was on vacation. Still, I refrained. But when I saw Mark order wine from across the aisle at no cost, I asked the conductor if I could trade my unopened Diet Coke for a miniature bottle of Chardonnay and a plastic cup. He obliged. This exchange sparked a conversation between Mark and me, where I confessed I had succumbed to wine envy. He asked what I was working on; I told him I was a writer.

Because I’m a single parent, I’m independent. Before my trip that day, I had reminded myself that if someone offered to help me during my travels, I should thank them and not deter them, as is my tendency. After all, this provided another opportunity for connection, and chivalry was a quality I valued in a potential partner. Now, I didn’t stuff an anvil in my bag and act helpless, but when Mark offered to carry my suitcase down the stairs and off the train, I smiled and thanked him.

Another advantage of meeting someone while traveling is that, provided you are hitting it off, you are a captive audience to each other for the time you’re in transit. Meeting while traveling also allows for greater intimacy. You’re on neutral turf and can let your guard down because, hey, you may never see each other again. Meeting on the train gave Mark and me a low-pressure opportunity to get to know one another in person. And I didn’t have to pay for a sitter. Or an Uber. Or a first date that can sometimes feel forced, awkward, and disappointing.

At one point during our time on the train, I probed Mark further on the nature of his investment business in the restaurant industry.

“Restaurants,” he replied.

“You own restaurants?” I asked.

“Yes, well, one’s a food truck.”

(Video) Amtrak Roomette, Bedrooms, and Seat Compared

Discussing his business seemed to make him uncomfortable, or so his body language told me. So, I abandoned the topic, with plans to revisit it later.

Toward the end of our train ride, Mark asked for my number. I gave it to him, including my first and last name. He texted me his as we pulled into our final stop. He carried my bag off the train, we wished each other farewell with plans to reconnect, and then parted ways in the downtown San Diego Santa Fe train depot.

When I thought to myself that day that Mark owned a food truck, it wasn’t till weeks later that I learned he not only owned a food truck, but he had revolutionized the food truck industry. (I learned this when I Googled him before our third date, at which point I told him so.) Along with his friend and business partner, who is now a celebrity chef, Mark spawned an entrepreneurial food truck movement worldwide, even inspiring a hit Hollywood movie. Given my dating experiences with men who had inflated their accomplishments, or even flat-out lied, Mark choosing to downplay his success only endeared him to me more. He was a chef by trade and an entrepreneur with a 12-year-old daughter. He had also been divorced for about a decade. Working my dating strategy into my travel plans had worked.

How an Amtrak Train Trip Sparked a Romance, and Changed the Way I Date (5)

Though while I had successfully used travel as a method of dating, the very things that drew me to Mark, the things we had in common, turned out to be what made it difficult for us to be together. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are driven, often prioritizing work above all else. And single parents, by definition, are busy. So, while we had great times together, which included more travel, these things we had in common, the ones I thought were pivotal to our connection, soon made our relationship unsustainable.

Mark was the first man I had met IRL and dated in years. He was the man I had hoped to meet on the train that day. My excitement grew the more Mark and I learned all we had in common. I enjoyed his humor. The wine. It was romantic. And for all my careful planning, inspired by The Millionaire Matchmaker, the main thing I did differently on the train that day was remain present. It was no ordinary day for me, that’s true. Time stopped on the train. And, like good travel forces us to do, I steeped in my surroundings. The glittering Pacific Ocean, the rhythmic swaying of the train car, the conductor calling out stations. And the stranger on my right. I carry this lesson with me in my quest to meet someone new.

(Video) Amtrak California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco

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Is it safe to ride the Amtrak? ›

Amtrak has upgraded its technology, fleet, stations and processes to make travel as seamless and safe as possible. We have made upgrades to the Amtrak app, where customers can book, get boarding information, and check train status from a mobile device and receive real-time information before boarding.

What does transfer mean on Amtrak? ›

Transfer train means a train that travels between a point of origin and a point of final destination not exceeding 20 miles.

How early should you arrive for Amtrak? ›

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

Can you get off Amtrak at stops? ›

Amtrak trains usually stop at stations for 3 minutes. Most Amtrak station stops are only for boarding passengers, and riders who are already on the train are not allowed to get off.

Where is the safest place to sit on an Amtrak train? ›

"The safest spot in a train, during an accident, is the center of the train," said Larry Mann, a rail safety lawyer who was the principal author of the Federal Railway Safety Act in 1970. In the event of a front-end or rear-end collision, the damage will be worse in those areas, Mann said.

Is it rude to talk on Amtrak? ›

Our advice, don't be a loud talker. By all means chat it up (not if you're in the quiet car… obvi), just do so quietly. All the space on Amtrak trains is a bit intoxicating in all the best ways.

Do you tip attendants on Amtrak? ›

General Guidelines: Tipping is NOT required, but is considered correct for the service crew personnel on the train. Recommendations: Snack bar attendant: roughly 10%. Dining car: 15% of menu prices (sleeping car passengers may want to note this when ordering their meals).

Do you tip room attendant on Amtrak? ›

While tipping isn't required, leaving a gratuity is the norm. Usually, for one night in a sleeper, I suggest about $10 per person/per night. If your room attendant brings your meals to you in your room, then think about adding more to the tip as you would have left a tip anyway for the dining car waiter.

What's the difference between a roommate and a bedroom on Amtrak? ›

Bedrooms are larger than roomettes and offer a sink and vanity with enclosed toilet and shower facilities. Spanning the width of the train car, Amtrak's family bedrooms are a cozy option for a family of four.

Do you tip Amtrak First Class? ›

Amtrak's Acela First Class

If you have a ticket for first class on Acela, an attendant will bring you your complimentary food and beverages. These people work hard to give you a good experience and help you along the way. Giving them a tip is a great thank you.

Can you sleep in your seat on Amtrak? ›

It IS possible to sleep in a coach seat. Our wide reclining chairs with tons of legroom and adjustable footrests will have you sleeping like a … well … you know. This gives you that warm and cozy feeling even as you're traveling across America!

Should I bring a pillow on Amtrak? ›

Some items are allowed in addition to your two bags

Travel necessities like pillows, blankets, computer cases or medical devices are allowed. The great news is those do not count toward your two-bag limit!

What happens if you sleep past your stop on Amtrak? ›

It's referred to as a "carry by" and they put you on the next train headed back the other way.

Does Amtrak have sniffer dogs? ›

Vapor wake detection dogs are trained to alert on a passing individual. Amtrak currently has the most K-9 units in the railroad industry with vapor wake capabilities. Additionally, The APD currently has two working narcotics detection K-9 teams.

Can you walk around on Amtrak? ›

You're allowed to walk about the train as often as you'd like. Just make sure to watch where you're walking onboard the train between cars. The safety plates often shift and pinch when the train is in motion.

Can coach passengers eat in the dining car on Amtrak? ›

You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars.

Is it better to sit at front or back of train? ›

It's pretty logical that the front car is the most dangerous place in a head-on collision, and the last car worst if the train is rear-ended, so National Association of Railroad Passengers president Ross Capon suggests riding in the middle cars.

Is sitting backwards on a train safer? ›

Safety experts also recommend choosing a rear-facing seat, because a person sitting there is less likely to be thrown forward during a collision. Trains are more likely to hit something side-on than head-on or from behind, according to the FRA.

Does Amtrak have cameras inside? ›

Inward-facing cameras are a key component of a robust safety culture and are an important element for promoting safe train operations. Inward-facing video cameras are another tool for Amtrak and industry regulators to monitor locomotive and engineer performance.

How much should I tip my Amtrak attendant? ›

The Complete North American Train Travel Guide,” recommends $5 per passenger per night for sleeping-car attendants, and the standard 15 percent of what the meals would cost if you paid (prices are on the menu) outright. Come prepared with a stash of small bills.

Why do Amtrak trains honk so much? ›

The train whistle, or horn, is an important part of our safety practices. The horn alerts people that a train is approaching a railroad crossing. It can also be used to warn animals or trespassers in our right-of-way along a section of track.

Do Amtrak employees get free tickets? ›

You, your spouse and eligible dependents are entitled to unlimited free and reduced-rate rail transportation on Amtrak, in addition to discounts from other travel industry providers. Additionally, through the Companion Pass Program, employees can have a guest accompany them while using their personal travel privilege.

Do Amtrak bedrooms lock? ›

Yes, there's a door that locks. Yes, there's a sink, vanity, coat hangers and a service button if you need help. All just for you; no sharing required. If you have a lot of luggage you can check your heavy bags and bring a smaller carry-on into your sleeper car to save space.

Is a sleeper car worth it on Amtrak? ›

Are Amtrak Sleeper Cars Worth It. Amtrak sleeper cars are a great way to see the country in a private accommodation. Getting a sleeper car is worth it as you'll be getting free meals and bags included. When you add up the cost savings of a hotel in addition to the other benefits, the Amtrak sleeper car is a good value.

Do you need cash on Amtrak? ›

Tickets can be purchased in person at any staffed Amtrak station. You can pay with your credit card, cash or personal check ($25 minimum purchase and two forms of ID and credit card required).

How much do you tip a cabin steward per day? ›

There aren't any hard-and-fast guidelines for this type of tip since it's contingent on your experience, but $25 to $40 on behalf of a couple roughly works out to an extra $2 to $3 per person, per day, for a seven-night cruise.

How much do you tip an Amtrak red cap? ›

How Much Should I tip Red Cap Service? I recommend $5-10 per person using the service. A general rule of thumb for baggage services is $2-3 per bag, so if you have a ton of luggage be sure to take that into consideration. I've always found the Red Cap employees to be extraordinarily nice and helpful.

Do Amtrak bedrooms have showers? ›

Each room includes a big picture window, newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens and access to a restroom and shower in your car. A dedicated First Class attendant will provide turndown service, assist with meals and help with luggage.

Do Amtrak sleepers have private bathrooms? ›

Unlike roomettes, our bedrooms also have an in-room toilet, shower and a sofa that converts to a bed. Travelers looking to stretch out and upgrade from our roomette should explore our bedroom option.

What is the price difference between a Amtrak roomette and bedroom? ›

A step up from a roomette, a bedroom accommodation on long-distance Amtrak trains offers even more space, as well as a private bathroom. The roomette cost about $500 and the bedroom cost about $1,000.

Does Amtrak First Class include food? ›

Exclusive to First-Class Passengers

Once onboard, you'll enjoy complimentary at-seat meal and beverage service provided by our onboard staff of First Class attendants. Selections include freshly prepared chef inspired entrees as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Can you get in trouble for sitting in first class on a train? ›

You will still get thrown out of first class, and may even be fined, but at least you can bask in the moral superiority that comes with getting a photo taken of you holding your ticket and looking a bit disappointed.

Should you tip a coach driver? ›

How much should I tip my charter bus driver? Most bus companies suggest tipping your driver between 10% and 20% of your bus rental's total cost. If you're thinking, “Well, that's a wide price range,” that would be a fair assessment!

Can you shower on Amtrak? ›

For customers seeking plenty of comfort and room, Bedrooms provide twice the space as a Roomette and feature a sofa and armchair by day and upper and lower berths by night. Each room includes a big picture window, fresh towels and linens, and an in-room sink, restroom, and shower.

Where is the best place to sit on a train? ›

"The safest spot in a train, during an accident, is the center of the train," said Mann, who was the principal author of the Federal Railway Safety Act in 1970. "Because if there is a front-end collision or a rear-end collision, the damages will be greater at those locations.

Can I bring a pillow and blanket on Amtrak? ›

4. Bring a Travel Pillow and Blanket. While Amtrak does provide bedding in the Sleeping car rooms, you may wish to have your own pillow and an extra blanket for warmth. You may also ask your Sleeping car attendant for an additional blanket when they come to turn down your bed for a cozier night's sleep.

How should I dress for Amtrak? ›

Wear comfortable clothes

We're not talking full-on pajamas, but breathable, stretchy clothing will make your ride more enjoyable. If you choose to have dinner in our awesome dining car, the dress code is still casual. Feel free to wear jeans and a T-shirt or take it old school and wear a dinner jacket.

Does a purse count as a bag on Amtrak? ›

personal items do not count toward the carry-on baggage limit. Each passenger on board the train; each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches.

Do coach seats on Amtrak recline? ›

Coach class is offered on every Amtrak train and features wide, reclining seats with ample legroom, no middle seat option and at-seat trays, reading lights and electric outlets. Restrooms are located in each car. Amtrak Guest Rewards customers traveling in Coach earn 2 points per dollar spent.

What is the price of a sleeper on Amtrak? ›

Customers selecting a Roomette will find comfortable seating alongside a big picture window; newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens, and a dedicated attendant.
Private Rooms on Amtrak Auto Train Now Available for as Low as $99.
Limited Time Fares*One travelerTwo travelers^
*Plus the cost of your vehicle ^Double occupancy required for Roomettes and Bedrooms.
2 more rows
Jan 12, 2021

Do Amtrak conductors wake you up? ›

If you fall asleep on Amtrak and your destination is coming up, an Amtrak conductor will wake you up. When you board the train the conductor will put a destination ticket above your seat to let them know which stop you are getting off at.

Is it cheaper to fly or go by Amtrak? ›

Train travel is often cheaper than flying, in part because you can generally take more with you before paying extra baggage fees. It can also be more convenient and relaxing than driving, especially if you'd be driving in an unfamiliar place or driving for many hours nonstop to get to your destination.

Does Amtrak search your person? ›

If you travel by Amtrak or another public carrier, you should know that officers could come aboard and ask for a search of your belongings.

Can you smoke vape on Amtrak? ›

All Amtrak trains, Thruway buses and stations are entirely non-smoking. No one may smoke anything in any area on trains, on Thruway services, in stations or in any other location where smoking is prohibited. This includes: Electronic smoking devices, such as electronic cigarettes.

Do Amtrak cars have cameras? ›

Currently, all Amtrak Locomotive and Control Cars operating in revenue passenger service are equipped with outward-facing cameras and advanced systems that monitor locomotive operation. Amtrak is a registered service mark of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.

Are Amtrak rides bumpy? ›

While I was impressed with the roomette's use of space, having just 20 square feet of extra room to move around in the bedroom on the way home was undoubtedly a better experience. Both overnight train rides I took were constantly bumpy.

How fast do Amtrak trains go? ›

Most Amtrak trains travel between 110 mph to 145 mph in the corridor, depending on the track and proximity to stations.

Is it safer to fly or take a train? ›

The accidents may raise questions about the safety of train travel. While flying on an airplane is the safest mode of long-distance travel, according to the International Air Transport Association, trains are your best option on the ground.

Is Amtrak safer than car? ›

Trains are statistically much safer than driving.

Is it safe to travel by train now? ›

But for people travelling through train, it's imperative to understand the measures one can adopt to have a safe journey to and from work. Traveling on trains for any length of time involves sitting or standing within 6 feet of others, which may increase one's risk of getting COVID-19.

What is security like on Amtrak? ›

Amtrak protects rail infrastructure with traditional solutions such as high security fencing, lighting, access control and video surveillance systems, it is also exploring and evaluating emerging technologies to improve security levels.

Is Amtrak hot or cold? ›

For the most enjoyable experience, especially during a long-distance journey, you'll want to wear clothing that is super comfortable, along with warm socks. Oftentimes, the train cars can get cold, even if you're not seated by the doors that connect the cars together.

Is it hard to sleep on Amtrak? ›

It IS possible to sleep in a coach seat. Our wide reclining chairs with tons of legroom and adjustable footrests will have you sleeping like a … well … you know. This gives you that warm and cozy feeling even as you're traveling across America! Load up your cell phone or tablet with a few movies.

How many Amtrak trains derail a year? ›

While fatalities from train derailments are rare, derailments themselves are actually quite common. From 1990, the first year the BTS began tracking derailments and injuries on a yearly basis, to 2021, there have been 54,539 accidents in which a train derailed. That's an average of 1,704 derailments per year.

What time can you sleep in train? ›

You can sleep in your berth only from 10 PM to 6 AM. You can't keep your berth up more than this sleeping hours duration.

Where will you wash your hands after having lunch in a train journey? ›

Trains have washrooms and washbasins in each coach. Passengers can use it to wash hands or other sanitation activities. They are kept clean by railway cleaners.

Should we be vaccinated to travel in train? ›

Commenting on the impact travel curbs have on livelihood, the Bombay high court on Monday said all who are vaccinated must be allowed to travel by Mumbai's local trains.

What is the safest part of a train? ›

"The safest spot in a train, during an accident, is the center of the train," said Mann, who was the principal author of the Federal Railway Safety Act in 1970. "Because if there is a front-end collision or a rear-end collision, the damages will be greater at those locations.

Is the front or back of a train safer? ›

Safety experts recommend rear-facing seats because passengers will be pushed into their seats instead of thrown forward, resulting in less injuries.

Why do people take Amtrak instead of flying? ›

Unlike during a flight, train rides are not only relaxing and turbulence-free, but under most circumstances, it is stress-free. There are no take-off, landing, or seat belt signs, and for most of the journey, you are free to get up and walk around instead of being stuck in your seat for endless amounts of time.

Can you lock the door on Amtrak bedroom? ›

You can lock the door when you are inside the roomette, but you cannot lock it from the outside, so avoid leaving valuables in the roomette when you are not there. Bedrooms offer larger private accommodations at an extra cost. The only non-private seating on Amtrak trains is coach seating.


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