How to Get the Best Coach Seat on Amtrak

Amtrak trains can be notoriously crowded – to some, it feels like the back of the bus, yet many others will argue that it is more comfortable than flying. Whatever you’re opinion is, it’s helpful to understand ways that will help you find the best coach seat on the train.

We all know the feeling: You’re sitting down in one seat of a pair of seats as you approach a crowded station. You put your backpack on the seat next to you and sprawl out, hoping no one will sit down. As the crowd moves through the train and realizes there’s no available spots, someone approach you asking “is someone sitting there?” That’s when the dread comes down your face, as you realized you lost having your two seats together. Suddenly, you’ve got a seat mate, and arguably the “worst seat on the train.”

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Go to the End of the Train

When people board at a station, generally they begin to board in the center of the train, or towards the front. Rarely will folks board at the back of the train. Because of this, most of the seats become occupied in the front and center, and folks looking for an available spot think there’s nothing left as they walk by packed spots. When you get on the train, be the smart one and walk to the end of the train – generally, this is a less crowded place to be and you may find an open spot back here, or, even better, two seats together.

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Sit Next to People Getting off at the Next Stop

Let’s say you can’t find two seats together anywhere, and you’re forced to sit next to someone. Find someone who is getting off at the next stop, either by asking, or taking the more covert approach and looking at the ticket tag above their seat, which is placed by the conductor to indicate the stop the person is ticketed to get off at. As you walk down the aisle, look at this markers and figure out which stop is next. Then, seat yourself next to that person. You’ll know they’re getting off next, and, at least temporary, you’ll have a shot at two seats together, making for a more comfortable environment.

Wait for Big Stations

Stations like Washington, New York, Los Angeles, etc. generally have lots of people getting off, so if you need to wait until one of these stations before settling in, do so. Sure, there will be people getting on as much as getting off, but it resets your opportunity of having the seats to yourself. Look where the stairs or elevator lands on the platform – chances are people will board in the cars in that vicinity. Take your stuff and move away from this area, creating a higher likelihood of being left alone.

Wait in the Cafe Car

While a lot of conductors will prevent you form using the cafe car as primary seating, some will. You may find an open cafe car table you can stake out, instead of finding a seat in a coach car.

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What strategies to you use to ensure you have an empty seat next to you?

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  1. Fat Dan says

    I make a big production eating a can of baked beans. No one who sees that wants to be in the same car, let alone next to me!

  2. Kevin says

    Twice, before I board an Amtrak train going from D.C. to Chicago, I had an Amtrak employee hand me a slip of paper with a seat assignment. The first time, I tried crashing in an empty section, got constantly harass by Amtrak employees and spent the night in the observation car. After arrive in Chicago, I went to customer service, got the complaint line number, called when I got home and receives apologies from Amtrak.

    Next time, I didn’t take the slip, sat in back and when confronted by an Amtrak employee, I told him I had talk to customer service. Whenever I ride Amtrak between Chicago and St. Louis, there is no assigned seats.

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