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Report 1555: Train to Louisiana and Then Touring-With Eleven Year Old Girls

By Robyin from New York, Summer 2008

Trip Description: July 20 - 29, 2008 Los Angeles to New Orleans by Train & then Louisiana by Car With My 11 Year Old Daughters

Destinations: Countries - North America; Regions/Cities - Southern US

Categories: Family/Friends; Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Garden Visits; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; Adults and Young Children

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Page 1 of 4: Train Los Angeles to New Orleans

This trip was my family's 2008 adventure. We live in New York and normally go to Los Angeles every summer to visit Grandma. But this year we had free time, and I, having lived in Louisiana many years ago, wanted to go from there to New Orleans by train with my twin eleven-year-old girls and then spend a week with them in Louisiana.

The Sunset Limited travels between Los Angeles and New Orleans three times a week (MWSu). We reserved our tickets on-line (Amtrak) for Sunday, July 20, 2008, 2:30pm. We also made reservations for our first three nights in New Orleans and our last night in a hotel near the New Orleans airport.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We arrived at Union Station in Los Angeles at 12:30pm. Went to “Tickets” and were given our tickets and checked our bags. One is allowed three checked bags each and two carry-ons plus personal items. We brought carry-ons containing toiletries, change of clothes, blankets, pillows, games and books. We also brought two bags of food – snacks, peanut butter and jelly, bread, some canned pasta we could open without a can opener. We were told to go to Customer Service to get boarding passes but the Information Window Agent told us that we had to wait until about 2:00pm when our train was called to get boarding passes.

Since it was only 1:00pm, we went across the street to Olvera Street. Olvera Street is a historic street in downtown Los Angeles which is now filled with Mexican shops and restaurants. We had a quick lunch and returned before 1:00.

I didn't hear our train called, but I noticed a line forming and joined it. They were giving out boarding passes for our train, among others. I got ours. The agent was completely inflexible about where we were to sit. He gave us the next three available seats – which were two together and the aisle seat next to them. This turned out to be a comfortable arrangement for us.

A little after 2:00, they called our train for boarding. The train was composed of seating cars (double decker with seats on top and bathrooms below), sleepers, plus a dining car and a sightseer car. The sightseer car had seats facing out to large windows as well as tables convenient to play games, etc. It had a snack bar below. We were told that no personal food was allowed in this car.

The first afternoon passed pleasantly. We read and napped in our seats. We had planned to eat dinner in the dining car, but they ran out of reservations. Happily we were first on the waiting list and got called at a reasonable hour for dinner (6pm). I had salad, game hen, rice and veggies and the girls ordered chicken strips, veggies and mashed potatoes from the children’s menu and ice cream for dessert. Dinner and the service were good and we were able to take our time eating.

After dinner we sat in the sightseer car playing games until we were tired. Sleeping in our seats was not comfortable but was tolerable. The chairs were large and able to lean back and had adjustable footrests but ... worse was that it was chilly due to the AC. They had given us little pillows but no blankets. Having been warned, I had a light blanket but it was inadequate.

Monday, July 21, 2008

We were awakened at 8am (new time zone) with announcements that the dining car was open for breakfast and an update on our train schedule. We were now two hours behind schedule – probably due to waiting on side tracks while freight trains passed us.

We brushed our teeth in the bathrooms (paper cups provided) and had breakfast in the dining car. The eggs weren’t very good but the French toast and oatmeal brunch were OK.

We spent the next many hours knocking around between the sightseer car and our seats and took a walk down the length of the train. We peeked at the sleeper cars. Their small size made them seem not worth the extra money, unless you were desperate to lay down at night (not a bad thought!).

At lunchtime they ran out of reservations again and weren’t taking the overflow until 2pm. Finally everyone did get served, but we couldn’t wait and ate our personal food before that. There was a similar problem with dinner. We got put on a waiting list but when we finally arrived, most menu items were sold out.

The sightseer car was packed with kids today and was very noisy. We played cards with another young passenger. My kids are shy and didn’t talk to other kids on the train. I think otherwise they would have had fun, as did I, talking to other passengers.

Suggestions for things to bring besides stuff to do:

  • Food/snacks
  • Big warm blankets
  • A sweater or sweatshirt. I was often chilly due to the air-conditioning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Today we didn’t attempt any train food except for a hot dog from the snack bar. We survived on our PB&J sandwiches and an apple kindly donated by another passenger. The day passed as the day before – reading, games, looking at scenery, naps.

We finally arrived in New Orleans two hours late – 6pm. We waited about 15 minutes to collect our luggage and were close enough to our hotel (Maison St. Charles) to walk there from Union Station (another Union Station!).

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