I took a 35-hour train ride from Los Angeles to Seattle in a roomette. Here are 11 things that surprised me most.

sojourner white smiling on board the coast starlight
I took the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, and I already want to do it again.
Sojourner White
  • I took Amtrak's Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Seattle, which was a 35-hour journey
  • The time passed by quickly, even though there was no Wi-Fi onboard.
  • The roomette felt small for two people, but the views of the Pacific Ocean made the trip worth it.

I boarded Amtrak's Coast Starlight in Los Angeles and arrived in Seattle 35 hours later.

amtrak train outside
The outside of the Coast Starlight, which traveled from Los Angeles to Seattle.
Sojourner White

I took my first scenic train ride in 2021, boarding Amtrak's California Zephyr in Chicago. By the time I arrived to my destination in California, I was already looking forward to booking my next overnight train.

So, I recently rode on Amtrak's Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle. After being on the California Zephyr for 52 hours, I felt ready for the 35-hour journey up the West Coast. 

Here are the 11 things that surprised me the most during my trip.

The 35 hours went by more quickly than I expected.

sojourner white and her sister smiling in their seats in the left photo, laptop on the right
My sister accompanied me on the journey from Los Angeles to Seattle.
Sojourner White

I traveled on the Coast Starlight with my sister, which meant I had someone to pass the time with from start to finish. And because I'd been on the 52-hour ride first, spending only one night on this train was easy. 

Still, bringing things to do and sitting in the train's observation car helped us stay entertained. I also found that taking advantage of the fresh-air stops along the way was a great way to stretch and catch some rays of California sunshine.

I didn't feel any nausea or motion sickness on the route.

coast starlight view of oregon out of window, and seat in train
We passed through Oregon while we were in our roomette.
Sojourner White

On the California Zephyr, I had to use my sea-nausea relief bands. This time around, we didn't travel through any mountains or tunnels, so I didn't need them.

If you're prone to nausea or motion sickness, I still recommend packing Dramamine and other remedies, just in case.

The lack of Wi-Fi didn't bother me since I brought books and downloaded music ahead of time.

sojourner white feet up looking out the train window
I brought books to keep me occupied during the train ride.
Sojourner White

Traveling on the Coast Starlight without Wi-Fi wasn't a problem for me. 

Even though 35 hours seems like a long time to go without an internet connection, it didn't hamper my experience.

I filled the time by reading books, writing, and having conversations. I also downloaded podcasts and music ahead of time to make sure I'd be occupied on the journey.

Luckily, there were no extreme delays.

rest stop during coast starlight train
I took advantage of the stops to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.
Sojourner White

I've experienced major delays when I've ridden on Amtrak trains in the past.

On the Coast Starlight, the train was delayed only an hour or so, which is a minor holdup compared to the seven hours I had to wait on my first overnight rail trip. 

I know that delays are an expected part of traveling by train, but I was grateful that we didn't have to wait too long.

Other passengers in the dining car were friendly and eager to make conversation.

sojourner white laughing in coast starlight dining car (left) and close up of meals on the right
People were eager to socialize in the dining car.
Sojourner White

In my experience, some train conversations can be hit or miss. Thankfully, all the interactions I had on the Coast Starlight were relaxing and light.

Passengers in the dining car were friendly and open. Some even gave us insight into other train routes and recommended new travel experiences to try in the future.

The roomette was tighter than I expected for two people.

sleeper cabin on coast starlight train and two suitcases
The sleeper cabin can feel tight, so I recommend leaving some luggage on the first floor.
Sojourner White

I traveled by myself the first time I took an overnight train. But on the Coast Starlight, I shared a roomette with my sister.

The room measured 6 feet and 6 inches long by 3 feet and 6 inches wide. It fit one to two adults and one to two suitcases. But with two adults staying there, it felt a bit cramped.

Be prepared to leave some of your bags on the luggage rack, which is located on the first floor, to clear up more room.

I found the top bunk to be more uncomfortable than the bottom one.

sojourner white laying in top bunk of coast starlight roomette
The top bunk was noticeably more bumpy than the bottom.
Sojourner White

I can sleep pretty much anywhere. Because I'm 5-foot-1, I offered to take the top bunk, which is smaller than the roomette's bottom bunk

However, I felt a lot more bumps when I was sleeping on the top bunk than I did when I took a turn on the bottom bunk. 

The lack of space made it hard to sit up, and it felt uncomfortable at times.

Safety straps were on the side of the top bunk to keep passengers from falling off.

sojourner white in the roomette with hand on her face
There were safety straps on the outside of the top bunk.
Sojourner White

Train rides can be bumpy, so having a safety strap to prevent passengers from falling off the bed is very necessary.

On the Coast Starlight, the straps hung on the outside of the top bunk bed. I could hook them to the top of the roomette on each side to make sure they would catch me. 

 I didn't fall, but it felt reassuring to know the straps were there.

The dining-car menu was the same as it was on the California Zephyr.

chili lunch on coast starlight train
I ordered a chili dish for lunch on the Coast Starlight.
Sojourner White

I didn't know if the meals offered in Amtrak's dining cars varied based on the train route. It turns out that the traditional dining menu is available in the sleeper cars on Amtrak's Western lines, like the Empire Builder or the California Zephyr

So, the food selection on the Coast Starlight was the same as the meals on my first overnight train. From breakfast to dessert, the dishes — which included omelets, salads, chili, burgers, and more — were identical.

The first day of the route was the most scenic.

views from amtrak coast starlight
The view from the observation car on the Coast Starlight.
Sojourner White

On the first day of the journey, the train traveled up the California coast, putting us right into the heart of the action.

I recommend taking an earlier lunch to watch the views from the dining car and then moving to the observation car later.

The Coast Starlight had clear views of the Pacific Ocean.

book open in front of train window
I brought books to read during my train ride.
Sojourner White

Before I boarded the train, I didn't know how close, or how far away, it would be from the Pacific Ocean.

For some stretches of the journey, there was a separation between the train and the water. Other times, the train felt like it was directly above the sand and closer to the ocean.

A sense of calmness washed over me as the train glided up the California coast. 

The experience on the Coast Starlight was so wonderful that I would definitely do it again. Next time, I'd try going in the opposite direction, leaving from Seattle and heading to Los Angeles.

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