Relative Amtrak newbies have some West Coast itinerary questions
September 9, 2017 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Later this month, we're taking our first long-distance train trip, on the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles! We gather that delays can be part of the Amtrak experience. We're considering heading immediately to Anaheim to hit Disneyland first thing the next morning. Is it reasonable to plan to catch a connecting train, or should we make other plans? We don't particularly want to rent a car or be stranded. Schedules/details within.

We're scheduled to arrive in L.A. at 9:00 PM. The last train from L.A. to Anaheim is scheduled for 10:10 PM-10:49 PM. Are we likely to we catch it? Do we need to reserve seats in advance? We are procrastinators, and our roomette ended up costing us more than it would have had we booked it two weeks earlier. But tickets for the Anaheim leg appear to cost $15/person whether we reserve them now or the day we travel. So if we arrive in L.A. on time, can we expect to just grab tickets there and hop on the connecting train?

And if we arrive in L.A. at 11:00 PM, what should we do? What would we expect to pay for a cab or Lyft or the like? We've booked a Disneyland-adjacent hotel for that night, but could change that reservation if the advice is "be flexible enough to find a place to stay in L.A."

Any other tips for this itinerary?
posted by doift to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I only have experience with Amtrak on the east coast, but I'd recommend getting the connecting tickets now --- when some of the trips I've had had serious delays, the Amtrak personnel have been very good about trying their best to make sure anyone with connecting trains makes it where they're going.
posted by easily confused at 1:45 PM on September 9, 2017

Best answer: Some of this depends how much you are night owls and/or want to save money. I've taken public transportation (i.e. the bus) from the train station to Anaheim and it takes a while but it's doable, but a little more difficult late at night. Also there's a long annoying walk at the end of it. Lyft estimates $33 for the low end of that trip, I would not think twice about skipping the train part of it entirely and getting a ride right to your door if it's that close in price. On the way out there are Disneyland shuttles or Metrolink depending on when you are traveling which might be a lower cost (and maybe more interesting?) trip than another cab.
posted by jessamyn at 1:50 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've done the train ride to Anaheim from Union Station multiple times. I've never needed to reserve seats in advance; there's always plenty of room. As Jessamyn pointed out, Lyft from Union Station to Anaheim is $33 at the low end - which is only $3 more than you would pay for the train. From ARTIC station in Anaheim, the ART buses to the hotel are $3 each - which means that with tip you may only pay slightly more by Lyfting from Union Station than taking the train.

The train ride from Anaheim to San Diego is beautiful; the train ride from LA to Anaheim has largely industrial views (which you wouldn't see much of at night anyway). So you're not missing much if you Lyft.

Which is a long way to say: don't buy the ticket in advance, keep your options open, Lyfting down may wind up being cost-neutral anyway.
posted by rednikki at 4:54 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll second easily confused. A very late Coast Starlight once got me into L.A. at 2:30 in the morning, but Amtrak had buses waiting to take everyone to their booked destinations along connecting routes including the Surfliner route.

That's the good news. The bad news is that multi-hour delays on the Coast Starlight are not uncommon, so while you should get where you're going, you may well get there in the middle of the night/early morning. (As a person who can normally be a bit type-A, I find I have to consciously let go when riding the long-haul trains. But it's totally worth it! Had my train not been 5 hours late, I wouldn't have seen the beaches by moonlight.)
posted by aws17576 at 6:27 PM on September 9, 2017

I would estimate that you will have greater-than-one-hour delays and that you should plan to take a Lyft for about $50.
posted by samthemander at 12:36 AM on September 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If Amtrak's on-line booking system allows you to book trip segments together at ONE TIME under the SAME reservation number, it's a guaranteed connection (scroll down to CONNECTING TRAINS section). Seeing that you already have a ticket, I'd call Amtrak and see what they recommend concerning this connection.

Amtrak's historical on-time performance for the Coast Starlight for August 2017 is 61%. As for seeing how late the train is when it arrives at LA, the real-time train status I like to use is Amtrak Status Maps.
posted by bCat at 4:12 AM on September 10, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by doift at 6:30 PM on September 15, 2017

Response by poster: For the record, we had a 1.5 hour stop around Santa Barbara, perfectly timed for time-lapse photos of the sunset over the ocean. We would have juuuust made the train to Anaheim, and according to the onboard announcements, if we had missed it alternate transport would have been provided. We opted for a Lyft straight to our hotel for around $50.
posted by doift at 8:24 PM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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