Lately, I’ve been working with prospective clients who are interested in taking trips using Amtrak. The more time I spend learning about the different vacations, the bigger and bigger fan I become. It’s a great, alternative option for travel. You can take a long-distance road trip without the driving, and you get to see parts of the country you would otherwise miss in an airplane. Without further ado, read on for the top 5 reasons I think you should take a trip (at least once in your life) using Amtrak.
Amtrak has routes to nearly every state on the continental United States (except South Dakota and Alaska), and some parts of Canada.
Some of the most popular destinations include Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, New York City, Seattle, Yellowstone, Washington, DC, and Niagara Falls, Ontario. But, really, there’s plenty more to choices for travelers of all ages and types.
I’ve lived in Washington, DC for almost 10 years, so I’d like to say I am very comfortable with the Northeast Corridor and more specifically, the Northeast Regional route. In fact, I have used Amtrak departing from (in order of placement on the route, but at varying times over the years): Williamsburg, Virginia; Washington, DC; Willington, Delaware; Newark Penn Station; New York Penn Station; Providence, RI; and Boston, MA.
PHEW. Took me a while to piece that one together. But, the thing that all of these stations (and the others throughout the country) have in common is that you don’t have to follow the same recommendations for airports and get there 2 or 3 hours early.
If you want to check out the station or the area before you train, and maybe have a nice meal before your trip, you could arrive a couple hours early. Otherwise, I recommend arriving at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. If you think you’ll need help with baggage, tickets or any other services you might want to give yourself a little extra room to get these services taken care of.
I won’t lie. I’ve never checked a bag using Amtrak. All of my trips have been short duration, few days here, few days there. I have always taken advantage of the overhead space. (Except, that one time I had to bring on a giant suitcase after my connecting flight following an international trip was cancelled, but I digress.)
There is very often TONS of overhead space on Amtrak. Why?! Because they don’t charge you to check your first two bags! (WHAT?!) That seems like such a crazy concept in relation to airline travel where people already pay too much for plane tickets, and then have to pay more to check bags on top of it, so everyone protests and then fights for overhead space.
So, here’s what you get (just so you know): each passenger is allowed two carry-on bags that weigh no more than 50 lbs, and are not bigger than 28 x 22 x 14 inches (700 x 550 x 350 millimeters) – free of charge. Additionally, each passenger can check up to 4 bags. (That’s a lot of luggage!). But, 2 are free of charge and 2 will be charged $20 per bag. The checked bags should also not exceed 50 lbs (23 kg) and 75 linear inches (length + width + height).
On long-distance train routes, you have the option of purchasing a ticket that includes a room. Your room options are a Roomette, a Bedroom, a Family Bedroom, or an Accessible Bedroom. For all rooms, daytime seating converts to beds at night. You have access to electrical outlets, climate controls, reading lights, a small closet and fold-down table, all within easy reach. You also get bed linens and soap, Dining Car meals, bottled water, coffee, and assistance from a Sleeping Car attendant. (Yes, you read that right. All of your meals are included in the cost of your ticket when you purchase a room!)
For the long-distance routes, Amtrak offers either two-level Superliner or one-level Viewliner train car equipment. Even if you opt out of the the room, on the long distance journeys, Amtrak provides extra-spacious Coach Class seating with leg rests designed to provide added comfort for long or overnight trips.
You can use your cell phone, computer, tablets, and other devices in their normal operating modes. No reason to switch to airplane mode and feel like you’re missing everything happening in the world. You can use your own data plan, or hot spot, but Amtrak offers free basic Wi-Fi through its official network AmtrakConnect.
It’s not everywhere within the system just yet. It’s currently available on over 30 trains and in 10 stations across the country, which reaches roughly 85% of passengers (read: the most highly concentrated and most traveled routes), but it’s better than nothing!
If you’ve made it this far, it should be pretty clear that I am a fan of Amtrak. Now, where do you want to go?
Guided tour of Sapelo Island five miles offshore from the Georgia Coast. Includes roundtrip ferry ride to the Island, the University of Georgia's Marine Institute, R. J. Reynolds Mansion, historic, Sapelo Island Lighthouse, beautiful unspoiled and undeveloped Atlantic Ocean beach, and African-American community of slave descendants.