I’ve lived in Seattle now for nearly 10 years and have never taken Amtrak. It’s one of those things that you know you SHOULD do, but you never get around to doing it… well the wife had a 4 day weekend, and instead of trying to find last minute flights, I decided we would FINALLY take the train down to Portland.
Drive or train
For reference, a car ride takes about 3.5 hours, not factoring in traffic. The Amtrak would take ~4 hours. It was actually a difficult decision to take the train over a car since without a car, you are sort of bound to just one area. Since we had visited Multnomah Falls, done the wine tastings, and visited the shopping outlet before, we decided we really didn’t need the car. Plus, public transportation in Portland is pretty good.
My tickets cost $61 round trip per person and I had booked this about 2 weeks out. Instead of paying the cash price though, I tried to find some way to generate 3000 Amtrak points per person. Chase was no longer a partner and I couldn’t use TYP nor did I have Choice points to transfer. Due to the short time frame, I reached out to some friends in the hobby and a reader had some Amtrak points that they weren’t going to use, and so they booked the seats for me and I paid them back (why it’s good to network in this hobby.)
Getting to the station
I decided to take the 11:15AM train down to Portland since I didn’t want to deal with the traffic into Seattle during rush hour. There really isn’t parking in the downtown Seattle Amtrak station, so we decided to park our car at a friend’s house and use the free T-Mobile $15 Lyft credit to get to Chinatown for brunch before walking over to the Amtrak station. The recommended time to get to the Seattle station is 30 minutes prior to departure. We got there about 45 minutes before departure time and no one was at the booth yet. At 30 minutes prior, they started to queue people up to assign seats. We didn’t actually board the train until maybe 10 minutes prior to departure. I had my trusty roller luggage and my backpack while my wife had her purse. There were no metal detectors to go through; you just hop on the train and put your bags away.
- A coworker of mine who does this trip 2 times a year says the pro tip is to sit in the dining car the whole time. It is between the food car and business class. The seats are bigger and you get a table; it’s first come first served, so get there early.
- You can BYOB on to the train since no one really checks. They do serve food in the dining car (think burgers and sandwiches) as well as beer (starts at $5) and wine.
- There is free WIFI and each seat has a tray table for you to work on. Seat pitch is longer than an airline’s coach seat, so you tall guys should have no knee sitting issues.
- We were late 30 minutes getting to Portland and an hour coming back to Seattle (but that was due to a train derailment earlier that day.)
From the Portland train station to your hotel
Since we were staying at The Nines, the walk from the train station to the hotel was 10-15 minutes. I was disoriented when we got out of the station and asked an employee which way I should walk. They pointed me in the right direction. Then a lady standing next to her yelled out, “DON’T WALK PAST THE BUS STATION. GO AROUND IT!” We took her advice and walked around it. Later on, we found out that was due to the amount of homeless people outside the bus station and sometimes they may harass you. When we told some PDX natives that we made that walk, they looked at us like we survived an episode of “Walking Dead.” So if you do make that walk, go around the bus station or take an Uber/Lyft/cab to your hotel.
While I enjoyed being able to read and blog on the train, I don’t think we’ll do it again. It wasn’t because I felt I needed a car in Portland. I just felt it took too much time (an hour heading to the train and back) plus the possibility of delays.