The first thing that needs to be said is that the US Rail Transportation system is not used as frequently for passenger transportation as in other parts of the World, like Europe for example. After all, who in their right minds would want to use trains when they can simply fly there? But, what if you are more interested in sightseeing the US countryside, would the trains be an advantage? What about the cost? There are many variable factors which would need to be kept in mind to tackle these questions.
Let us start with pricing. Say that you wanted to visit New York and Washington. Both lie on the opposite ends and you will have to cross the whole mainland. Here is a curious comparison of the times it would take to go through them using Trains and Airplanes. The figures may vary in reality, but they will give us a pretty accurate idea.
As you can see that for the above routes the savings are there, but clearly the San Antonio – Dallas trip would not be worth the savings, as it would take a lot of time. However, for the New York to Washington Trip a lot of savings can be had, which can then be spent on the accommodation and other expenses. Plus, it would give you a very good idea about the countryside as well.
The savings using Amtrak can be compounded even more, if you use their day passes, which depending on your choice can be issued for a specific number of trips or a specific time period. That is ideal if you wish to travel frequently only spending a day or two at the destinations.
Once again, there are a lot of variables that need to be accounted for. But, the major ones include the overall time for travel and your budget. Long flights tend to be generally hectic, when compared to long train commutes. The main reason is that you are advised to remain in your seat in the Airplanes, but you can walk around freely on the train. There are other advantages too. Usually long routes on the trains have comfortable seats even in the economy sections, which can be reclined back fully to sleep. And if you are booked in the sleeper car, then it isn’t very different from a hotel. Then there are the dining and lounge cars. Plus, they have free Wi-Fi on board which means you can stay connected on the go.
You can ensure an even better experience if you take the necessary items with you on the train. These would include light hand carry luggage, a few toiletries, your phone charger, a power strip – if you plan on using multiple devices and having them at full charge, books, and anything else which you need. Most of these, including the bag and power strip, can be bought at really cheap prices using these coupons from Groupon.
Is it viable?
Generally speaking the trains have much going in their favor, except for the overall time taken. And despite my love of trains, even I would not venture to take an 8 hour journey to Dallas. Well not unless, I had a lot of time. If you do have time then even the longer trips can be fruitful. You can watch the beautiful country side or just binge watch Game of Thrones, before the upcoming season 6. So, in conclusion, the train system is not outdated in the US and is ideal for some trips. But on others, it just wouldn’t make sense to spend about 12 hours, if you can fly there in 3.
Lots of solid information, including tips from blog readers in the Comments section.
Sold out for the present.
Some things are more difficult when you are traveling alone. You have to deal with all your luggage alone, there is nobody to help you at the security lines, nobody will save your seat at the gate while you go to the restroom or to buy a cup of coffee. Until now…
Enter Airport Butler Concierge.
For a fee, the Airport Butler will meet you at the curb when you arrive at your departure airport, help you schlep your luggage (including pets) to check-in and through security, and stay with you until you have boarded your flight. They know the local language and customs, which can be a great benefit.
When you arrive at your destination, the Airport Butler will greet you as you de-plane and accompany you until you are connected with your ground transportation.
At this time Airport Butler Concierge is available only at San Francisco (SFO) and Vancouver (YVR), which are used by tens of thousands of student and vacationing Chinese, but they hope to expand to other airports.
The flight attendant can tell you the seatbelt sign is on, but that’s OK.
However, if s/he says that you must return to your seat, you have to obey.
The airline really, really does not want you to soak your seat cushion in urine…it’s so darn hard to sell that seat to another passenger on the next flight.
Why it’s much less expensive to take an ocean cruise, or a cruise on a European or Asian river.
Some of the blame is due to the Jones Act, passed in 1920. But new ships are coming to American rivers, which may drive prices lower.
Blogger David Pierce is a big fan of rolling your clothes, rather than folding them. Whatever.
There are some good tips here, expecially for anyone who always takes too much on vacation.
In addition to FlyerMiler.com , this report evaluates some of its competitors. Here is a report on FlyerMiler.
and another report which adds Milez.biz:
and a third report:
The competitors include:
- Travel Codex’s Award Chart Search Tool
- Ultimate Frequent Flyer Mile Award Calculator