Traveling across the USA by Amtrak
Can we discuss air travel for a few moments? Flying is not what it used to be. Airline seats are not really comfortable; the fees for baggage, seats with more room and priority boarding will not go away any time soon. Add in the long security screening lines, not to mention restrictions on liquids, lack of in-flight food and you have the makings of a less-than-fun trip! What’s an alternative? Amtrak! Yes, one of the best ways to get from here to there is Amtrak. You’ll see so many more interesting things speeding across the land on a train than you will at 30,000 feet, that you will be happy you took the time to hit the rails! Amtrak has over 12 long distance trains covering some 18,000 miles of rail across the USA. (Not to mention the shorter, non-overnight trains, three of which enter Canada). In many parts of the country, the railroad is the only way to get from point A to point B, other than driving. The most important thing to remember about taking Amtrak across the country is that it takes TIME…..LOTS of time! At any time of the year, especially during snowy and rainy months, there can be times when sections of the track are closed, occasionally resulting in alternate means of transportation being used (most often, it’s motor coaches.) Also, since, with the exception of the North East corridor, Amtrak shares the rails with freight trains, the passenger trains must wait until the freight moves through. Why is this important? If you MUST be in a particular place on a specific day, you’ll need to build extra time into your travel schedule. However, if you’ve got plenty of time, then go ahead and take to the rails. If you'll be going all the way across the country (or ANY overnight train for that matter), consider booking a sleeper. The bedrooms and roomettes also include your meals in many cases. You'll have your own little corner of the world, a place to sleep and a shower and restroom. (Some sleeping accommodations have this in the room, others have facilities nearby in the same car.) Your sleeping car attendant will set up your bed, wake you, help you on and off the train and even bring your meals to your room if you wish. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the dining car. Amtrak uses "community seating" so if you are a party of less than 3, you'll be seated with others and you will make friends! Strike up a conversation! You'll meet people from all walks of life and all over the world! Chances are you will run into some "rail fans" who are obsessed with trains and the particulars of the "consist" (the train set you're on!) Many even have scanners that are set to the same frequency that is used by the conductors! Lots of fun hearing what's going on! Also, if you board at a larger station such as New York Penn, Philadelphia, Washington, DC Union Station or Chicago Union Station, sleeper passengers can use the Club Acela/Metropolitan Lounge and take advantage of a nice waiting area, free snacks and beverages (soft drinks) and luggage storage. You’ll board the train first, and should you need assistance with bags (or even a ‘ride’ to the train, “Red Caps” will be available to help. Some trains have Wi-Fi available, but many of the overnight trains do not offer this service. If staying connected is important to you, consider using your data plan on your cell phone, or getting a mobile hotspot of your own for the trip. Keep in mind though that cell service in parts of the country is not as readily available as it is in areas with more development. It can be nice to disconnect for a couple days. As far as entertainment, bring along some reading materials, movies, games and of course don’t forget your camera. Packing some snacks and beverages is also recommended. You can buy snacks on the train, but if you are welcome to bring your own food and drinks. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed, unless you are in your own sleeping accommodation. Be sure to pack plenty of any medications you take, as you will not be able to get prescriptions refilled until you reach your destination. Your train will make a number of service stops enroute and you may have the chance to step off the train for some fresh air. Be sure to stay CLOSE to the train as stops can be shortened if the train needs to make up time! You do NOT want to be left behind. When the conductor says “all aboard” that means get on the train…fast!! So, next time you’re planning your vacation, think about taking a trip on the train. For more information on specific routes, schedules and rail vacations, visit Amtrak.com. LuggageFactory.com has everything you need to make your rail journey fun, easy and comfortable. Contact us for assistance with your luggage and travel accessories needs.