Bucket Pricing/Best Time to Book Trips?

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Rail Freak

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2008
Messages
4,968
All these early snow storms across the country have got me looking at prices for a cross country trip from STP - SAC. It's showing the best prices are in Feb, which is perfect for my Snow Trip! But, it made me wonder when to book my future trips, as I've been used to the old "11 month out Best Bucket Theory"! I was definitely expecting the high buckets in the summer! Anyone ( _traveler maybe) willing to share their knowledge of current strategies!!! Man I loved the Old Zone AGR Rules!!!! LOL I just find it a little strange that the increases can be that much!
BTW, "_traveler" , thanx! I joined AU in 2008 & I learned a Hell Of A Lot from Ya! Now my retention of that knowledge is in question, but it might not matter anyway with all these changes!LOL
 
Last edited:

the_traveler

Conductor
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
25,780
Thanks!:cool:

The old “11 months out” rule is out the window nowadays. With the use of yield management, they determined that numerous tour companies sometimes “book” blocks of room at 11 months out (when it was low bucket) and then returned them later when they couldn’t sell them. So now, the rooms at 11 months may start ar medium to high bucket instead.

Some claim “the best time” is 6-8 months out, but that is not definite either. The “best time” is when you need it and are comfortable with the fare.

I’ve got a good fare before for “next week”.

I too miss the old zone awards!:(
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
838
I notice fares tend to drop at five months before travel date, but I book as soon as possible to guarantee availability.
 
Last edited:

Rail Freak

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2008
Messages
4,968
Thanks!:cool:

The old “11 months out” rule is out the window nowadays. With the use of yield management, they determined that numerous tour companies sometimes “book” blocks of room at 11 months out (when it was low bucket) and then returned them later when they couldn’t sell them. So now, the rooms at 11 months may start ar medium to high bucket instead.

Some claim “the best time” is 6-8 months out, but that is not definite either. The “best time” is when you need it and are comfortable with the fare.

I’ve got a good fare before for “next week”.
I
I too miss the old zone awards!:(
Thanx Dave!!! (Good to hear your chatter!)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,162
Everybody seems to have their own pet theory about the best time to look for fares, when fares will drop, when to book, etc, etc, etc. . . . .

The only thing that's hard and fast applies to Coach fares - if you're looking for the very cheapest and rock-bottom Coach fare, that's the Saver fare and Saver fares are offered only "When you book travel at least 14 days in advance,. . ." according to this: https://www.amtrak.com/savings-made-simple-amtrak-saver-fares But that doesn't mean Saver fares will be offered - just that they're never offered when you book travel 13 or fewer days in advance.

Fares for sleepers of any type are another matter altogether:

• Some sleeping accommodations on some trains seem to always be at their highest possible level. Such is the case for Family Bedrooms on both the CL and CZ the last time I looked some days ago.

• Some sleeping accommodation on some trains never seem to be offered at their lowest possible level. Such is the case for the SL, SS and Auto Train

• Some sleeping accommodation on two trains (CONO & SS) never seem to be offered at their highest level.

Here's my rule of thumb for for fare searches: Search as soon as you think you may need/want to travel - out as far as 11 months. I see no reason not to look as early as possible as doing so costs nothing. This avoids the pitfall of either trying to outguess the system or blindly following somebody else's cockeyed rule - and miss the opportunity to snag the low bucket fare of your dreams.

Of course all that in the previous paragraph needs to be tempered with possibilities of travel plan changes, booking changes and booking cancellations.
 
Last edited:

bratkinson

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2004
Messages
791
Based on my sort-of watching the Lakeshore Ltd, Capitol Ltd and Cardinal prices via Amsnag on an almost weekly basis, it would appear that the latest round of fare increases (coach fare, also reflected in sleeper prices) have wiped out any glimmer of hope for the 'about 5 months in advance' rule of thumb. In particular, the LSL and CL have 'flat lined' roomette prices at the lowest bucket from now to June (as far as I looked). There are handful of higher prices for January, but I interpret that as almost-last minute bookers.

I interpret the flat lined prices as a lack of sales due to high prices combined with contemporary/flexible dining has wiped out many of the potential repeat travelers that experienced it during 2018 & 2019. The various prices for the Cardinal roomettes is likely due to there not being any choice and sleepers on that train are always filled months in advance of departure.

Interestingly, I looked at the Silvers and those prices are all over the place into June as well. My guess is that's the result of trips being booked in 2019 when full dining was offered on the Meteor. Star prices reflect the lack of any dining/lounge car discount from the Meteor. Also, there's -always- a demand for Florida trains as I-95 is a nightmare to drive, so some will book it even knowing that traditional dining is no more.

Perhaps there'll be some 'last minute' sleeper sales in 2020 to fill up the rooms. If not, there'll be lots of fodder to support 'no one rides LD trains any more'.
 

dlagrua

Conductor
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
Messages
3,081
Our recent experience to book a trip from PHL to GPK in August started in Jan 2020 where the bedroom prices for were all at the top high bucket for every date 8 months out. They remained this way until a couple of weeks ago when the prices started dropping on a few dates here and there. After much checking we just found Bedrooms on the 27 and 28 that looked like medium bucket. AS of today, the 7 and 8 are still mainly at high bucket.
 
Group Builder
Top