18 Dec Taking Your First Amtrak Train Trip? Here Are 6 Tips
When it comes to appreciating the beauty of the United States, an Amtrak train trip is difficult to beat. Not only are you treated to sights that are only possible by rail, but the kind of comfort you enjoy exceeds what you would experience on a bus and certain airlines.
Whether it’s a short trip such as NYC to Boston, or a lengthy one from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, your first Amtrak journey should be memorable for all the right reasons. Here are some tips to make your inaugural trip go smoothly.
- Buy Your Tickets Early
Amtrak tickets are sold in a way that incentivizes early booking. Unlike the fluctuating price matrix that is used in the airline industry, Amtrak sells its tickets in batches with the lowest prices going first. Once the tickets in that batch sell out, the ones in the next price tier are made available to buyers.
Buying early means you have the best shot at getting low-priced tickets for the most popular routes and days. You can get an Amtrak ticket as early as 11 months before your trip. Even if it’s just two weeks before your travel date, Amtrak still provides price savings of as much as 25%. Buy your ticket through the Amtrak app, Amtrak.com or at an Amtrak station.
- Join the Rewards Program
Rewards programs are always a great way to access coupons, obtain discounts, and get class upgrades. The Amtrak Guest Rewards program is no exception. It is free to join and signing up takes just a couple of minutes.
Even if you aren’t a regular Amtrak traveller, there’s nothing to lose by joining the rewards program. The points you earn are available for two years, as long as there is some activity in your Amtrak account in this period.
- Check Seating
There are different seating options on an Amtrak train: sleeper, first class, business and coach. Sleeper cars include options such as the accessible bedroom, family bedroom, bedroom suite, a bedroom and a roomette.
The Amtrak website has pictures of each seating option, so you know what to expect when you make your choice.
- Check the Schedules
There may be different scheduling options at your disposal when you buy an Amtrak ticket. For example, one train may take just nine hours with no layovers, whereas other options could take 20 hours for the same route, with multiple layovers. Just like air travel, there will be differences in pricing depending on the time and layovers required to get to your destination.
A direct trip could be faster, but the premium you have to pay for it may not always be worth it, especially for leisure travel. Stretching your trip by just a couple of hours more could save you money.
- Understand Luggage Limits
There are limits to the luggage you can bring along for your train trip. You should familiarize yourself with these limits well before your arrival at the station. That ensures you don’t run into unexpected fees for excess luggage issues.
Each passenger is allowed two personal items and two carry-on bags. Personal items should not exceed 25lbs and the carry-on bags can only weigh up to 50lbs. Also, you can bring as many as four checked bags. The first two bags are free, while additional bags will incur a $20 fee each. Not all Amtrak stations can handle checked bags, so confirm that your departure and arrival stations do, before you leave.
- Make Use of the Observation Car
The observation car is no doubt one of the highlights on any Amtrak train trip. It sits somewhere near the middle of the train and is open to all passengers. The windows are larger than those in the standard cars, and provide breathtaking views of the landscape. This is the best place to capture unforgettable images and videos of the country.
The observation car is always open, which makes it a nice place for night owls who want a peaceful place to sit after the lights have been dimmed in the standard cars.
A Trip to Remember
Your first Amtrak trip will likely be one you will remember for life. Use these tips to ensure your journey is one you remember with fondness.