Pros/Cons of the USA Railpass vs. buying Coach seats

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Hi....Newbie here. I like to plan early and I like a bargain, so I have major questions about the 10 segment Railpass. Hubby and I are planning to travel next July 2022 boarding in Harrisburg to Denver. Denver to Portland. Then Portland back to Harrisburg. We like the route, it falls with in the 10 segments and at $500pp, it's a good price. However, being a planner, this feels like flying by the seat of my pants, little planning/guarranteeing of a seat, etc. Those who have done the Railpass, what are the pitfalls? It sounds too good to be true...... Can you give me feedback? Thanks in advance....... Kris
 

Sidney

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Are you just doing Harrisburg to Portland and back? Is Denver a stop over? Why not take the Empire Builder back? Same amount of segments. Bear in mind you will be in Coach the entire trip. Unless you are young,sleeping in a coach seat is tough,and unless something changes by next summer,(lets hope so) you will not have access to the great food in the diner.

One suggestion is to use a sleeper for one or more segments. Maybe one going out,the other on the return.It would be separate reservations freeing up two more stopovers. Lots of possibilities. Are you parking your car in Harrisburg? There is free parking at the stations before and after Elizabethtown and Lewistown.

Maximize your segments. I just finished my railpass. I only spent one night on the train. Hotels were within walking distance to the station. You will get a lot of suggestions from people here.
 
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For this vacation, the train trip IS the vacation. We are staying in a hotel in Denver and one in Portland. And we are taking the Empire Builder back. As far as parking, we live near Harrisburg, so that's not an issue. I appreciate your suggestions.

I was looking at getting a roomette for the Empire Builder leg from Portland to Chicago as it is 48 hours, but that's an extra $1300+. I realize that includes 3 meals daily each, which is a great thing. Does Amtrak do sales on the rooms at any particular time of year?
 

caravanman

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Hi,
With the railpass, you still have to make train seat reservations! You buy the pass, contact an agent or visit a ticket office, and reserve your seats in advance. You can't just show up on the day with the pass and ride a train.
As each segment works out at a cost of just $50, it represents a great saving when travelling longer distances in each segment.
One minor "downside" is that even a short Amtrak connecting bus ride will still use up a segment. Also, one has to plan and reserve ahead, so it is not quite the same as a free and easy jump on - jump off go as you please pass. (It is not 100% essential to book ahead, but you might find trains are full if you leave things 'till the last day. - Having the pass does not create extra seats on a train, once they are sold out, they are sold out!
I have used the railpass and had several memorable Amtrak trips.
Good Luck!
P.S. With Covid, demand for roomettes and bedrooms are high, so I would not bank on any "cheap" roomettes becoming available. The prices do vary over time according to demand Best advice is to book your route with the rail pass, and just have a look at the roomette prices from time to time, see if they fit your budget at any time in the future,
 
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zephyr17

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For this vacation, the train trip IS the vacation. We are staying in a hotel in Denver and one in Portland. And we are taking the Empire Builder back. As far as parking, we live near Harrisburg, so that's not an issue. I appreciate your suggestions.

I was looking at getting a roomette for the Empire Builder leg from Portland to Chicago as it is 48 hours, but that's an extra $1300+. I realize that includes 3 meals daily each, which is a great thing. Does Amtrak do sales on the rooms at any particular time of year?
Amtrak NEVER does sales on rooms, except the occasional BOGO sale for the rail fare portion only.

The room accommodation charge is yield managed though, which is why you see so much discussion of "buckets" here. The high buckets are twice or more as much as the low buckets.

Your chances of being able to get the lowest of the five buckets is greater during periods of low travel demand, but Amtrak has gotten quite a bit more aggressive on pricing in recent months, so right now low buckets appear to be scarce even then. Your chances of low buckets in high travel demand period are pretty low under any conditions.

But don't hope for "sales" on accommodations. They don't do them.
 
Joined
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Pennsylvania
I really appreciate all you are teaching me! There is so much to learn and far too many web pages to read! Sometimes the Amtrak site is very cumbersome and I just happen to find interesting information, but don't know how I got there. But I am learning. And I'm getting so excited for this trip!

Buckets....... I've seen them mentioned in other posts.... now I need to learn about what they are!

Keep the advice coming!
 
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Sidney

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Do I understand correctly that you cannot upgrade to sleepers with a rail pass?
No. However you can buy a roomette with a separate reservation and build your pass around that. I did that last month. Coach overnight can be tough.
 

Bob Dylan

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No. However you can buy a roomette with a separate reservation and build your pass around that. I did that last month. Coach overnight can be tough.
The Special 50% OFF RAIL PASS that Amtral Sold for Fall Travel did NOT Allow Upgrades, but the Regular One Does.
 

Steve4031

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Thank you. I think for me I would book all my segments in sleepers. That’s just me. I don’t like coach because you’re not guaranteed a window seat.
 

caravanman

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At one time we could upgrade to a roomette, etc. The pass covered the basic rail fare element of the journey, and one paid just the roomette extra fee. A long while ago, many things have changed, I seem to recall seeing a "No Upgrades" notice for passes since.
"Buckets" are just the term used to describe the price "sections" that ticket prices can and do alter between. A lowest bucket fare means the cheapest price you can buy the ticket for, highest bucket price means the max price that the ticket could sell for. Most trains seem to have about 5 bucket increments between lowest and highest.
 

F900ElCapitan

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At one time we could upgrade to a roomette, etc. The pass covered the basic rail fare element of the journey, and one paid just the roomette extra fee. A long while ago, many things have changed, I seem to recall seeing a "No Upgrades" notice for passes since.
"Buckets" are just the term used to describe the price "sections" that ticket prices can and do alter between. A lowest bucket fare means the cheapest price you can buy the ticket for, highest bucket price means the max price that the ticket could sell for. Most trains seem to have about 5 bucket increments between lowest and highest.
I don’t think it was too long ago that one could upgrade to a sleeper accommodation. I looked at doing the pass for my Sept 2019 trip but decided against it as I wanted to grab the cheaper sleeper fares that used to be available as soon as a trains inventory became available 11 months out.
 

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"Buckets" are just the term used to describe the price "sections" that ticket prices can and do alter between. A lowest bucket fare means the cheapest price you can buy the ticket for, highest bucket price means the max price that the ticket could sell for. Most trains seem to have about 5 bucket increments between lowest and highest.
There are some fare rules and technical limitations that are handled by using buckets to seed the yield management process. The buckets themselves always exist but are not always available for purchase. Knowing your bucket tells you how close you got to the lowest or highest potential price for a given segment. Unfortunately customers have no control over buckets and finding all buckets for a given route segment can take dozens or even hundreds of test bookings.
 

zephyr17

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Involuntary bustitutions and bus bridges don't count, they are part of the travel of the booked segment. Normal Thruway bus bookings do count as segments, not matter how short (thinking EMY-SFC).
 
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