Need Amtrak trip and route planning help. Who should I contact?

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Not only is the spreadsheet confusing to new members but outside of a few train geeks who really cares which bucket is in use on any given day? If the price was too high for your budget would you really change your mind just because someone said it was in the low bucket for that route? It's either reasonable or it's not.
 

zephyr17

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Not only is the spreadsheet confusing to new members but outside of a few train geeks who really cares which bucket is in use on any given day? If the price was too high for your budget would you really change your mind just because someone said it was in the low bucket for that route? It's either reasonable or it's not.
As a "train geek" that cares about price but still wants to ride, it gives me an idea of what to expect and whether a given price can even go lower. I'll pretty much pay the price even if it strikes me as high if I know it is a lower bucket and that is best I can expect. The Southwest Chief and the Lake Shore are examples of "high" low buckets. The chart gives me the information needed to make a decision on whether or not to accept a price. So, yes, knowing a price is in a lower bucket can and has changed my mind.

Even before retirement, when planning an Amtrak trip I remained flexible in my travel planning. I set a travel window and then look for the best possible price within that window to set the actual dates. The chart helps me recognize the best possible price.

I make extensive use of the chart for travel planning and greatly appreciate Niemi24s' work in providing them.

BTW, we generally are train geeks here, so the charts have an appropriate audience.
 
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BoulderCO

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Excuse me for seeing this thread late and admittedly not reading in detail all of the useful info you have already received.

But my overall reaction is that you are biting off too much all at once.

Your proposed trip is a complex and difficult one, even for many of us on this forum who have ridden Amtrak many times.

I admire (and agree with) your desire to try Amtrak and rail travel to see how you like it. Odds are, you will like it. But do yourself a favor and try a short trip first!

If time permits, I would recommend doing a simple out-and-back Amtrak trip from your location to another city, with an overnight there, and see how you enjoy it. Much better than spending several thousand $$ on an unknown and unfamiliar experience. After that, if you decide to proceed, you will have 90% of the knowledge you will need to plan and execute your multi-leg trip.

Happy Travels !
 

Dustyroad

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Amtrak gives a discount if you worked for a railroad? Is that new?
jb
Sorry, I was wrong about that. Under discounts, it is Passenger Association. Not rail road workers. The discounts are very hard to miss for new comers. You have to really look hard to find them.
 

zephyr17

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Sorry, I was wrong about that. Under discounts, it is Passenger Association. Not rail road workers. The discounts are very hard to miss for new comers. You have to really look hard to find them.
Railroad employees employed on 5/1/71 were entitled to passes that gave free travel on Amtrak lines over their home road. I think retirees that meet the conditions can still get them. I imagine they are kind of thin on the ground by now, though.

Hires after 5/1/1971 weren't eligible, IIRC. Although there may have been a later cutoff, at least on some railroads. In any case, it has been many years since that benefit was available to new hires.
 

cirdan

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Typically when I travel it is within a rigid timeframe dictated by things such as work commitments and my annual leave on the one hand, and events that I want to attend and onward travel plans on the other. I thus typically don't have much wriggle room to move trips forward or backward to seek out a lower bucket. It's hard enough coordinating my vacation days with those of my wife for example. So I just end up booking the day that I want to travel and paying whatever Amtrak says .

Maybe when I'm retired I'll have the luxury of playing around with buckets.
 

zephyr17

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Luckily when I was working my company generally didn't mess with vacation dates as long as they were planned, requested and known well in advance. Since most of my major Amtrak trips were planned with at least 4 months lead time and usually more like 6 months or more, I never had a problem with using the window method of setting a general window then zooming in using price, then formally setting my vacation dates. It may helped that I almost never requested time during the holidays when everyone else wanted off.
 

JayPea

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Luckily when I was working my company generally didn't mess with vacation dates as long as they were planned, requested and known well in advance. Since most of my major Amtrak trips were planned with at least 4 months lead time and usually more like 6 months or more, I never had a problem with using the window method of setting a general window then zooming in using price, then formally setting my vacation dates. It may helped that I almost never requested time during the holidays when everyone else wanted off.
This is how I do it too. It has worked well in the past few years especially. Where I work we submit our vacation requests to our assistant manager. I've been at my place of work 23 years, 20 of it for my current company after it bought out the original place I worked for. Unfortunately the first three assistant managers we had after our new company bought our old one out didn't have a brain between all of them and they were forever screwing up my vacation dates or forgetting them altogether. It got so with assistant manager #3 that I'd write my vacation requests down on huge pieces of cardboard so he wouldn't lose them. Assistant manager #4 was very good. Never screwed up anything. She recently left, however, and the jury is still out on assistant manager #5. She's still learning our personnel and her new position but seems to have instituted a system so far that even outshines #4. We shall see. I have a long vacation beginning in 2 and 1/2 weeks and see she's got it pencilled in, so I should be good to go.
 

Charles785

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I have not had an occasion to call Amtrak since before Covid, but I'm hoping to book some overnight long-distance travel sometime this winter, preferably- or hopefully - when there are no mask mandates.

Am I to understand from this thread that telephone wait times are longer these days for some reason (at 800-872-7245?

And I'm forgetting the name of the Amtrak department I should ask for if a reservations agent can't answer my question or if I have a comment for Amtrak; is it 'customer relations' or something similar?
 

zephyr17

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Mask mandates are determined by the Federal government for all forms of transportation, including airlines and Amtrak. As of now masks will be required at least until January.

Yes, wait times are very long. Many of us have been using the Amtrak Guest Rewards or the Select number.

You are correct about "Customer Relations" being the name of what amounts to the complaint department. However, the only way to get them is to call the call center/AGR/Select line, ask for and wait for a live agent, and ask the agent to connect you to Customer Relations. Customer Relations also is only staffed Monday-Friday normal business hours Eastern Time. It is kind of a pain to get them, so make sure it is something worth it.
 

Cal

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You are correct about "Customer Relations" being the name of what amounts to the complaint department. However, the only way to get them is to call the call center/AGR/Select line, ask for and wait for a live agent, and ask the agent to connect you to Customer Relations. Customer Relations also is only staffed Monday-Friday normal business hours Eastern Time. It is kind of a pain to get them, so make sure it is something worth it.
How did we figure this out? Is it posted somewhere?
 

zephyr17

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How did we figure this out? Is it posted somewhere?
Well, asking for Customer Relations instead of Customer Service was posted somewhere. I think it was here, but it was years and years ago when I first ran across that tidbit.

I know the hours issue from personal experience. If you get through to them off hours, you will get a recording.

I will say the last time I tried off hours was a few years ago, so I cannot say for sure what their hours are today. I will say I've only tried to get them during east coast business hours since getting the recording.

Also, the last time I called a couple years ago, the CS agent tried to dissuade me from getting connected to Customer Relations. I don't know whether that was just that agent or they are trying to deflect those calls as a matter of policy. Given Amtrak's current general shape, I can see Customer Relations being overwhelmed with complaints.
 

Cal

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Given Amtrak's current general shape, I can see Customer Relations being overwhelmed with complaints.
Well my question was is it posted on the Amtrak site? Since I hadn't heard about it before joining AU and it seems kinda hard to get to. How do people who don't have AU (or railfans) at their disposal find out about it?
 

zephyr17

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Well my question was is it posted on the Amtrak site? Since I hadn't heard about it before joining AU and it seems kinda hard to get to. How do people who don't have AU (or railfans) at their disposal find out about it?
Just looked around on the Amtrak site and cannot find a word about it. Pretty much all references there wind up at either 800-USA-RAIL or Julie. A general Google search on Customer Relations Amtrak doesn't turn up anything meaningful, either. Even the customer advocacy site Elliott.org doesn't have it, just the common numbers, but Elliott.org does have the email and contact information for the execs. So if you want to REALLY escalate you can use those.

I guess it is a "those who know, know" thing. So I guess the answer to your question on how do people find about it who don't have access to AU or railfans is: they don't. For vast majority who know nothing about it, I imagine it is used as a second tier referral for customer problems when the CS agents at 800-USA-RAIL can't handle something.

I imagine Amtrak prefers it obscure.
 
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Trogdor

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Just looked around on the Amtrak site and cannot find a word about it. Pretty much all references there wind up at either 800-USA-RAIL or Julie. A general Google search on Customer Relations Amtrak doesn't turn up anything meaningful, either. Even the customer advocacy site Elliott.org doesn't have it, just the common numbers, but Elliott.org does have the email and contact information for the execs. So if you want to REALLY escalate you can use those.

I guess it is a "those who know, know" thing. So I guess the answer to your question on how do people find about it who don't have access to AU or railfans is: they don't. For vast majority who know nothing about it, I imagine it is used as a second tier referral for customer problems when the CS agents at 800-USA-RAIL can't handle something.

I imagine Amtrak prefers it obscure.
While Amtrak calls the department Customer Relations, I have yet to see any concrete evidence that asking for “Customer Service” gets the call routed differently. It’s been a mantra on here, but there have been lots of urban legends passed around as fact before.
 

zephyr17

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While Amtrak calls the department Customer Relations, I have yet to see any concrete evidence that asking for “Customer Service” gets the call routed differently. It’s been a mantra on here, but there have been lots of urban legends passed around as fact before.
Before I found out about the Customer Relations nomenclature, I recall asking the agent to speak with Customer Service, and the agent responded that I was speaking with customer service.

When you ask to speak with Customer Relations they always recognize that immediately and transfer you, although occasionally with some resistance.

I recognize that amounts to anecdotal evidence, but it is my experience.
 

pennyk

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Well my question was is it posted on the Amtrak site? Since I hadn't heard about it before joining AU and it seems kinda hard to get to. How do people who don't have AU (or railfans) at their disposal find out about it?
I know now when I need to speak to Customer Relations, but years ago, I did not. I know, in the past, when I have had an issue that Customer Service could not resolve, they would transfer me to Customer Relations (without my having to request the transfer). @Acela150 may know the answer as to what the protocol is these days.
 

Gary Behling

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My partner and I like train travel but have never been on Amtrak. We are thinking of going on a long trip this winter and would like to do it by train but have so far found the Amtrak website not particularly easy to use for planning the trip.
We want to go from St. Paul Mn. to Philadelphia, then to South Carolina, to Denver to Sacramento to Portland and back to St. Paul. At each city we will be stopping to see relatives for a few days so we can do laundry there. We have a month to do the trip and are not locked in to specific dates.
We would like a roomette so we don't have to be masked 24 hours. Masked when we are out in the general population of the train is ok.

We are on somewhat of a budget, not cheap but we will just drive and use hotels if the price is more than we care for.

What is the best way to find the fare and compare fares for different dates?
A travel agent? Which one?
Amtrak by telephone?

What else do we need to consider when planning this trip?

Thank you for any help you can offer.
I don't know if anyone has recommended this yet, but if you and your partner both independently apply for the Amtrak credit card that gives you 50,000 points at a cost of $79 (each) --you will then have 100,000 points to start your trip with. Unless you go coach--- this will NOT be a cheap trip and those 100K points will be very helpful even if you pay $79 X 2 to get them. Then--- you simply cancel the card once you have your printed tickets.
 

joelkfla

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I don't know if anyone has recommended this yet, but if you and your partner both independently apply for the Amtrak credit card that gives you 50,000 points at a cost of $79 (each) --you will then have 100,000 points to start your trip with. Unless you go coach--- this will NOT be a cheap trip and those 100K points will be very helpful even if you pay $79 X 2 to get them. Then--- you simply cancel the card once you have your printed tickets.
But only if each of them is able to spend $2,500 on their respective card within 3 months of opening. And then they have to wait for those bonus points to show up in their AGR accounts before booking. I just met the spend requirement last week; I'm waiting to see whether those points show up after the next statement drops, or not until after the 90 days have passed.
 

Gary Behling

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But only if each of them is able to spend $2,500 on their respective card within 3 months of opening. And then they have to wait for those bonus points to show up in their AGR accounts before booking. I just met the spend requirement last week; I'm waiting to see whether those points show up after the next statement drops, or not until after the 90 days have passed.
My points showed up 4 days after I paid the balance
 

joelkfla

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My points showed up 4 days after I paid the balance
Thx, I just checked my account, and I've already gotten the $100 statement credit. If the points haven't shown up by the time the statement drops next week, I think I'll pay it off immediately instead of waiting until the due date as I usually do, and forego the 60¢ interest I'd have earned in my savings account. :)
 

Charles785

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but Elliott.org does have the email and contact information for the execs. So if you want to REALLY escalate you can use those.

Zephyr 17 above mentioned Elliott.org, but I didn't find anything there for Amtrak, although I may not have been looking at the right place on the website.
Can you help, Zephyr? (I found airlines, but nothing for "trains," or "passenger rail."

(And it's unfortunate that there is no direct phone number for Amtrak Customer Relations.)
 

Acela150

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I know now when I need to speak to Customer Relations, but years ago, I did not. I know, in the past, when I have had an issue that Customer Service could not resolve, they would transfer me to Customer Relations (without my having to request the transfer). @Acela150 may know the answer as to what the protocol is these days.
Still the same protocol.
 

zephyr17

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but Elliott.org does have the email and contact information for the execs. So if you want to REALLY escalate you can use those.

Zephyr 17 above mentioned Elliott.org, but I didn't find anything there for Amtrak, although I may not have been looking at the right place on the website.
Can you help, Zephyr? (I found airlines, but nothing for "trains," or "passenger rail."

(And it's unfortunate that there is no direct phone number for Amtrak Customer Relations.)
Amtrak's contacts are under "Mass Transit" at elliott.org.
 
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