Like most little boys, my son became obsessed with trains from a very young age. It never mattered if it was Thomas the Tank Engine or the D.C. Metro, if the opportunity to ride one presented, the begging commenced immediately. One of the first picture books he remembers is The Polar Express. The Christmas he turned 3, Santa brought a hardcover copy of this treasured book, along with a silver bell. He begged for many years to be able to ride a train to the North Pole, and vowed never to stop hearing the ringing of that silver bell.
Sadly, I can’t make that dream come true, but in just a few months, he and I will be boarding a train for the trip of a lifetime. I have begun planning a road trip with an Amtrak Rail Pass.
If, like our family, you don’t live in a city or town serviced by Amtrak, you may not be familiar with the Amtrak Rail Pass. I wasn’t very familiar myself, until I began planning our upcoming vacation. The Rail Pass is an option for those who are planning to travel by train touring the country (or California). For one price per person, you can travel for a period of 15-45 days across the U.S. or 7-days in California. For purposes of this article, I will be referring to the Rail Passes that allow for travel by train across the country.
Depending upon how long you wish to travel, you can choose 8, 12, or 18 segments of travel. This means that you can plan a road trip, stopping at sites along the way. Our family will be purchasing 30-day Rail Passes, allowing for 12 segments of travel. The cost for a 30-day Rail Pass is $689 for adults and $344.50 for children ages 2-12 (children under 2 ride for free).
From the time you board a train until you exit it is considered one segment, no matter how long the distance. Our family will begin our first segment of travel in Chicago, aboard the California Zephyr. We will ride this train all the way to California, where we will spend the bulk of our trip, and then return to Chicago aboard a different train (and route), the Southwest Chief. During our trip, we will ride through the Rocky Mountains, stopping in Denver, CO and Salt Lake City, UT, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Sacramento, and the Grand Canyon, among other places. Planning a trip of this magnitude is no small feat, which means I have already been researching and planning even though we are several months from travel.
In my research, I have learned so much about how travel by train works: the benefits, possible pitfalls, expectations, a few tips and trips, and more. But, you may be wondering: Why travel by train? Before I get to all the must-have information for planning a road trip with an Amtrak Rail Pass, let’s talk a bit about the benefits of travel by train.
Keep reading . . .