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What to Expect When Taking an Amtrak Train

Traveling can sometimes be a bit of a headache. You have to pick where you want to go, how to get there and what to bring along. When considering the best mode of transportation, there are a variety of factors that come to mind like cost, the amount of time it takes to travel and luggage possibilities. Taking a road trip requires all that driving and let’s not even think about those gas prices. There’s also traveling by plane, but then you have packing restrictions and long wait times. Then there is a slightly less talked about option, but a worthy contender, the ole fashion train ride.

The most well-known passenger railroad company in the US and the first company that comes to mind when booking train rides is Amtrak. They have routes all over the US and Canada with stops in cities like Vancouver, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, Toronto, Denver, Washington D.C and San Francisco. With over 20+ routes from Northwest to Southeast, planning a trip using Amtrak could be the answer to your next traveling question.

What is an Amtrak Train Like?

Amtrak provides different seating options and accommodations depending on your traveling style and length of trip. The good thing to note right from the start is, you’ll be traveling in comfort no matter what you choose. From coach class to first class, you can find reclining, cushioned seats with plenty of legroom, overhead reading lights and panoramic windows to catch all of the amazing views on your journey. You can even keep your bags nearby whether it be in front of your seat, if small enough, or on the overhead luggage racks. It makes it very convenient when getting off at your stop. If you are taking a long-distance route or you just want some space to yourself, there are also different private room options. From a roomette to a family room, you can decide how much space will be the perfect fit for you. Private rooms also come with a few extras like complimentary meals either in your room or the dining car, lounge access at stations and a car attendant to provide any assistance you may need.

When it comes to coach class, one thing to note is your seats are assigned to you when you are boarding the train. Be sure to get there early especially if you are traveling in a group so you don’t get separated. Business class and first class seats allow a bit more flexibility. If you are looking to stretch your legs and get a better view of the scenery around you, most long-distance trains have an observation car which is nearly covered in all windows for a 360 view. Down below, you’ll find a cafe with different snacks and convenient meals in case you find yourself getting hungry. On some trains, there is also a quiet car if you are looking for a quiet space to unwind or get some work done.

traveling on an amtrak train

How to Book an Amtrak Train

You know when you are looking for plane tickets or rental cars, you usually go to Hopper or run a quick Google search to see if you can find better deals on third-party sites compared to directly booking with the company? Well, with Amtrak, booking directly on the site is going to yield the best results. When booking your trip, it can be very beneficial to know the name of the route you are taking and the names of the stations you will be departing and arriving at. Also, plan ahead and book early if you can. It can save you some money on your tickets. You can book a one-way ticket or a round trip. If you are looking to travel between different cities, there is an option for that too. Be sure to look at the deals page on Amtrak’s website to see if there are any discounts that fit your travel needs. Now you may be wondering, are Amtrak train tickets refundable? Yes, they are but it depends on when you are looking to cancel your reservation and your ticket type.

What Can You Bring on the Train?

Amtrak does make traveling pretty flexible and convenient if you ask me. When it comes to luggage, you can bring your whole closet if you choose to do so. Passengers get 1 personal item, 2 carry-on bags and 2 checked bags all included in the cost of the ticket. Amtrak offers a free Red Cap baggage handling service at major stations to help get your bags aboard your train. You can also bring your own food and beverages that you can enjoy at your seat or in your room. A cooler, as long as it fits baggage restrictions, can be used as a carry-on item to store any food, drinks or medication that needs to be kept cool. If you don’t want to worry about buying food or keeping a cooler on hand, non-perishable items like nuts, chips, apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, celery, little bell peppers and sweet treats are the perfect snacks to bring along.

Other items that you can bring and should consider include: books, laptops or smaller electronic devices, headphones, earplugs, disinfecting wipes, playing cards, sanitizer and an eye mask. Don’t forget your chargers! That would be bad. When it comes to what you can not bring on Amtrak, always use your common sense and you’ll be fine. Here is a list of prohibited items.

Know Before You Step Onboard

Taking a train as your traveling transportation is pretty calming. You don’t need to arrive super early to the station, as getting on the train can be as easy as getting checked in on the platform and then hopping on. The train can leave late and arrive early but make sure you are at the station at least 30 minutes before departure. If you need to check baggage, arrive even earlier. Depending on your route, there are select trains and stations that have wifi. The more scenic routes usually do not especially if you are traveling through the mountains and areas with bad signals, but that’s what the windows are for. Let nature be your entertainment and companion for the ride.

Amtrak also allows pets to travel as well. Dogs and cats, 20 pounds and under can come along for the ride as long as your trip is under 7 hours. They must remain in their carriers while onboard and at stations and they have to be by your side at all times.

Whether traveling solo, with family or with furry friends, Amtrak provides a flexible and convenient option for traveling where you can really make the most of your experience. You can travel all over the US with comfort, ease and style. Have you taken an Amtrak train before or are you thinking about taking your first ride? Share in the comments where you would like to go and share this post with all your fellow travelers!


Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash

2 Comments

Fransic verso
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November 11, 2023 at 5:07 am

This is cool, never taken this train before but would love to do that. Thank you for sharing that!

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