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Amtrak Makes for a Fun Trip

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Traveling by Amtrak      

With summer a few months away, there is still time to plan that perfect family vacation. Maybe you already know where you want to go. Perhaps you have been dreaming about a particular vacation spot for some time, or the kids have their hearts set on that special theme park. Wherever you head this summer keep in mind that how you travel is just as important as where you travel!

Almost everyone has a story about rushing to the airport, rushing to the hotel, running ragged for a week, rushing back to the airport, flying for hours to get home again, only to rush to work the next day feeling exhausted. No matter how much fun you had on the trip you can't help but wonder if maybe you would have been better off just staying home and taking a week long nap. Or worse yet, you pile everyone into the family SUV and drive thousands of miles to Grandma's house. The number of times you hear "are we there yet?" is second only to the number of times you hear, "I have to go to the bathroom."

This year, why not try something different? Instead of flying or driving the family car, consider taking an Amtrak train. Traveling by Amtrak has its special benefits and by planning right you can add extra elements of fun to an already exciting trip. Some of the best reasons to ride the Amtrak include the chance to see scenery you might otherwise miss, the opportunity to catch up on your sleep before you arrive at your final destination, affordable pricing, freedom to get up and walk around without delaying your trip, continuous access to restrooms (a real plus when traveling with children), and a variety of traveling accommodations. Depending on the rail carrier, you can ride coach, sit in club cars, visit dining cars, or spend the night sleeping in a comfortable sleeper car.

In the United States, Amtrak provides inter-city rail travel throughout the country. Short specialty rail lines will take you places like the Grand Canyon in Arizona or the Pacific Northwest. Within the larger metropolitan areas, light rails and commuter lines can open up neighborhoods you've never visited or provide alternatives to driving to crowded areas, even in your own hometown. Whether riding across the country or across town, taking thetrain adds a unique twist to summer trips.

Some tips to remember:

1. Plan plenty of extra time to get where you are going. Part of the reason rail travel is so relaxing is because it takes a while to get there. Planning your connections too close or arriving on the day of a special event instead of a day early can add extra stress to any trip.

2. Bring lots of reading material. Books, magazines, crossword puzzles will keep your mind occupied while your body rests.

3. Check the availability of food for purchase on your rail line. Almost all Amtrak rail lines and most of the smaller ones have a dining car offering restaurant quality cuisine. Club cars offer the convenience of pre-packaged food you can heat in the microwave. Pricing varies between rail carriers however dining cars are typically more expensive than club cars. Amtrak allows you to bring food on board so if you are more comfortable bringing your own picnic, enjoy.

4. Expect and appreciate delays. Several areas of the country are developed with what the industry calls "single track". This means there is only one set of track between two points. Freight traffic is what keeps the economic engine of this country moving, and as such, freight takes precedence over passenger traffic. If you find yourself sitting still on the tracks it may because you are making way for a freight train further up the line. Enjoy the extra time you have to read, play card games, or take that nap you have been craving.

5. Wear comfortable clothing. While the coach seats recline, it is always best to dress loosely and bring toiletry items in your carry-on bag if you plan on riding the Amtrak over night.

6. Check your baggage. For security, check your larger bags into the baggage car and keep only your tote or carry-on with you. You'll be able to bring more with you and ensure it arrives safely at the same time.

7. For trips longer than one day get a sleeper car. While more expensive than coach, sleeper cars provide you with access to a shower, turn-down service on the bed, your own private room with window seating, and with Amtrak three meals per day in their delicious dining car are included.

8. Bring toys and games for children. The club cars have tables and long bench seating that are perfect for card or board games. It is a perfect way to lounge away the hours.

Taking a few extra moments to plan an Amtrak train trip can mean the difference between that so-so vacation and the one your family talks about for years. While the final destination is always fun, getting there on the Amtrak will make it fantastic.

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Related tags:Do it Yourself, amtrak travel tips

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