FOR A CHANGE OF PACE, TRAVEL BY TRAIN
Travelling by Railroad Train: A Step Back To A Less Hectic Time
Tours By Railroad
Amtrak is the national railroad of the United States, with some smaller, independent railroads serving specialized locations. There are many types of railroad travel packages available from Amtrak as well as the independents. Here's a brief rundown on what you can find for a railroad vacation:
- City Trips on Amtrak
If you've always wanted to visit Seattle, the Grand Canyon, Reno, or Chicago, among others, you can arrange to travel by train to these and other destinations. You can also book separate tour packages which include hotel and sightseeing.
- Independent Rail Tours
Travel with one of the Grand Canyon Railroad's tour packages to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Package price includes hotel accomodations and sightseeing. Your trip to the tour site is extra, whether you go by train, plane or automobile. Or book a tour on the Heritage Cities by Rail, a 7 day-6 night package that includes historical tours of New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. If you're on the West coast, the Pacific Coast Rail Journey may be something you'd consider. The trip starts out in Seattle, where you explore that city for a day and part of another, before boarding the train to Los Angeles. At your Los Angeles destination, other tours and activities are included in this rail package.
- Escorted Rail Tours
Join a group for a pre-planned vacation by rail that includes your hotel accomodations, guided sight-seeing tours, and meals. Tour Alaska, New England, California, Colorado, and more. The American Legend tour (Chicago and St. Louis) even includes a trip up the Mississippi River by steamboat, with stops along the way to visit cities such as Hannibal, Missouri and Dubuque, Iowa, among others.
- Luxury US Rail Tours
This package recreates the nostalgia of the Golden Age of Rail, on board the American Orient Express. Tour packages include trips through the Antebellum South, National Parks of the West, or Pacific Coast packages, to name just a few.
If you're on a budget, consider the individual city tours, as they are shorter and more affordable. If money is no object, the longer Escorted or Luxury tours will give you much more to enjoy. Consider it a cruise on land.
Getting From Here to There
We've presented tour ideas in the preceding paragraph, all available from Vacations By Rail. But if you're interested in a train trip from Point A to Point B, Amtrak can still accomodate your needs if you live near enough to one of the cities they serve. There are stations all over the United States, and the Amtrak web page will give you a list of these stations. As mentioned before, Amtrak is the national railroad. They offer many discounts and rate savings, depending on travel plans, advance tickets, and so forth. For example, there are weekly specials on selected routes. At the time this article was written, specials included Chicago to specific destinations such as Grand Rapids, MI ($13.50 one way); St. Louis ($19.50 one way); and to Indianapolis, IN for $10.80 one way. There are special weekend fares between selected cities. Passenger discounts include 50% off fares for children ages 2-15; senior citizen discounts for ages 62 and older; and discounts for veterans, military, AAA members, and others. You can get discounts by purchasing rail passes, usually for travel within a specific amount of time, but can be for multiple destinations if you want to plan your own vacation. For example, if you're wanting to travel between the US and Canada over a period of 30 days, you can get a North America Rail Pass for $709 for off-peak travel, or $999 for peak travel periods. There are special fares for international (non US or Canada) travelers, multi-ticket passes, and more.
More Points To ConsiderTraveling by train is like no other mode of transportation. Where else are you allowed to bring your own food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages, onboard. You are encouraged to bring along things to entertain yourself while traveling, such as a deck of cards, books, coloring books for the kiddies, personal pc's, dvd and cd players. For dining onboard, most trains offer either a full dining car or lounge, dinette or cafe cars. Coach class passengers pay extra for dining; first class or those with sleeping accomodations have the price of onboard meals included in their ticket prices. Many trains feature a "Quiet Car," a place for people to go who need to work or rest without distractions and noise. No additional charge for this service. For long-distance travel, many trains have extra sleeping accomodations. You will have to pay extra for this service, but there are extras included with the price. Your onboard meals are free, you get special services like a daily newspaper and fresh linen. Book these early for best selection and price. If you or a travelling companion have disabilities, Amtrak can accomodate most of these. Make your reservations by phone or at an Amtrak ticket counter. Disabled passengers are also eligible for fare discounts. And be sure to bring proper identification with you as you travel. You'll need photo ID, and should be prepared to show it when asked by an Amtrak employee. If this is your first trip by train, you'll find more information at Amtrak.com that will help you with your trip. Enjoy the journey!