Is Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Business Class Worth The Upgrade?
The drive between San Diego and Santa Barbara is long and sometimes made unbearable by traffic in Los Angeles so I decided to see if Amtrak business class is worth it. The journey on the Pacific Surfliner train takes 5 hours. Driving takes about 4, depending on traffic. Was it worth it? I think so.
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Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Fares
Solana Beach Station to Santa Barbara Station cost me $38 plus an extra $18 for Amtrak business class, each way.
Amtrak Business Class Seats
I figured the business class seats would be bigger, but after peeking into the coach cars, I couldn’t see a major difference in width or legroom. The Pacific Surfliner business class seats do recline and there’s a flip down foot rest. I did not have anyone sitting next to me during either journey.
The business class train car was quiet. The conductor announced on the PA system that they were receiving “quality of life complaints” from passengers putting their feet on the seats in front of them, playing their devices on volumes way too high, etc. There was none of this in business class.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have booked this trip if it weren’t for the free WiFi on Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains. This made a huge difference to me, as I could actually get some work done. Each seat has a standard AC electrical outlet. However, if you’re not sitting at a window seat, you’ll need to reach your plug over your neighbor in order to plug into the outlets.
The outlets seem to be every 12-18″ (that’s an estimate) or so on the wall, under the windows. There’s another outlet under the curtain in the photo above. I will say that the WiFi did cut out on occasion, but it’s better than not having it at all. I was able to get a decent amount of work done versus driving and getting nothing done. The Amtrak website suggests that WiFi is offered in any class of service on these trains.
Amtrak Business Class Perks: Food And Drinks
At any time, you can walk over to the snack and drink area and grab a complimentary coffee or juice. If you’re hungry there are muffins and pastries too. I don’t normally eat pre-packaged muffins, but they were pretty good.
But, this partially paid for the business class upgrade. I would likely have bought this myself and it’s the best Amtrak business class perk on offer if you ask me.
There is no mention of this little bonus on the Amtrak website. The eco-friendly cup is made from plant materials, so Amtrak gets props for this.
There is a cafe car next door to the business class car. Here, Amtrak sells sandwiches and salads (average price is around $6.50). I had an artisan-style turkey sandwich on one journey and a cobb salad on the other. Both were just OK. The salad was really fresh, but the sandwich had mayonnaise on it, which I dislike. I might bring my own lunch next time. There are tables in the cafe car where passengers can sit and eat. Some passengers were throwing back drinks. In fact, I tried to use the bathroom while down there and a drunk guy forgot to lock the door. Super awkward.
The View Might Be The Best Part
The lower level is reserved for those who can’t get their bags up the stairs. It is definitely worth sitting upstairs in any class of service. Between San Diego and Santa Barbara (excluding some parts of Los Angeles), there is plenty of this:
These pics were taken from my train seat by my iPhone, without zoom.
Solana Beach Train Station Parking
I’m shocked by this, but Solana Beach train station parking is FREE for 14 days. I’ve never seen it in writing, but this is what I overheard a station employee tell a customer and have read in Yelp reviews. The trouble is that you may not be able to find a space. I did happen to notice spaces there on the Saturday and Sunday of my journey. If you’ve parked overnight at Solana Beach Station, please leave a comment based on your experience.
Also, if the weather is cold outside, the station will be cold inside since it’s mostly windows. Do make sure that you’re on the right side of the tracks when your train comes, otherwise you’ll miss it.
Will Travel By Amtrak Train Again
All in all, I look forward to my next Amtrak train journey. It sure beats sitting in traffic and the upgrade to business class is definitely worth the peace and quiet. Sometimes there are Amtrak Surfliner promotion codes online so do a search before booking.
And, if you need some advice regarding where to stay in Santa Barbara with kids, read my post about Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (it was heavenly).