How to See America by Train

How to See America by Train

When you think of traveling by train, you may picture a trip across many beautiful countries in Europe. But trains are also an option for seeing some of the best destinations in the United States. Moreover, for international travelers visiting the United States without a car, traveling by train is a great way to have a fun and adventurous vacation. Follow the basics below to plan for your trip across America by train.

Plan a Trip by Train

Image via Flickr by jmv

Travel by train is an adventure unlike any other type of travel. You’ll need to buy tickets and make reservations, plan your stops and hotel stays, and pack to meet Amtrak’s baggage requirements. Although Amtrak travel is a bit slower than cars or planes, that pace is part of the appeal — what better way can you find to sit back and admire the U.S. countryside?

Find the Best Routes for Passenger Train Travel

Amtrak train stations are in major cities across the United States, and you can reach small cities if you don’t mind transferring to a bus or two.

  • San Diego to Seattle — West Coast travel: See the West Coast with stops in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Sacramento, California, in addition to Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
  • Miami to Boston — East Coast travel: Go from Miami, Florida, to Boston, Massachusetts, with an overnight stop in Alexandria, Virginia. You can find the accommodations you seek among Alexandria’s many excellent and affordable hotels.
  • From sea to sea — East Coast to West Coast trains: A trip from Boston to Seattle will take you through New York, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota; and Spokane, Washington.

If you want some more flexibility as you travel, consider a USA Rail Pass. This pass will allow you to go where you want to for a flat fee over a 15-, 30-, or 45-day period.

Budget for Your Trip

One of the best parts about traveling by train is that the experience is far cheaper than plane travel and far less stressful than preparing a vehicle and logging hours on the freeway. If you book in advance, you can travel coast to coast by train for less than $200. The following are a few other costs you’ll need to consider:

  • Food: Amtrak allows food and drink on their passenger trips. Budget extra if you want to eat out, or add a few must-try restaurants to your itinerary and splurge only at those locations.
  • Hotels: Book hotel rooms in advance when you’re planning your trip. These advance reservations will help you save on rates, and you can almost always find affordable options near Amtrak stations.
  • Public transportation: If you’re visiting major cities with good public transportation systems, plan to purchase day passes so that you can commute as much as you need without worrying about finding change for buses and metros.
  • Sightseeing: Another tip if you’re visiting major cities is to look for discounts on attractions. For example, you can use CityPASS to see some of the best destinations in cities such as Boston, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco at a steep discount.

Train travel is an affordable and distinctive way to experience the United States. When you start planning now, you can take advantage of the best rates by making your reservations well in advance of your travels.