A friend on Facebook is getting ready to take a trip via Amtrak from Kansas City to Albuquerque. Never having ridden the train, she naturally had many questions. It reminded me that after three years taking several train trips per year, I had forgotten how many tips I had to learn by trial and error in the beginning. So, to help you prepare for a trip via Amtrak, here are seven things you might not know about traveling the USA by rail.
- Book early for discounted Saver rates. Or, if you’re going long distance, and have the time, consider purchasing a 15-day (8 stops) or more rail pass. You can break up the trip by getting off at several locations, plus it’s usually cheaper than purchasing several long-distance routes.
- If you can afford it, get a roomette. All of your meals in the dining car are included. Plus it’s nice to be able to shut the door and nap or read in privacy.
- Things you’ll want to pack in a day bag: wipes, a small cooler with drinks and snacks, slippers or other slip-on shoes for moving around on the train, a blanket and pillow, any medications you may need, a change of clothes if it’s an overnight trip, phone, laptop, and chargers, ear plugs, headphones for music or movies, small bills for the snack bar and tipping.
- Get out of your seat or sleeper car and spend time in the Observation Car. It’s the greatest way to see the United States–some areas are accessible only by train. And some routes have Trails & Rails guides on board who give an educational tour in the Observation Car.
- Most long-distance trains do not have wifi. Go off-grid and enjoy having time to disconnect–nap, read, write, watch the scenery, talk to strangers. It’s a hidden benefit for those of us who spend too much time online.
- Don’t stress about delays. I met a retired couple on the California Zephyr who had traveled from Boston to Vancouver via Canada, then were returning home via the USA from Seattle to Boston, stopping every three days to get off somewhere. The wife told me, “There’s no such thing as time on the train.” Which is true. You’ll get to experience how relative time is, so don’t worry if there are delays.
- If you want to learn more, click the link to watch a Top Travel Tips in Two Minutes video I created about USA by Rail for The Voyage Report.