Leg 5: New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited, using Amtrak Guest Rewards points. By spending a few extra days (mostly staying in IHG properties on points and free-night offers), we threaded the needle between two of the "brownout" periods when my Amtrak points are worth only one-third their normal value. That means the two two-night trips (Legs 1 and 5) were on points. The rest we'll have to buy, but at least I'll get more points by purchasing when possible with my Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card.
Leg 3: Washington to Chicago on the Capitol Limited. TrainCon (see below) is going back this way, but we're staying a couple of extra days in DC because we don't expect to be there again for a long time, if ever, and we want to make sure to leave time to see things. We'll spend one night in Chicago (on a free-night offer from my IHG credit card) before:
Leg 4: Chicago to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans. We'll actually be on the train on Christmas Day, which suits us. Some of our planning was built around the fact that we didn't really want to be in a hotel all day Christmas Day, as there wouldn't be much we can do. By leaving on Christmas Eve and arriving in the Big Easy on the afternoon of Christmas Day, we're making the most of our travel. We'll spend four nights at the Crowne Plaza on Canal Street in New Orleans (another IHG offer where I can stay four nights for the points cost of three) before heading back west on Leg 5.
(Leg 1 is Emeryville-Chicago, about which I wrote a few days ago.)
The alternative to legs 3/4 would have been to take the Crescent directly from DC to New Orleans, but it would have put us in New Orleans over Christmas Eve/Christmas Day when everything is closed, and we would have had to pay money for the trip back to California.
There are still two legs left: Leg 2 is TrainCon from Chicago to DC. The cost of that is set, and I'm in the process of moving money around to send off and pay for Lisa and my share to travel in one of the bedrooms. Leg 6 is the relatively short trip from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. We haven't decided whether to lay over one night at Los Angeles or risk the five-hour connection time between the Sunset Limited and the Coast Starlight. This will also be a coach trip rather than a sleeper, and I do have an Amtrak coupon for a free-companion fare, so it won't cost that much. Unfortunately, unless Amtrak relents on their "dining cars are only for sleeper passengers" policy, we'll be dining off of cafe-car food. Still, it's one of the most scenic trips on the network, which makes up for it.
I am very glad I paid close attention to when room bookings opened for Worldcon and grabbed my reservation at the first opportunity, as they opened for general reservations on Monday and the middle nights are already fully booked. The convention says they will try to get more rooms on those core nights, but it's not easy to do. As most people who are interested know, they lost one of their two hotels when the Marriott Wardman Park (where we would have been staying as the original plan was for the Business Meeting to be there) permanently closed. There are other hotels in the general area, none of them are really close. There is a group of hotels including the Washington Hilton about 1 km away, plus some other properties scattered around the area. That's only half the distance between where we stayed in Dublin and the Convention Centre; however, despite getting the hotel stay on points during Dublin 2019, it was not a good choice when you're humping recording equipment back and forth to the Business Meeting most days of the convention, even with the light rail connection making it slightly less of a slog. Given that Lisa and I are once again part of the WSFS Business Meeting staff, we really don't want to spend a significant part of our day carrying equipment around. Worldcons 75 and 76 had us both in ideal locations, so it was very important to do the same for DC3, which we have done.