My $2,715 Amtrak Redemption

With Amtrak changes looming on the horizon it was time to pull the trigger and act on a redemption I have been thinking about for quite some time now.

Through the end of the year, Amtrak is operating on a zone-based system with the US divided into three zones: Eastern, Central, and Western.

Amtrak Zone Map

There are quite a few great things about Amtrak’s program. I’m a big fan of their ‘special routes’ in the midwest for my semi-frequent travel between Ann Arbor and Chicago… that 1,500 point redemption will be sorely missed by me.

But, the real value lies in long-distance bedroom and roomette travel. For travel within one zone a bedroom costs 25,000 points and a roomette costs 15,000 points. Note that the cost is for the room and a bedroom can fit up to four people, while the roomette can fit up to two.

My Amtrak Redemption

I’ve had my eyes on the route from Denver to Glacier National Park via the west coast for quite a while now, and it was time to get it booked! To book roomette and bedroom travel, a call to Amtrak is in order. At first the lady I was talking to routed me though Chicago and all I could think was ‘oh no! I already transferred my points!’ With a quick request to check routing via the west coast she was able to pull something up, but told me that it would have to be booked as two awards: one from Denver to Emeryville, CA and a second from Emeryville to Glacier National Park at a cost of 25,000 points each, 50,000 points total. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear either!

She was able to go check with a manager and get the rate of 25,000 points for the entire journey approved (though I did have a backup plan with some different train options in hand had she not been able to make that happen).

All in all, I amย moreย than thrilled with my itinerary. Here’s what it looks like.

Denver to Emeryville: 33 hours 5 minutes on the California Zephyr

Emeryville to Portland: 17 hours 28 minutes on the Coast Starlight

Portland to East Glacier National Park: 16 hours 9 minutes on the Empire Builder

Total: 66 hours 42 minutes on Amtrak trains in a Bedroom for 25,000 points for two people (and over 10 cents per point in value!)

To give you a more visual idea of this route (note that this is driving directions, so just an approximation)

Denver to Glacier National Park on Amtrak

Now, I do have the option to use Sacramento, CA as a transfer point instead of Emeryville and spend four less hours on the train (and time in Sacramento). I may decide to make this change later on, but for now I wanted to maximize my train time since I don’t see myself ever shelling out $2,715 (or anywhere close to that!) for two people to take a train journey.

13 Comments

  1. It should actually be more than 10 cents when you factor in that bedroooms/roommettes passengers get meals on board. Your trip sounds awesome! My wife is anti-Amtrak after our recent trip to Florida in a bedroom where she did not sleep well with the 2 yr old ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I calculated the (just over) 10 cents per point off of the fare that Amtrak would charge for 2 passengers for the same routing. Paid fares also include food! Granted, I would never pay that price for the train ticket, so in reality I would consider it to be more like a bit over 4 cents per point (equivalent to 2 people roundtrip airfare at 2 cents per point plus food, awesome journey cancels out with the short journey a flight would provide)

      I could imagine that having a two year old in the cabin would make it a different situation! I’ve only taken Amtrak coach and business class on the midwest routes (Ann Arbor/Lansing – Chicago, about 4 hours) and Northeast Regional (Baltimore to Philly) but I have done a few sleeper trains in Vietnam and Russia, but this duration greatly exceeds that! It will definitely be an experience being on a train for such a long time! I’m glad we’ll have time in either Emeryville or Sacramento and then Portland to get out and stretch our legs a bit. Of course followed up with a ton of great hiking in Glacier NP!

  2. Nice.
    Oh and in my opinion there isn’t much to see or do in Sacramento. No insult to them it’s just not that great in my opinion and I’ve spend quite a bit of time there over the years on business trips.

  3. This was the exact itinerary I was thinking of booking in October to use up my 25,000 Amtrak rewards points! How much time are you laying over between trains? Sounds like I’ll have to hope to get the right booking agent too! So sad they’re changing the program over.

    1. As of now I have 5 hours in Emeryville and a bit over an hour in Portland. If I switch to Sacramento over Emeryville it will be 9 hours. On one had, I’d love to extend for a day in both Emeryville and Portland, but I also want to get to Glacier NP to do some hiking and sightseeing there. I’m traveling with a friend who will be taking the week off work, so I am somewhat limited to what can be done in a week.

      1. No, no change – called just now – good to go. That said, agent said she couldn’t pull it up as one award, and asked, and claims she was told to charge 50k. HUCA, obviously – but any advice about how to word it? Or maybe how to teach the agent to type in an over ride?

        1. I was also initially told it would have to be two awards and the total would be 50K โ€” I said โ€œI had a friend who booked this same trip for 25Kโ€ and she spoke with a supervisor and got it approved.

  4. welcome to Emeryville, home of Pixar, Jamba Juice, and Clif Bar headquarters! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m literally right across from that Amtrak station! (yes I hear it everyday…fortunately I can tune it out easily)

      1. Feel free to email me the dates/times and I’ll see if I’m here then! ๐Ÿ™‚

        I’m excited for my first Amtrak trip ever next weekend from Portland to Seattle on the Starlight route for 1500 UR! ๐Ÿ˜€

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