Riding the Rails: Train Travel Tips

Summer vacations are on the horizon.  With fuel prices as high as they are, air travel may not be as favorable as it once was.  Even road trips will be unreasonable for some.

As a teen in Europe I traveled by rail often.  There is no disputing that other countries have placed a higher emphasis on their rail systems than we do in the US.  However, you may still find travelling by train a fun and perhaps new adventure for you and your family.

riding-the-rails-train-travel-tips1.jpg

Today we outline our top reasons for taking the train and some things you may wish to consider.  My biggest advice is this… if you haven’t ever traveled by train before, start small.  Take a weekend excursion to a neighboring city or somewhere just a few hours away.  This could be great for a little break and will give you a better feel for a longer trip.

savour... clackety-clack

Get the rest after the jump...

Train Travel Tips

9 Reason to try Train Travel:

  1. Money- The difference in price is ridiculous.
  2. Flexibility- While some trips require a reservation, in many cases you could walk in the station at the last minute, grab a ticket and go.  While security has increased in some places, it is still far less stringent than the airport and you will never be required to show up two hours early and stand in line.
  3. Fare Stability- Apart from an occasional sale or slight upward adjustment to account for high peak travel, the rates stay just about the same.  There are no fare wars between companies as with airlines.
  4. Bring more- You are allowed far more stuff on a train.  Currently, you can carry on 2 items (not including purse or laptop case) not weighing more than 50 pounds each and you can check 3 bags not weighing more than 50 pounds each without additional charge.  That's 250 pounds included in your ticket price.  Try that at the airport.
  5. Be where you want to be- The potential to be dropped off where you want to be is much greater with train travel.  Most train stations are in downtown areas as opposed to airports which are typically on the outskirts of town.  A quick taxi ride puts you at your nearby hotel.
  6. Comfort- Stretch out and relax.  Trains have plenty of room in their seats and because they are less traveled, you will likely have access to more than one seat if you wish.  You can also move about at will without waiting for the captain to turn off any signs.  Laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices are welcomed.
  7. Going green- The carbon emissions of train travel are far less that of either automobile or airplane.  Studies vary, but I could not find one that didn't indicate less than half as much impact if train travel was used.
  8. Nostalgia- There is something very charming about taking a train.  They still have dining cars.  They use real silverware.  They have waiters. 
  9. Adventure- If you believe the adventure is in the journey itself, then trying the train is for you.  It will take longer, but that time can be spent playing cards, napping or looking out the windows of the observation car that are on most Amtrak trains.  Depending on where you travel, this could be a breathtaking experience.
riding-the-rails-train-travel-tips2.jpg

Things to consider:

  • Bring snacks
  • Bring cash
  • Bring music and/or laptop
  • If traveling with company, bring games/playing cards
  • Bring a camera
  • Bring a blanket and a pillow
  • If traveling overnight, consider a sleeper car.  It adds to the price, of course, but you will be glad you did it.
  • Bring earplugs
  • Bring binoculars
  • If travelling for days, consider getting off at cities in between for a little  side excursion.
  • Dress comfortably
  • Feel free to move around the train if you feel restless.

If you are considering a train trip be sure to visit the Amtrak website for routes and schedules.  Be sure to look around there.  They have lots of useful information to help you make your decision.