Call me old fashioned, but I dig traveling via train.
It started during my study abroad in Amsterdam, being so centrally located within Europe, it was easy to cash in my Eurail pass to head out to Germany, Paris, Switzerland and even Hungary and the Czech Republic via rail. I guess it doesn’t hurt that, in my own opinion, Europe has a more well run and sophisticated train system than we do in America, either. On the longer trips, we were able to get sleeper cars, could chat with friends, roam the train, eat, and really enjoy some of the scenery.
I revisited rail travel when I was working a consulting gig for one of the Big 4 and I had a 2 month project in Manhattan for an unnamed I-Bank. The bank would put me up in a hotel during the week, but on the weekends I’d head back home to Boston and after experimenting with a few different modes of transportation, found the train to be the best for me.
There are a couple of things I really like about train travel that you cannot get on the airlines, the first is space and the second is freedom. And it doesn’t hurt to have plugs for your phones and laptops at every seat either!
Of course this varies depending on where you are going, but for the Boston to New York run, by the time you get to the airport, check in for security, sit on the runway, and get out of the luggage carousel (I will hit on my vow to travel only with carry-on in another post), it takes the same amount of time on the train.
I’ve often thought that seeing America, and really Canada by extension, would be great by train. Oftentimes, the trains run though some really beautiful untouched scenery. One of my favorite parts of my New York to Boston ride was how it hugged the ocean through much of Rhode Island and Connecticut, giving great views of the sea right out the window.
One of the great benefits of train travel, is that you should be able to find a voyage that isn’t too far from where you are. Additionally, most of these big trips are basically all inclusive, you get hotels for any nights not aboard, most meals, tours and the transportation itself (the train) included in the price. And, if you’re looking for a sightseeing trip, this could be a great option, especially with the rising costs of gas!
As you might imagine, Amtrak is the big player in the train vacation game, but after poking around on the site a bit, I discovered they have some pretty cool trips.
One of my favorites is the National Parks of the West, a 14 day round trip journey from Chicago that takes you to 6 National Parks in the US and Canada (Glacier, Waterton Lakes, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches and Canyonland). It includes all admissions to parks and some activities, and there are guides on the trains who give talks about the parks and nature during the trip.
Don’t forget though, train journeys are found all over the world: Europe, Canada, Mexico, South America, and the Orient. But, if you want to start local, check out Amtrak and see where you can go from your hometown, even if it’s just for a weekend, its a relaxing way to travel.