- My family has travelledon Amtrak trains onlyon our journey through four northeastern states.
- It was less stressful and more expensive than flying or driving. In total we paid $22 per person.
- Although the carriages weren't glamorous, our seats were comfortable and wider than expected.
My family traveled across four northeastern states by train, and our total transportation cost was only $22 per person.
When researching transportation options for my familyVacation through the Northeast, I wanted to find a painless way to travel to and from several populous cities.
Once we got to the places we could rely on public transport so I just needed a way to easily travel between them.
Since many of these places are difficult to explore by car, I ended up booking tickets for two Amtrak trains: theKeystone-Service, which we drove from New York to Philadelphia, and theRegion Northeast, which we drove from Philadelphia to Wilmington.
Our journey included several stopovers lasting several days and took us through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Traveling on Amtrak trains proved to be a compelling and economical option as our transportation cost came to $22 per person. Such was our trip.
Most train stations were centrally located in the cities and were therefore easily accessible on foot.
One of the many advantages of train travel is that Amtrak stations are typically centrally located in major cities, making them incredibly convenient to get to.
In most cities I was able to book accommodation that was within walking distance of the train station, saving us money on ridesharing and relieving us of the stress that comes with potential traffic delays.
I was struck by the beauty and architecture of the different train stations.
When I picture people boarding a train, I thinkImagine well-dressed explorers making their way to lavish sleeper carsas they embarked on a scenic journey.
Today's Amtrak service is less glamorous than these emerging images, but many of the stations are from a bygone era of train travel, and the architecture at each waypoint is as diverse as it is stunning.
The William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is a towering, impressive building adorned with massive columns. Inside, we were greeted by high ceilings and beautiful artwork that set the stage for our grand adventure.
After an 18-minute ride on the tracks, we arrived at the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station in Wilmington, which is in stark contrast to the Philadelphia Station.
A small, nondescript early 20th-century brick building, the train station offers a whole different kind of beauty. It features colourful, detailed tiles and exposed steel beams studded with rivets.
The stations I visited aremuch more spectacular than I ever dreamedthey would be, and I could take an entire vacation just to explore and admire these historic buildings.
The boarding process was a breeze compared to airport check-in and security.
I've gotten so used to itcumbersome processes required to get through airportsthat I was shocked at how easy it was to navigate stations and board our trains.
There were no long waiting times orstrenuous security procedures. Amtrak employees also communicated clearly with passengers through digital boards and loudspeaker announcements.
On most of the trains I have traveled on, the conductors will only check my ticket after I have boarded, when the train is already moving. This system greatly speeded up the boarding process and I enjoyed its efficiency.
Those who board the train without a ticket can usually buy one on board, but they usuallyhave to pay higher fares.
Amtrak's interiors weren't nearly as nice as the train stations, but our seats on the bus were surprisingly comfortable.
For this trip we traveled exclusively in coach cabins.
Each interior had a utilitarian design that lacked large picture windows and comfortable seating. It was convenient for our purposes, but having ridden on much nicer trains like this beforeAmtrak Coast Starlightand trains across Europe I had to manage my expectations for this trip.
I saw some fairly worn carpets and upholstery, and the bathrooms left a lot to be desired. However, I found the seats to bequite comfortable and much widerthan the seats on many airplanes.
Large tray tables made it easy to work, eat, play games, or just prop up a tablet to watch movies, and I could easily stand up to stretch my legs when needed.
On a train we sat in theQuiet car, where conversation is restricted to a low volume. It made that part of the trip even more peaceful and was a great option for those wanting a safe place away from crying babies and other noisy seatmates.
No food or drink could be purchased at Keystone service, so I was grateful I brought my own snacks.
As we boarded the first leg of our journey on the Keystone Service, a voice blew over the loudspeaker to inform us of thisthere was neither food nor drinkfor sale.
Luckily, New York's Moynihan Train Hall, the station where we boarded, has plenty of dining options. I had already grabbed some pastries and coffee from Magnolia Bakery to enjoy during my trip.
I also noted that I should do italways have snacks on handfor future trips or at least find out in advance about the dining situation on board.
Traveling by train made the journey inexpensive and efficient.
Amtrak proved to be an easy choice for our family based on cost alone, as we paid $22 per person to travel across four states. It didn't hurt that my child's tickets were cheaper than ours, which reduced the overall cost.
The trains we took were also an efficient way to travel between congested cities like Manhattan and Philadelphia.
Driving the same route would have taken us twice as long, and that's without considering the inevitable traffic delays that accompany such a journey.
Although trains have their own share of punctuality issues, every leg of my family's journey was on schedule.
However, last minute ticket prices can be exorbitant.
Although my family's trip was a steal, Amtrakis not always the most economical option, which I found out when I caught a bad cold in Delaware.
My family was scheduled to continue by train to Baltimore, Maryland, an hour-long journey that can cost as little as $15 per person if passengers purchase tickets in advance.
Not wanting to spread my germs to other train passengers, we decided to stay in Delaware longer than planned.
When I felt better, I bought new train tickets to Baltimore and found that prices had skyrocketed to over $300 for the same trip. To be fair, the higher ticket prices may have been a unique extreme given that it was so close to Thanksgiving.
We found that hiring a car was significantly cheaper, so we ended our trip on wheels. Still, I made a mental noteAlways book tickets in advanceto make sure I get the best prices possible.
Overall, we had an easy, stress-free experience that convinced me to do more train travel in the future.
While trains aren't the most glamorous way to travel, I loved how easy the whole journey was and look forward to booking more rail travel in the future.
The ability to get work and other tasks done, particularly those I can't get done while driving or navigating airports, is appealing, as is the ability to sit back and relax while someone else takes the wheel.
TheAdvantages of traveling by trainbecame particularly evident as we drove to Baltimore on the final leg of our trip. During a heavy rainstorm, I got stuck in traffic while navigating unfamiliar roads.
At that moment, instead, I longed to kick back in my train seat and cruise effortlessly to my next destination.