Ride the train with Amtrak and enjoy the splendor of America at its best. Nabewise reveals the most spectacular train trips, ranks coach seats v business class on America’s busiest commuter route and explains how to find and book the best Amtrak tickets.
North America’s national passenger railway service for train travel is Amtrak. The company operates over 21,000 miles of track in 46 states (and three Canadian provinces), servicing over 500 destinations via short commuter routes or long-distance cross-country journeys.
Table of Contents
How to Train Travel in the USA.
Why traveling by train is better than flying; this also makes sense. If you’re traveling at the last minute, you will probably pay less, with lots of flexibility for cancellations and rebooking. Amtrak has larger baggage allowances, particularly if you want to bring a bicycle or other oversized luggage. And there is more room to stretch and move about or work in reasonably private surroundings if you are traveling on business.
Finally, there are the more whimsical explanations. If you are a pleasure traveler, the mere sight of an incredible landscape of America unfurling outside your window is an experience in America (and many of Amtrak’s long-distance trains have observation cars to reinforce that experience). The rhythm of the train travel adjusts itself, making it possible to assist other passengers, spend some time in the diner car, read, or let yourself be mesmerized by beautiful landscapes passing by. Train travel is a journey as much as a destination for your trip. Plan your train travel.
Scenic and popular Amtrak routes
The most popular trips include parts of Northeast Regional (Boston-Virginia Beach), Acela Express (Boston-Washington DC via NY), and Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo-San Diego via LA).
Most of Amtrak’s routes have their star attractions, including services crisscrossing this vast country. The most renowned scenic routes are:
California Zephyr Train
California Zephyr Train Route: Chicago → Denver → Glenwood Springs → Emeryville/San Francisco.
The Zephyr is Amtrak’s longest coast-to-coast route, which stretches over 2,438 miles, crossing various national parks and landscapes in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, and Illinois before following the Colorado River for over 200 miles and then finally dropping down from the Rockies to reach the lowlands of California’s Central Valley and on into San Francisco Bay.
Popular California Zephyr Train Routes
Chicago → San Francisco
Chicago → Denver
Omaha → Denver
Denver → Salt Lake City
Coast Starlight Train
Coast Starlight Train Route: Seattle -> Portland -> Los Angeles
This train is also famously known for being the most beautiful dist and route of Amtrak along the water world in Puget Sound. OR Continue into California, where you will travel south, observing the snow-encrusted Mount Rainer and navigating the vast regions filled with the Pacific Ocean.
Popular Coast Starlight Train Routes
Portland → Seattle
Seattle → San Francisco
San Jose → Los Angeles
Sacramento → Portland
Los Angeles → San Francisco
Empire Builder Train
Empire Builder Train Route: Chicago → St. Paul/Minneapolis → Spokane → Portland/ Seattle
First on the list is the Pacific northwestern wilderness, the mainstay of this 2,206-mile journey, much of it close to the Canadian border. The route embodies Montana, follows the gruesome Mississippi for 140 miles, and traces its roots in Lewis and Clark through Glacier National Park.
Popular Empire Builder Train Routes
Minneapolis → Chicago
Spokane → Seattle
Chicago → Seattle
Seattle → Glacier National Park
Chicago → Glacier National Park
The Southwest Chief Train
Southwest Chief Train Route: Chicago → Kansas City → Albuquerque → Flagstaff→LA.
A 2,256-mile tour across the great expanse of the legendary American West, this itinerary traces the Santa Fe Trail from Colorado’s Rockies and traverses Arizona’s iconic red rock country before linking with shuttle connections back to The Grand Canyon Railway and a late-innings stretch run through California’s Mojave Desert.
Popular Southwest Chief Train Routes
Albuquerque → Los Angeles
Kansas City → Chicago
Chicago → Las Vegas
Chicago → Grand Canyon
Adirondack Train Route: Montreal, Albany, New York
This is a fall foliage blockbuster at the right time of year, including the Hudson River Valley, the shores of Lake Champlain, and the Adirondack Mountains. The Great Dome Car is included in some fall service trains on a first-come, first-served basis and offers upper-level windows that allow passengers to view a 360-degree panorama of the fantastic display.
Popular Adirondack Train Routes
Montreal → New York
Plattsburg → New York
New York → Saratoga Springs
New York → Albany
Map of the Amtrak train route and frequency schedule
The extended multi-state services depart once a day, while others depart thrice a week. The most common commuter routes have daily departures of up to 20 for the Northeast Regional.
Amtrak offers such a distance range that you can find yourself traveling from one of just a few stations to nearly every other station in the nation between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Longer journeys can be broken up with overnight stops, but this must be organized in advance, and you must book or create a multi-city itinerary. This is a little more expensive than booking the entire trip as one journey, but it allows you to tailor your itinerary.
It is quite a deal to trek across the United States via rail. You can get from New York to San Francisco via Chicago for less than $200 if you book far enough ahead and don’t mind sitting in a coach seat for about 70 hours. The cost for this increases to $1000 in a two-person roomette with fold-down beds and all meals included.
Amtrak’s Coach Class, Business Class, and First Class: The Sale of Generic Accommodations in Public Places.
The coach class is the most affordable yet comfortable (reclining seats), particularly in the long-distance Viewliner and Superliner trains, offering extra legroom and footrests. (The bi-level Superliner trains also offer overhead views through the up-air.)
The routes with business class cars also have more legroom and complimentary non-alcoholic drinks. Acela Express is only available in the first class between Boston and Washington DC and is more spacious. It includes meal service and access to ClubAcela lounges at several significant terminals in the northeast.
The only thing that will differ in your experience is the remaining places while sleeping. In addition to coach, long-distance services provide several sleeping choices, including a roomette for two adults, a bedroom with a toilet and shower, and larger family suites. See what you can get through all of Amtrak’s 3D tours.
Amtrak Amenities, Dining Reservations & Baggage Allowances
Each seat has a fold-down tray, personal reading light, and a 120v electric plug to charge your devices. On the other hand, several commuter lines have a “Quiet Car,” which tends to be crowded on busy routes. It can be noticed that more and more trains now have (slow) Wi-Fi.
You can usually enjoy a full-service hot meal in the dining car of many long-distance trains. Upon boarding, you will be inquired about your desire to make a dinner reservation. Informal eating is primarily available in lounge and café cars. Superliner trains’ lounge cars offer reading, card playing, and socializing, and a separate dedicated observation car provides extensive views.
Amtrak provides voluminous carry-on baggage —a passenger can bring two pieces of luggage weighing 25 pounds each and, finally, two suitcases, each no heavier than 50 pounds. There is also an allowance for checked baggage on many long-distance services.
How to get the best value Amtrak train tickets.
If you’ve never seen an Amtrak train, don’t expect to be able to get a ticket aboard the train; be aware of the fact that most trains usually request travelers to possess tickets.
The lowest prices are available to those who book online at least 14 days ahead; bookings open 11 months in advance. Book them as soon as possible if you want roomettes and bedrooms.
You can purchase Amtrak passes for $249, which affords 15 travel segments for 15 days, $429 for 30 segments within 30 days, or $579; you get a lot –up to forty-five travel segments- off your chest over forty-five days. These can be a great alternative if you will do a lot of traveling in the short term.
Amtrak’s website provides its clients with discounted SmartFares on Tuesday through Friday every week for trips in the subsequent month. This is not an option if you have a strict schedule because travel dates and routes are limited, but if you are willing to go wherever the tracks take you, you can get a fantastic deal.
Discounts include children up to 12 years of age at 50 percent off (free for children under two), seniors over 62, and students at 15 percent. See More at https://www.amtrak.com/deals-discounts/everyday-discounts.html
If you’re traveling during a peak holiday period—Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, and the weekend closest to July 4—book as far ahead as possible and expect to pay more (or be flexible with your travel times).
Amtrak train tickets can be bought online here at Nabewise – see our step-by-step guide on how to book Amtrak tickets via the Amtrak website and from staffed Amtrak stations. If purchased online, your eTicket will be in the form of a PDF as an attachment in an email, and you must print it before traveling or display it on a mobile device. When traveling, present the ticket barcode and your ID to the conductor.
Amtrak route guides
Amtrak offers downloadable route-specific detailed guidebooks for every route it operates, detailing every city, town vi, village, state line, and point of interest along the way with running commentary notes and geographical approaches to the route.
Amtrak travel tips
Make the most of your USA train journey with these Amtrak travel tips:
Suggestion 1: Intelligent Planning of Timing between Trains.
Don’t make your connections too tight when booking a multi-city trip. With most tracks being shared among super-long freight trains (some of which are 1.5 miles long) and Amtrak passenger trains that travel for days, it is almost impossible not to experience delays.
Another tip is to download the Amtrak app.
The Amtrak app lets you buy, change, and save eTickets. Send email alerts that will notify you of any delays or changes while traveling to the station and eliminate the need to drive books onto a train that will eventually arrive four hours late.
Third, utilize Amtrak’s checked baggage services where possible.
When arranging your baggage, consider checking in large bags: on long distances, they are also offered now – as coaches (and roomettes) have no spare space, and you will be pretty carefree to get off at rest stops without the burden of valuable stuff. If you’d like to take advantage of Amtrak’s checked baggage services, you’ll have to check bags in at least 45 minutes before train departure, up to 24 hours.
Ask for Where You Want to Sit
While booking Amtrak, seats are reserved but not assigned until you arrive at the station. If you prefer an aisle or window seat, request.