A great alternative to flying or driving

Get on Board with Affordable Train Travel

by Debra Karplus

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According to Amtrak, 31.6 million passengers rode Amtrak trains from October 2012 to September 2013, and that number has grown since then. Compare a roundtrip flight found on Orbitz from Chicago to Denver on United Airlines for $282 with an Amtrak trip on the California Zephyr between those same cities for $232 (or for people 62 years old and over $197.20). Other generous discounts apply on Amtrak for people in the military, students, and AAA members. Amtrak reports transporting over 86,000 passengers on its 300 trains daily. Whatever the weather, a train can bring you to your destination in reasonable time. Maybe it's time you explored the option of taking your next trip by train. Besides generally being affordable, there are many advantages to a train trip for you and your family.

Amtrak offers excellent customer service.

Amtrak trains allow two carry-on bags weighing up to 50 pounds and measuring up to 28 by 22 by 14 inches. Additionally, they allow personal items such as purses, laptop computers, travel pillows, and jackets. Try finding an airline that's so generous with its baggage policy!

If you need to modify or cancel an Amtrak reservation, it can easily be done on its website. You will receive credit on your credit card or an e-voucher to be used on a future Amtrak trip. Air travel allows for that, but for a price.

Trains offer sit-down dining options as well as a cafe with sandwiches, beverages, and more. Prices are comparable to those on planes, but there are more choices. Of course, bringing your own food on the train makes travelling by train even more affordable.

And if your train happens to be late, Amtrak states that they will make sure you are booked on a later train or a bus. And, if they are unable to get you to your destination until the next day, they will provide you with hotel accommodations and meals. You won't need to spend that night in a train station the way you might for an air trip.

Get on Board with Affordable Train Travel

Overnight train travel is more comfortable than you might imagine.

Whether you sit in coach or book a room on the train, being able to walk around wherever you want is just one of many reasons people love travelling by train. If you are willing to spend a few hundred dollars extra for each leg of your train trip, you can reserve accommodations in one of Amtrak's Superliner rooms. Amtrak offers roomettes, bedrooms, and bedroom suites for up to four people, and some that are accessible. Beds come with linens. Pay a bit more if you want a toilet and shower in your room rather than sharing a restroom with others on the train. For passengers traveling this way, meals in route are included. At $10 to $15 a meal, that savings can add up! The level of comfort in those sleeper cars gets mixed reviews. It is somewhat dependent on the physical stature of the passenger and the ability to sleep well in general.

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But for those who want to spend a night or more on the Amtrak, a good night sleep is doable in coach class, the least expensive seats on the train. There is ample legroom on trains, seats that recline, and elevating leg rests, making it easy to get into a decent sleep position. Many experienced train travelers have learned to bring a pillow and blanket, since Amtrak doesn't include them in their baggage count. There are several rest rooms in every train car that are large enough to shave and perform other grooming tasks as well as some with benches that make changing clothes easy.

Seeing breathtaking countryside is just one of the perks of train travel.

Have your camera ready if you are taking a long trip by train. Each train has an observation car and a lounge car with a lot of room for enjoying the view. People who have travelled on the California Zephyr rave about the fabulous mountainous scenery just west of Denver and all the way to the San Francisco area where that train ends. Amtrak.com has a map showing all their routes.

Some people are afraid to travel by air but do want to see more of America. Taking the train is a wonderful alternative to flying. And if your destination is one of America's smaller towns like Galesburg Illinois, a train can easily get you there unlike a plane.

Amtrak's reward program is easy to join and provides redeemable points toward free travel. Points are determined by the number of dollars spent on Amtrak. So if you book one of their vacation packages, you accrue more points. Consider travelling by train for your next trip.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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