Someone told me “to travel is to live.” I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight train to Seattle few weeks ago. This is my first time traveling alone in America. I was so excited and nervous before this train trip started, but everything went so well. Here, I want to share my experience – and some tips.
Before you leave
- Reserve train and flight tickets early, otherwise it will be expensive. I got my train tickets around $160, and it’s from San Diego to Los Angeles to Seattle. I booked my flight back to San Diego on Alaska around $100.
- Try Airbnb, the online rental service. My place was in Chinatown and a 20 minute walk to downtown Seattle. The lender was so nice and he charged me $55 per night.
- Pack light with some comfortable clothes. A 21-inch suitcase was enough for my 7-day trip. Make sure to bring a small blanket. You will spend a night on the train. It will take 35 hours from San Diego to Seattle.
- Bring some fruit – snacks are important. You never know what food the train has and it can be expensive.
- Be ready for no WiFi or other technology. But you still can have selfies!
- You can request a seat when you check in at LA. I prefer to sit close to the window so I can have a better view.
- If you are lucky, you will sit next to a wonderful trip friend to spend this 35 hours trip with you. My trip friend was a woman going back to Seattle to visit her mom.
- The seat was bigger than I expected. It has a part under the seat you can pull up to relax your legs. I’m a small person and I could easily straighten my legs.
- Be brave and talk to strangers. This is a great way to spend time on the train. I talked to many people and heard many stories on the train. I spoke to an English teacher, librarian, doctor, psychologist, student, artist …
- Enjoy the amazing view. At the middle of the train is an open view car. From California to Washington State, you will have a totally different experience. At first is the ocean, then you will see ranches when you enter into Oregon. Later, the train will go into the forest, like in a wonderland. Some factories start to appear when you’re out of Oregon.
- Go to “bed” early and have a great sleep.
Getting to know Seattle
- Try to walk instead of taking bus. I think walking is the best way to know this city. You will have time to watch the buildings and people on the street.
- Buy a CityPass. You can visit five out of seven Seattle attractions for $74. If you are a music nerd, the EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum is a awesome place you should go. The museum has so many instruments you can try to create your own music. I spent a whole day there and had so much fun.
- Follow your plan and enjoy the city!
Last but not least, do yourself a favor and take a solo trip. You will find out it’s more fun than you imagined!
Luqi Zhang is a sophomore accounting and marketing major. She came to SDSU from China.