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Amtrak travel from Seatle to Vancouver

My wife and I are taking an Alaskan Cruise in August which departs from Vancouver on August 11, 2018. We first want to fly to Seatle to visit some friends and then take the early morning Amtrak to Vancouver the day before our scheduled cruise departure. Although we have traveled extensively by train in Europe, we have never taken Amtrak and have a few questions.
1) How far in advance should I purchase our tickets. (I am somewhat concerned about departing Seatle on August 10th, the morning after a Seahawks home game and if there are only so many tickets available at that time of day). When I went on the Cascade Amtrak site, it seemed like there was a limit on how far in advance I could purchase the tickets.
2) What type of tickets should we purchase for both comfort and sightseeing?
3) Will we need to check luggage before boarding (not sure what process is) and/or can we take it all on with us and store overhead or someplace in car. We will have one 16 " backpack, and one 27x16x11' suitcase.
4) How far in advance of departure should we be at the train station to get checked in, etc.
Also, any travel tips for taking this trip will be appreciated.
Thanks for the help... Bill T.

Posted by
48 posts

The Amtrak Cascades train may be just what you are looking for. The Amtrak web site I found to be very informative. Tickets are available online at this time as I just purchased tickets for later in August. You may wish to hurry as the lowest priced seats can sell out as early as now. On the date that I purchased, there were economy and business class tickets. Neither class offers reserved seating.

Have fun,

Posted by
18801 posts

You can book now for $84 for 2 adults, or if you are seniors (65 and up), $75.60. Or you could go the night before for $64 for 2, adult or senior. You get 1 free checked bag each. Don't know how customs works, if you have get off and identify bags at the border or at Vancouver BC station. Train does not stop between Bellingham, WA and Vancouver, BC. BTW make sure you book to Vancouver, BC and not WA.
Edit - Site says "reserved coach seats".

Posted by
533 posts

Frequent Amtrak traveler here. I've never taken the Cascades to Vancouver, but I've taken it several times between Seattle and Portland, so I think I can help you.

  1. You can purchase Amtrak tickets up to 11 months in advance, so you can buy tickets for August 2018 now. If the Cascades site gives you a problem with that, try the regular Amtrak site. Apart from special sales (that I wouldn't know how to predict), prices will only go up between now and August as cheaper fares sell out.

  2. It's up to you. Coach is plenty comfortable, but Business Class is slightly more so. Business Class on the Cascades is 2x1 seating (last time I rode in it, anyway), as opposed to 2x2 for coach, so you'll have slightly more room. The sightseeing is the same on all parts of the train.

  3. Amtrak has official rules for luggage that you can read on their site, but the unofficial rule is that anything you can carry onto the train without help is fine. The luggage you describe sounds fine to carry on.

  4. If you're not checking luggage, you can show up at the station 5-10 minutes before departure and be just fine. There is no security or formal check in procedure. The Cascades is unusual among Amtrak routes in that the station staff assign you a seat just before you board the train. (Your ticket will say "reserved coach" or something similar, but that just means you get A seat, not that you've reserved a particular one.) If memory serves, they start handing out seat assignments around 20-30 minutes before departure, but there's no particular advantage to being in the front of that line as opposed to the back.

You'll go through customs and passport control in the Vancouver station after you arrive. (If you were to take the train back to Seattle, you'd go through US customs and immigration in Vancouver before you depart, so you really would need to show up to the station early in that case.)

Posted by
10 posts

Edge, Sam & Buzzard....
Thanks a lot for the feedback. I tried to call the Seatle Amtrak Kings Street Station this afternoon to visit with them about some of this, but never could get an answer. The info you provided was a great help. Will book tomorrow............. but I hope, that "Reserved" means reserved in Washington (State).

Posted by
4637 posts

To enjoy wonderful scenery even more sit at the left hand side and you will see Puget Sound.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have taken that train from Seattle (actually Everett) to Vancouver, BC, numerous times. I alway book Business Class as it is somewhat more comfortable than Coach. Getting on the train north of Seattle (in Everett) purchasing Business Class assures us of seats plus we get a small voucher to use in their food car. We do go thru Canadian authorities in Vancouver after getting off of the train. We also go thru US authorities at their station before boarding the train back to Seattle. We have always stopped just south of Blaine on the way south to have the US Border Agents come running thru the cars with their dogs searching for who knows what.
We use to drive up to Vancouver, BC, but taking the train is by far a much more relaxing and sight seeing way to travel. There have always been plenty of taxis right out the front door of their train station incase you are in need of transportation to your ship. I forgot to add that by purchasing Business Class tickets you do not have to stand in a perhaps long line of coach passengers in Seattle.

Posted by
5697 posts

AAA membership ? Amtrak used to give a discount.

Posted by
15099 posts

AAA does get you a discount, but not on the lowest fares.

As to the "reserved" seat, it means younare guaranteed a seat, but it is not specifically assigned until boarding. I would get to the station 30-45 minutes ahead of departure, even if you do not check bags, to line up as the seats are assigned in order of boarding. If you are checking bags then observe the time limits they post on the website.

Posted by
7818 posts

Do pay careful attention when booking. Some connections are trains and some are "throughway" buses.

Posted by
32104 posts

The ride will (hopefully) be much faster in future, when the new high speed service begins between Vancouver / Seattle / Portland. The Governor of Washington recently met with the Premier of B.C., and a study has now been commissioned to figure out how much this will cost.

Posted by
7818 posts

Wish the Premeir of BC would put this kind of effort into getting Victoria to stop dumping untreated sewage into the Strait...... High speed trains sound nice, but if there is only so much money, let's deal with the sewage first.

Posted by
4637 posts

The train probably will be faster in the future. Maybe our grandchildren will be already using it. Everything around here goes in snail pace. We should hire China to build it for us. When I was there I was surprised how quickly new rail-lines materialize. Or subway lines in big cities. Or freeways. In this aspect we are so much behind Europe and now China too.

Posted by
18801 posts

Yes. in China you just get a letter to get out of your house in 6 months, the bulldozers are on the way. None of those silly lawyers and law suits gumming up progress.

We all saw what happened when they had the inaugural run of the new improved service through Olympia last year.

Posted by
3965 posts

How far in advance should I purchase our tickets. (I am somewhat
concerned about departing Seatle on August 10th, the morning after a
Seahawks home game

A Seahawks home game on August 10 is preseason football. I'm amazed you are concerned about preseason football. You will have NOTHING to worry about there. :-)

Look for discount code and apply them to your Amtrak online purchase. No reason to pay full-fare. I take Amtrak often on the Northeast Corridor and their Acela service which is the fast-train between NYC and DC as well as NYC and Boston. Here is the Amtrak promo code website.

What type of tickets should we purchase for both comfort and

Regular tickets and pick your own seats. There really isn't that much of a difference between Business Class and Coach. But if the money difference is minimal to you and you want to say that you're traveling in business class, go for it. On the northeast corridor, each seat has access to power sockets for your mobile technology but if the west coast trains don't in coach, then you might want to consider Business Class. Bring food with you; Amtrak food is tasteless, pricey wrapped food.

Will we need to check luggage before boarding (not sure what process
is) and/or can we take it all on with us and store overhead or
someplace in car. We will have one 16 " backpack, and one 27x16x11'

Again, maybe it's an east coast thing, but I've never checked in a bag with Amtrak. Take yours with you and either put them in the overhead bin above your seat or in the racks at the front and back of each car.

How far in advance of departure should we be at the train station to
get checked in, etc.

Assuming you are a US citizen, 15-30 minutes should do especially if you don't check your bags and you can show your ticket and passport to the conductor before boarding the train if that's even necessary. When buying your Amtrak ticket online, make sure you input your passport info correctly. Proofread!

Posted by
15099 posts

The West Coast trains such as the Cascade are quite different in price structure and boarding procedure from the Northeast trains such as Acela. When booking, the website will display in chart form the various fares available, from left to right, starting with the lowest available. (This much is just like the Boston to NY train we booked recently). You can click on each fare to see what is (and is not) included. The only promo codes I have seen are for AAA. Senior prices can be selected in the booking request. But both AAA and Senior discounts may be unavailable on the lowest fares.

As for luggage, you are expected to check large bags on the Cascade train to Vancouver. The overhead racks are for smaller pieces. And I do not recall any baggage area at the end of the car ( but perhaps I simply overlooked it).

Boarding at Seattle is cumbersomme as everyone lines up and shows their ticket to an agent at a kiosk by the door. You are then given seat assignments. You cannot just freely board the train, choose a seat, and show your ticket to the conductor when he or she comes around.

Hopefully your assigned seats will be on the " water" side of the train. The westward views ( going northbound) are beautiful. But mountain views on the other side aren't bad either. It is quite a scenic train trip.