Sometimes a gal’s just got to get away! When I heard about Amtrak’s Friends and Family Deal on the Pacific Surfliner I was like, where should I go?! I love to take quick trips that aren’t that far away. A close-ish location means you get to enjoy as much time as possible without wasting time on the travel part, because let’s be honest. Traveling can be stressful. Here are my tips for planning your next train trip on the Pacific Surfliner for maximum enjoyment!
When I read about the Friends and Family deal, I reached out to my contact at Amtrak and asked them to partner with me. They provided me with two, round-trip Coach tickets to Santa Barbara. All opinions and other costs for the trip were my own.
This deal is something you all need to know about! Until June 25th, 2018, when you buy a ticket on the Pacific Surfliner, you can get up to 3 more tickets at half off when traveling to Ventura, Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo! (Restrictions apply – please read all the details over on their website). It’s the PERFECT time to grab your friends and take a train trip! My best friend and I don’t get to spend much time together. The days of last-minute phone calls to meet up to go shopping or have lunch have been replaced by kids and all their activities. We try to get together once a month or so for a quick bite, but my favorite way to really catch up on each other’s lives is by heading to a hotel for a quick getaway.
I’ve been wanting to explore Santa Barbara for a while now, but the thought of driving through LA traffic always held me back. Taking the train was the stress free way to go! Although the trip was long (at just under 4 hours each way), we were able to enjoy each other’s company, relax and just spend time together.
Taking the Pacific Surfliner: What You Need to Know
The train arrives and departs very quickly. You need to be at the platform waiting and when the train comes to a complete stop you get on. The Pacific Surfliner is on a schedule and does not sit at the train station for more than a minute or two (unless it is built-in to the schedule – we stayed a little bit longer in Los Angeles).
There are not a lot of attendants on the platform so if you have questions about where you are supposed to be or anything else, you need to take it upon yourself to find the answer in the train station building, if there is one. Once on the train, the attendants are super helpful and can help you find what you need.
The attendants make announcements about what city is the next stop. When they announce that your station is up next, you should quickly pack up and make your way down to the first level to be ready to exit. I have seen families miss their stops because they took their time packing up.
There are restrooms and trash cans in each car. Most passengers ride in the upstairs cars with the lower floor being reserved for people who need a little extra assistance. I don’t get motion sick but if you need to be facing forward while in motion, keep in mind that the train may change direction in Los Angeles and you could end up facing backwards.
Taking luggage on the train is really easy. It is self-service so be prepared to lift your suitcase up on the train and up the stairs. There are not attendants around to help lift it for you but other passengers did offer to help me (although I didn’t need it which is surprising with my little bird arms). Each car has a luggage rack near the restroom for you to place your suitcases during the trip. Remember which car you put your luggage on if you end up sitting in another car so you know where to find it when it’s time to exit the train!
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Train travel is still travel. Which means that all kinds of things can cause delays. Trains can run late or go out of service (plus they’re full of people and people sometimes do crazy things) but it’s not the end of the world. The day we left for Santa Barbara, another train had gone out of service so they made accommodations for those passengers to ride on our train.
While it made our train a bit more crowded, I was so happy to see that those people had an alternate travel route available to them. Had the shoe been on the other foot, having another train available to me, and not having to wait for a long time for another train option would have helped my travel stress SO much. Plus it means more time hanging out with your friend!
Pacific Surfliner shares real-time info on schedules on Twitter (mostly used by people who commute via the train) but it is helpful in case you have questions during your trip. Food and Drinks
We brought our own breakfast on the train since we departed at 7:48 am. There is also a Cafe Car on the train that has food and beverage options. I didn’t know about the Cafe Car ahead of time and it took even more stress off. I hate to be hungry! They have breakfast and lunch food options as well as coffee, beer, wine and some cocktails. I had packed a ton of snacks (that’s just how I roll) but it was super nice to know that there were options available especially since our trip was a long one.
Comfort and Amenities
The seats are totally comfortable and there are tray tables for you to use at each seat. There is an electrical outlet, with two plugs, in each row so you can keep your device charged which is so awesome. There is basic wifi available on the train, as well, which is suitable for browsing but not streaming shows (download your Netflix shows before you go, yo!). The bathrooms are just a little bit larger than airline bathrooms (larger stalls are available downstairs near the handicap areas.)
Coach or Business Class Tickets
Business Class. All the way. I’m an anxious traveler and like to know that I have a seat. I’ve been on the train 3 times now and 2 of the 3 were Business Class. I prefer paying a little bit more for that luxury. There are designated Business Class cars on the train so you know exactly where to go.
Business Class gets you a little extra leg room, which is nice when you like to travel with a bag full of all the goodies you might need on a 3+ hour train trip. You are guaranteed a seat (going to or through Los Angeles at rush hour times means the train can get REALLY crowded with standing room only). And because the cars are at the ends of the train, there are fewer people walking around and therefore a little quieter.
Business Class also comes with some complimentary food and drinks. Coffee, tea, water and juice along with breakfast pastries are available in the morning. Later in the day you get a snack pack which comes with several snack items as well as a soft drink or glass of wine! In my opinion the extra cost is totally worth it. But the Coach experience was still pretty amazing, I have to say! It was easy to leave my car in the parking garage at the train station, since I was gone on an overnight trip. I also could have easily taken an Uber but I’ve never had any trouble leaving my car in the lot. Not having to deal with getting gas or traffic was absolutely amazing. I brought my computer so I could get some work done but never even got it out on our way to Santa Barbara. I just really enjoyed the view as we went through towns and then finally made our way along the coast to our final destination.
I’ve taken the train to San Diego several times and now also Santa Barbara. The train such a great way to travel! Whether you are with your family or just girlfriends, it’s really fun. There are so many stops along the Pacific Surfliner route that are just waiting to be explored! The Pacific Surfliner site is a great resource for trip ideas also!
Plus Amtrak just announced extended hours for the Pacific Surfliner for several stops to accommodate the new concert schedule at the Five Points Amphitheater in Irvine. Now you can take the train to the brand new venue, walk from the station to your seats (with faster access by showing your Amtrak ticket at the venue!) and then easily return home when the concert is over. You can find all those details here.
The train station in Santa Barbara is located just a few blocks from downtown and close to hotels, wine tasting and all kinds of other fun things! If you haven’t taken a train trip, now is the perfect time! Take advantage of the Friends and Family deal, before June 25th, 2018 and get a great deal on your early summer getaway! (And if you miss that deal, always check back on their deals page to see what other promotions they have going on!
Thank you, Amtrak, for the train tickets. We had the best, most stress free trip thanks to the Pacific Surfliner!
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