21 April 2012

Amtrak Coach Seating Secret 1

Here is an occasional series on Amtrak coach travel (or, when you don't have or don't want to spend the extra cash on sleeper accommodations)written by me. With that said, here's the first installment on how seating in coach on Amtrak is done.

OK. You're taking a day trip on Amtrak from Tampa to Winter Haven or Sebring and back home. Besides, it's a great alternative to taking a drive there with gas prices hovering around $4.00/gallon!

You make your reservations ahead of time. You get your tickets and be at the station ahead of time. When the boarding call is announced you go to the boarding area for your destination.

Let me stop for just a moment. Understand that Amtrak's Silver Star (Train 91 southbound and Train 92 northbound) is an all-reserved train for which reservations are required no matter your seating option. According to the folks at Amtrak, a reservation in coach guarantees you a place on the train in the coach seating area but does not guarantee you a specific coach seat. Sometimes, the coach car attendant will tell you to take any seat. But most of the time, you will be assigned a seat. If you got a preference, that's great! I prefer the window when I ride in coach. (I wish Amtrak would give us passengers - at least Amtrak Guest Rewards passengers - an option for a coach seating preference when we book in advance!)

Which leads right up to my Amtrak coach class seating secret: If you are assigned a seat and you end up in a seat that you don't like such as an aisle seat, simply ask the coach car attendant if you can be reassigned. Nine times out of ten, the attendant will grant your wish. (Just make sure that your train is not completely full, especially during holiday periods!)

The same trick applies if you are assigned a seat and you do not feel comfortable with the seatmate next to you. Again, make sure that the train you are on is not next to full - you be the judge on that. This is very helpful for travelers traveling by themselves.

Of course, if you need the extra space and you are short on cash (meaning that the price of a sleeper add-on was expensive when you initially booked the reservation), you can ask the conductor on board to see if there is unsold sleeper space available. From what I have read on On Track On Line's Amtrak page, a conductor could sell you an unsold space for much less than what you would find on Amtrak's web site.

As always, keep checking back here at the Edward Ringwald Blog for more Amtrak related tips. And by the way, if you have an Amtrak coach seating related story that you would like to share, please feel free to post a comment.

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