When you think about traveling for your next vacation, you may think about whether you should drive or fly. But, there is a third option available to many Americans: traveling by train. Did you know that trains travel to several major city destinations, as well as some of the most remote areas? Train travel provides travelers with the experience to explore one or more destinations, with many scenic routes in just under six hours.
The Scenery: Traveling by Train
Traveling by train has been around for almost 200 years. Train routes have been built around some of the most scenic places, from sprawling prairie fields to rugged lakes, around picturesque small towns to distant snow-capped mountain peaks. Some routes race past sprawling Midwestern farms and flower fields. Add to that the fact that train stations are necessarily well-located, usually in the center of town, and you have an experience that requires very little effort and returns a maximum level of enjoyment.
Logistical Stress: Traveling by Train
Traveling by train removes many of the stresses related to logistics. For example, in lieu of air travel, there are no restrictions on the food, liquids, and other items you can bring with you on the train. In addition, you are not required to pay extra fees for baggage checks or carry-on items. Further, boarding the train does not require standing in check-in lines, required security screening processes for each passenger, nor long lines for boarding. In addition, due to the limited space for waiting, passengers are not expected to arrive two hours early for travel.
Insider Tip: Most experienced train travelers arrive 30 minutes or less prior to departure. Boarding happens relatively fast and is organized.
As opposed to driving, traveling by train does not require you to plan detailed routes, rest stops, locations for meals, or other requirements along the way to your destination. Without the worry about traffic, construction, and mapping driving routes, you can relax and enjoy the journey, as well as the destination.
Relax and Unwind: Traveling by Train
Traveling by train gives everyone the opportunity to talk, play games, and spend quality time together. Train travel also provides access to all travelers to relax and enjoy their favorite entertainment, whether it be movies, television shows, or gaming. Most trains are equipped with charging outlets per seat, allowing each passenger access to charging his or her own personal device. Last, free Wi-Fi is often available on most trains.
In addition, train cars offer a dedicated dining and snack car, that includes hot and cold foods and beverages, as well as expansive seating with tables to play games or cards. Train travel offers several restrooms throughout the train, including handicap restrooms.
Insider Tip: The total travel time may be slightly longer than travel by car, and much longer in duration than airline travel. However, once you account for early arrival time, checked bag lines, security screening, and wait time to board, you may find that train travel is shorter in total duration end to end.
Need to get some work completed before you can unplug for vacation? Did you know you can use your phone and the train’s Wi-Fi to access conference calls or virtual meetings? Or use the Wi-Fi to access and complete other tasks on your work to-do list.
Ample Legroom and Space: Traveling by Train
Train seating offers more legroom and space than most airplanes, as well as cars. Trains seats are often wider and more spacious between rows of passengers, allowing you the ability to stretch out your legs. In addition, the spacing for the aisle row is larger than most airplanes. Need even more room? Use the tables and extra seating available to you in the dining car. This alone could make or break your decision to start traveling by train!
Read More: Travel Tips for the Sustainable Traveler
Eco-Friendly: Traveling by Train
For the environmentally-conscious travelers, traveling by train uses less fuel per mile than air travel and is known to release fewer emissions. “Trains consume less energy and produce less harmful pollutants than either car or air travel. Hopping on an Amtrak train will save you gas and daily wear and tear on your car. It also reduces the ever-increasing traffic congestion on the roads and in the skies,” according to Amtrak. To read more about green travel and its benefits, visit Amtrak.
Packing: Traveling by Train
You may find it easier to pack when it comes to traveling by train. Think about it, a weekend getaway by train keeps the packing light, your essentials close, and the trip easy. There are a few items you want to make sure you don’t leave at home, so if you decide to take the plunge and hop on those rails, here’s a handy checklist to copy, paste, and pack.
Use this checklist below to pack when you are traveling by train. If you’re lucky, everything will fit into a lightweight backpack.
- Snack bag, with fresh and packaged foods
- Drink bag, including reusable water bottle
- Extra device charger
- Comfortable shoes
- Hotel-size toiletries
- Reading materials
- Deck of cards
- Pre-downloaded content, like movies and TV shows
Read More: Must Read Travel Packing List
Trips under Eight Hours: Traveling by Train
Looking for places to go when you are in a hurry but have a traveling itch that isn’t satisfied by a ride into town? Good, because we’ve identified three great trip ideas, that you can take in under eight hours. You may not have a lot of time or resources, but the love of traveling by train shouldn’t delay your adventures any longer. Here are three major cities with sites to see that will soothe your traveling itch.
- The Getaway Weekend in Chicago – Train routes offer multiple daily departures between Chicago and major cities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Upon arrival in Chicago, venture out to explore Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, take an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River, ride an elevator up over 100 stories in the Willis Tower for sprawling views, and catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Don’t forget to try Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza.
- An Adventure in our Nation’s Capital – Washington D.C. – Depart from multiple cities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, and in under eight hours, you can find yourself immersed in national history museums, magnificent architecture, and surrounded by national treasures and monuments. A visit to Georgetown and the war memorials offers some tranquility and time for reflection. Lastly, the National Botanical Gardens and walking trails around the Potomac River provide a break from the city.
- Northwest Coast Retreat- Seattle to Portland – Want to explore waterfalls and snowcapped mountains, all while enjoying a view of the breathtaking coastline? For the best views, try to book a seat in advance facing the west side of the train. If you cannot reserve in advance, ask for a water view seat when boarding.
You don’t have to take a whole weekend, just take a day and go! Traveling by train makes day trips super easy to book and go. Explore solo or grab your bestie, either way, you’ll have plenty of options. We’ve got you started with three. Let’s see what else you can find!
Believe it or not, traveling by train can be one of the most relaxing, fun, and scenic options for your next vacation. With hassle-free logistics and the fact that many train vacations can be completed in under eight hours of total trip time, you can see why more and more people are exploring traveling by train. Now, it’s simply a matter of when and where!
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