Rail Pass

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

KWBud

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
70
Again this year, I'm trying to flee paradise and I very much want to do it by rail.

I would be leaving Miami, FL and going to Austin, TX and returning. Taking the bus or flying are about $200. The flight is hours and the bus is a day and a half.

The trip by train is several days, costs a fortune and takes me from Miami to DC to Chicago and then to Austin. Yikes!

So I looked up the rail pass and found that if I spend just a little more, I can *really* stretch the trip out and bum around the country for an additional month.

However, there are some serious questions.

1) If I get the rail pass, I can book the trip (MIA->AUS) using three segments and return (CHI->MIA) using two segments. If I can get confirmed tickets on these routes, I would then have 13 additional segments to see the country by rail, is this correct?

2) How much flexibility is practical? That is, I'm assuming that I could just plan segments and be locked into a known schedule, but if I want to vary my length of stay at the layover points, how practical is that?

3) How easy is it to reroute? Say, for instance someone says that XXX route is especially beautiful now, how hard would it be to drop segments and pick up new ones?

Also, any advice about which are the most spectacular routes in June would be most appreciated.

I'm Thinking about an itinerary something like Sunset Limited -> Coast Starlight -> California Zephyr -> Empire Builder -> Coast Starlight -> California Zephyr. If I have the segment math right, that would allow seven segments for side trips or additional routes.

Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated.



Bud
 
F

flyin high

Guest
Again this year, I'm trying to flee paradise and I very much want to do it by rail.

I would be leaving Miami, FL and going to Austin, TX and returning. Taking the bus or flying are about $200. The flight is hours and the bus is a day and a half.

The trip by train is several days, costs a fortune and takes me from Miami to DC to Chicago and then to Austin. Yikes!

So I looked up the rail pass and found that if I spend just a little more, I can *really* stretch the trip out and bum around the country for an additional month.

However, there are some serious questions.

1) If I get the rail pass, I can book the trip (MIA->AUS) using three segments and return (CHI->MIA) using two segments. If I can get confirmed tickets on these routes, I would then have 13 additional segments to see the country by rail, is this correct?

2) How much flexibility is practical? That is, I'm assuming that I could just plan segments and be locked into a known schedule, but if I want to vary my length of stay at the layover points, how practical is that?

3) How easy is it to reroute? Say, for instance someone says that XXX route is especially beautiful now, how hard would it be to drop segments and pick up new ones?

Also, any advice about which are the most spectacular routes in June would be most appreciated.

I'm Thinking about an itinerary something like Sunset Limited -> Coast Starlight -> California Zephyr -> Empire Builder -> Coast Starlight -> California Zephyr. If I have the segment math right, that would allow seven segments for side trips or additional routes.

Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated.



Bud
Try jetblue Ft. Lauderdale to Aus $89 one way
 

stntylr

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 15, 2009
Messages
610
Location
Harker Heights, Texas
A rail pass is a great way to see the country. I traveled on a rail pass last year and had a great trip. I did however book all my segments in advance to make sure I wouldn't get stuck not being able to get a seat on a sold out train.
 

KWBud

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
70
A rail pass is a great way to see the country. I traveled on a rail pass last year and had a great trip. I did however book all my segments in advance to make sure I wouldn't get stuck not being able to get a seat on a sold out train.
Thanks for the input. I agree that booking in advance provides a level of security by not getting stuck somewhere. I feel certain that I am going to do that.

I think my real question revolves around how easy it is to change scheduling once booking is complete.

For instance, suppose I plan a layover in Glacier and expect to stay four days. However, when I get there there I decide I want to leave a day early. Is that change in plans likely to be a problem? Will it cost another segment? Once booked, am I locked in to the schedule or is there some flexibility. If so, how much?

Remember that I'm traveling in May and June which is probably peak travel season for many of the routes I might want to take.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

--

Bud
 

KWBud

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
70
Try jetblue Ft. Lauderdale to Aus $89 one way
That is the (about) $200 that I quoted for flying.

I'm looking into alternatives. Over the years, I've flown so mush I should have grown wings by now.

--

Bud
 

none

Conductor
Joined
Sep 4, 2008
Messages
1,046
I used a rail pass several years ago and had a great but tiring trip. I went all the places I intended, and saw lot of old friends and a lot of new (to me) country.

Someone else can clarify this - but my understanding is, each train has a certain number of seats at low bucket pricing that are available for rail pass users, and when a reservation made in advance it is solid. But when changing plans at or near trains dates, it is possible to not be able to get a seat in coach with a rail pass even if the train is not completely sold out.

Can someone help out with more facts here?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Tumbleweed

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 2, 2010
Messages
929
Location
Sunny North Dakota
Someone else can clarify this - but my understanding is, each train has a certain number of seats at low bucket pricing that are available for rail pass users, and when a reservation made in advance it is solid. But when changing plans at or near trains dates, it is possible to not be able to get a seat in coach with a rail pass even if the train is not completely sold out.

Can someone help out with more facts here?
Don't you just pay the difference between low and current bucket?

edit: from the Amtrak web site....

Do I Need Tickets and Reservations?

Yes. Your USA Rail Pass is not a ticket. When traveling on a USA Rail Pass, you must have a ticket and a reservation for each train you board. You must make reservations and pick up your ticket(s) before boarding any train.



Reservations for train travel should be made as far in advance as possible; seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers are limited on each train. We do not recommend waiting until the day of departure to make your reservations since there is a greater chance that seats allocated for the USA Rail Pass may not be available on your desired train. If your plans are not flexible, non-USA Rail Pass seats may be available at an additional cost.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

KWBud

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
70
edit: from the Amtrak web site....

Reservations for train travel should be made as far in advance as possible; seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers are limited on each train. We do not recommend waiting until the day of departure to make your reservations since there is a greater chance that seats allocated for the USA Rail Pass may not be available on your desired train. If your plans are not flexible, non-USA Rail Pass seats may be available at an additional cost.

I read this and it seemed confusing to me.

Why send a train out with empty seats? I suppose they are hoping that plans are inflexible and that rail pass users will upgrade.

But are "seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers" only low bucket? Or are they everything but high bucket?

How much is the upgrade? That is, should I set aside hundreds of dollars for each change of plans? If so, then taking the plane is looking better all the time, unfortunately.

--

Bud
 

MSP_Train_Hopper

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
53
By all means go for it, but reserve early so you are guaranteed a seat. Last year I traveled MSP -> Chicago -> New Orleans -> L.A. -> Portland -> MSP (all coach) and had a phenomenal time! I reserved those tickets about a month before my trip with no problems. This year I am traveling MSP -> Chicago -> New Orleans -> Washington DC -> Chicago -> New York (via LSL) -> Chicago (via Cardinal) -> MSP (all coach this time too). Reserved these tickets about 2 months out. You can change your itinerary up until the date of departure as long as there are still seats available for the pass, however all your tickets print at the same time and so once you start travel I don't think you can make any changes.
 
Top