Travel by train can be both an economical and relaxing way to travel. In both the Midwest and the East Coast of the United States, Amtrak is the main rail system. It provides service to most major cities throughout all of the United States. This is especially true in the Midwest as Amtrak’s main hub is Union Station located in downtown Chicago.
Planning a Trip with Amtrak
Planning a trip with Amtrak can be most easily done via their website. The site not only allows for reservations, but one can also find out about fare specials and discounts under Amtrak’s “Hot Deal” link. Using the website also allows one to search for the best fares based upon departure and arrival city. Considering a trip to D.C. or Maryland? Choose various surrounding cities/destinations to see which arrival station might offer the best fare. If not very computer savvy, one can also make reservations on phone via Amtrak’s toll free number.
Amtrak Stations Throughout the Northeast
Amtrak stations exist in several cities throughout the Northeast USA. A few of these stations are large (such as Boston South Station, Penn Station in New York and of course Union Station in Chicago) and offer several amenities such as newsstands/bookstores, cafes/eateries and/or free wi-fi. Nonetheless, most stations are extremely small with little or no service. In most situations, transactions are handled via a kiosk and passengers are responsible for getting their own luggage on and off of the train. To find out if a station is manned or unmanned, call the Amtrak offices or the station directly.
Tips for Riding the Rail
When purchasing a ticket, one can choose from a few seating options. The choices include standard/coach, lower level coach (with more easy access and privacy), business class (very spacious with complimentary beverages) or first class (offering added space, a train attendant and complimentary meals/beverages). One can also opt for a sleeper (with bed and complimentary meals/beverages) on longer routes.
Meals and snacks can be purchased aboard all Amtrak trains. Some menu items include sandwiches, chips, cookies and beverages. Additionally, on certain trips and at designated times, formal meals are served in the dining car.
Popular Amtrak Vacations
In addition to rail service, one can also book an entire vacation through Amtrak. Possible trip add-ons include lodging, meals, rental car and discount tickets/admission to popular attractions. Some popular Amtrak vacations between cities in the Northeast include:
Philadelphia to Baltimore
Washington D.C. to Boston
Chicago to Minneapolis
St. Louis to Kansas City
It is also very easy to create an individual travel itinerary using Amtrak. To find out about cities in which Amtrak provides service, review the drop down station list on the Amtrak site.