Train Vacations

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.

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  • Great post. I have never really traveled by train – except from Toronto to Montreal (Canada) on a Via Rail train. It was a great experience since for starters, the leg room was definitely better than on a bus or a plane. Also, I didn’t have to deal with the dreary check-in process or sit on the tarmac waiting for take-off as I would have done at an airport.

    I am now on the road traveling for a few months and I am really looking forward to doing a train ride in Ecuador called the ‘Devil’s Nose’. You can actually sit on the roof of the train while taking in the scenery as it zig-zags through the mountains.

  • Liz

    Lol, wow that sounds pretty amazing! I’d love to do a train ride through the Canadian Rockies, what a view!

  • Well said Liz, I think that all things being equal (money & time basically) it’s definitely the most civilised way to travel and yes we have it easy here in Europe, well in continental Europe at least. I travelled a little around Eastern Canada by train recently and loved it. I went business class which is better value than you might think given the great meals you get on board.
    USA is next on my list, you have some stunning & varied landscapes to see with Amtrak. I just hope Obama keeps his promise about investing in the railways to make more of the country accessible that way.
    In case you’re interested, my Canada posts start with:
    http://www.trainsonthebrain.com/2011/03/25/via-rail-review-whats-train-travel-in-canada-like/
    Thanks for a great post 🙂

  • Liz

    Thanks Jools. I agree it is definitely a civilized way to travel, I used to upgrade to business class as well for the drinks and the food it makes it pretty reasonable. I completely agree with the high speed rail hopes, it’s one of my issues. I’ll check out your post!