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Taking the Train

Top Tips for Traveling by Train

The ever increasing air travel frustrations and higher fuel price, train travel may be the alternative travelers are looking for. Trains offer a relaxed vacation environment and add the romance of traveling by train.


The editors of IgoUgo, one of the most popular online travel communities in the world, believe train travel may be the way to go for summer vacations. Tapping into its community of savvy travelers, IgoUgo’s editors have pulled together tips, advice and itineraries for travelers looking for something other than the traditional fly-in summer vacation.

“Flight delays, schedule changes, cancelled flights, bankruptcies and mishandled baggage are pushing flyers’ frustration to an all-time high.” Said Content Manager, Michelle Doucette. “The summer of ’08 just might be ‘the summer of the train.’ Not only does train travel provide a totally different experience, statistics show it is often better for the environment than flying.”

Train travel offers an alternative to the hassles of airline travel. The U.S. airline industry received the worst score ever recorded in the most recent Airline Quality Rating (AQR) study. In the same study, consumer complaints were up 60 percent over last year. Americans may be increasingly more open to the idea of train travel. In 2007, Amtrak reported more than 25.8 million passengers, representing the fifth straight year of record ridership. More than 70,000 people ride on an Amtrak train each day. IgoUgo believes in many cases, Amtrak is a convenient alternative — with intercity passenger rail services to more than 500 destinations in 46 states.

For those looking to take a more eco-friendly vacation, train travel may be the more energy efficient alternative. The US Department of Energy found that Amtrak — on an energy-consumed-per-passenger-mile basis — is 18 percent more energy efficient than commercial airlines. IgoUgo editors suggest that while not every train trip is more energy-friendly than flying, it can be an added consideration when planning for a family vacation.

To venture into the world of train travel, remember these helpful tips for planning, booking and taking a train travel vacation.

Train Travel Tips

Thinking about a train trip?

  • Consider taking the train on long trips when you have kids in tow; it can be much more relaxing than driving and a better opportunity to spend quality time talking or playing cards.

  • Check to see if you’re visiting a city with a historic or notable train station; if so, arrive by train. Whether you’re a train enthusiast or a total novice, it’s a special experience to roll into a landmark like Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station or Union Station in Los Angeles.

  • If your flight is cancelled, booking a spot on a train may be a good alternative.

  • If traveling a long distance, consider an air-rail trip: fly to your destination, then take the rail home (or vice versa).

  • If you’re a nature lover, consider a US route participating in Amtrak’s Trails & Rails program, which provides educational opportunities to passengers, and researches national parks and scenic areas serviced by trains such as, Glacier National Park has two Amtrak stops with daily service in summer.

Booking your ticket?

  • Plan any train trip ahead of time; prices rise as departure dates near, and deluxe cabins sell out quickly.

  • Get a seat high enough to see out of the windows, and consider that your seat’s class might make the difference between an open-air ride and a spot behind sealed windows.

  • Consider that different classes may offer vastly different amenities; if a Western-style bathroom is a must on train trips abroad, learn which class offers that before booking.

  • See if your hotel accommodation at your destination will provide train-station transfers; you may be able to avoid renting a car or taking an expensive cab ride upon arrival.

  • Travel light. You may not have much storage space or much time to get organized and disembark at your stop.

  • Bring a sleeping bag or blanket; trains can get cold at night.

All aboard?

  • Make sure you know what time meals are served in the dining car, and arrive early to get a spot. You’ll most likely share a table with other passengers. If you don’t feel like being social or are a picky eater, pack your own food.

  • If you become frustrated by delays, remember to think of your train ride as a “trip within a trip” or “just as much a part of the vacation experience as the actual vacation itself,” in IgoUgo members’ words. Relax!

  • Do not lose your ticket — some rails will wait to collect them well after you board.

  • Listen carefully to station and train announcements, or you might miss learning of delays or departures. Some announcements are made only once.

  • If you’re on a stopover or day trip, double-check the departure board when you arrive at the train station so you know at what time you must return.

For more information about train travel, destinations and travel planning visit IgoUgo.

Source: IgoUgo