There is just something about taking a trip by train. Maybe I’m the old fashioned type, but I am so attracted to the days when the railroad was the major means of transportation. For any trip of 300 miles or less, it often makes sense to opt for the train instead of flying or dealing with mind numbing traffic. The train has no check-in hassles and no extra charges for actually bringing luggage along on your trip. Trains can seem expensive on first glance, but Amtrak has many specials if you take the time to look.
The amtrak website has a wealth of trip planning information if you decide to slow down a bit and take your trip by train, and discounts abound. Children ages 2 to 15 receive half price travel, and any child under two travels at no cost. Seniors aged 62 and over receive a 15% discount with proof of age. AAA members can get 10% off, as can members of the military. Those who have joined the National Association of Railroad Passengers also receive a 10% reduction in fare. Students, with either a Student Advantage Card or an International Student Identity Card receive 15% off, as do veterans.
There is also a discount offered that is almost hidden, and can only be had by calling in your reservation to 1-800-USA-RAIL. This is a discount for anyone who is handicapped/disabled. When you notify the reservation agent that you or a person you are traveling with is disabled, both that person and one companion receive a discounted fare. Special arrangements can be made for boarding assistance and accessible seating, if needed.
It also pays to give special attention when booking which train you will take, and to be flexible. Do a search on all train times, not just one or two. Sometimes the very same trip can have a different price at different times. The time that the journey takes can also vary a lot depending on the specific train. For the 300 mile trip that I routinely take on the eastern seaboard, the travel time can vary between just over four hours to more than six hours. The shorter version takes about the same amount of time as driving, including transport to the station—probably because the route for driving is in very heavy traffic. I often stare out onto the Interstate from the train window, thinking how lovely it is to be sipping coffee and reading a magazine rather than uttering choice words at someone who just cut me off. Do the trains always run on time??? Well, not always, but when you are relaxed and have food and facilities, you don’t always care.
The next time you are planning a trip, check out the train. Make your transportation part of the journey, and enjoy the ride!