Tips Travel

Traveling by Train – What’s It Like?

I have people ask me all the time . . . what is it like traveling by train? I travel weekly on the train between Kansas City and St. Louis and I can tell you this . . . the train is the BEST thing that ever traveling by trainhappened in my life of travel!!!

I have owned a business south of St. Louis for almost 25 years! (Woo hoo!!!) In the beginning I lived and worked within a mile of my office and home. Not much of a commute to be sure. Back then I could get annoyed when school got out and there was 7 or 8 cars ahead of me at the stop sign. Then almost 4 years ago I married my husband who had lived in the Kansas City area for most of his adult life. This is when I discovered the train and how much I loved it!

It takes me around 4 hours to travel by train between Kansas City and St. Louis. I make the trip back and forth once a week . . . usually  on Monday and Thursday. I have friends in both places, of course, so I answer the question “what’s it like?” pretty often. Here are my 5 steps for traveling by train between Kansas City and St. Louis:

Kirkwood Train Station

Kirkwood Train Station

#1 – Decide Where to Get On and Off the Train

I talk about traveling between Kansas City and St. Louis, but I actually get on at different stations. Kansas City’s Union Station is the start of the Missouri River Runner train between Kansas City and St. Louis. However, the Lees Summit station is more convenient to my house and I almost always board there. At the end of my trip I get off the train at the Kirkwood station in St. Louis. Again, this is more convenient for me than getting off at the downtown St. Louis station. I leave my car on a free lot for Amtrak passengers in Kirkwood and it is just an hour drive from there to my office.

#2 – Book Your Ticket

I book train tickets 2 different ways.  Sometimes I just go to amtrak.com and book on-line. If you think you might travel often, then I would suggest that you set up an Amtrak Rewards account and earn points with each trip. The second way to book is on the Amtrak app. Booking either way is easy to do. Just pick your departure city and arrival city, date and time. After paying with a credit card, Amtrak will email you a ticket which you can print off or save on your phone to show the conductor.

traveling by train#3 – Arrive on Time

The train waits for no one . . . and only stops for 2 or 3 minutes to load and unload passengers, so you definitely can’t be late. In Kansas City I live 13 minutes from the Lees Summit train station so I really don’t worry much about traffic. I usually arrive 10 minutes or so before the train gets to the station. However, getting to the St. Louis station is 67 miles from my office and there is always a chance of wrecks on the highway slowing me down. I leave for the Kirkwood station 2 hours before the train because I would rather wait on the train (while I work on something) than to be stressed driving on the highway, worried that I’m going to miss the train. Wrecks don’t happen every day, but they do happen. (As I write this I am sitting in a restaurant near the Kirkwood station because the highway between St. Louis and my office has been shut down because of a wreck. I’m waiting for rush hour traffic on the alternate roads to clear out before I start driving.)

#4 – Decide on Business Class vs. Coach

When I first started taking the train I didn’t realize I had 2 options . . . business class or coach . . . so I just chose coach. It was usually fine, but some days the train was really crowded (especially Friday afternoons or Monday mornings). Any time near a holiday was especially busy. After my first crowded “Wednesday before Thanksgiving” train I decided to try out the business class car. One trip and I was sold. On the trip between Kansas City and St. Louis, business class only costs an extra $18 and guarantees me a seat. You can actually board the train and purchase a ticket from a conductor, so the coach cars can sometimes have a lot of people on them. In the business class car I have a guaranteed seat in a car of only 18 seats. I actually work quite a bit on the train, so being in a quieter car with less people is really beneficial to me.

#5 – Plan what you need to be comfortable and entertained

The train between Kansas City and St. Louis has wi-fi, so I always travel with my laptop and Kindle. Each seat (except for the very front ones in a car) has a drop-down tray to use as a desk. There are also electrical outlets to plug into (though I try to always charge my devices before I leave).

The train does have a cafe car, but I prefer to bring my own drink and food with me. I travel every week, so I don’t usually want to eat the “less than healthy” options you find on the train.

traveling by trainI have written several times about traveling by train and traveling in general. You can read about my Train Travel Tips to Kansas City or How To Stay Healthy While Traveling which will give you more ideas about what to bring on a trip. And if you have any questions about traveling by train please let me know in a comment and I’ll try to answer your question.

I hope you take a train trip and love it as much as I do!!!

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