Amtrak Expects Summer Ridership to Rise This Year

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
June 25, 2013
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">Loco Steve/Flickr</a>

A reporter recently asked me for some rail travel tips. I told her quite honestly, "You know, I have to admit sometimes train travel is my favorite way to go."

A great train ride can combine the best of road tripping (beautiful sights whizzing by your window, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of images) and flying (comfy seat, the ability to nod off at a moment's notice). Amtrak is reporting that advance ticket sales suggest ridership will be up significantly this July and August compared with last year. Translation? If you're considering taking the train this summer, don't wait too long to make up your mind. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a second to remind you of some of the options Amtrak is offering this summer.

East Coast. Try a vacation package like "Washington D.C.: Rich with History, Politics, and Nightlife," or "American Heritage Escorted," a guided adventure. The East Coast is Amtrak's most-traveled region, and Northeast Regional service can get you from Virginia to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and even points north without ever having to change seats. Amtrak also links Virginia to Florida via the Auto Train (and for a higher fee, you can get your car fast-tracked to avoid a wait time when you arrive in the Sunshine State). The Keystone takes vacationers from Philadelphia to rural Lancaster County, and Amtrak has beefed up its Thruway bus service, linking commuter rail lines with its Palmetto line in North Carolina.

Midwest. Amtrak's vacation package "Jazz, Blues, and Rock-n-Roll: The Heartland of American Music" is just the beginning of its heartland offerings. Eight daily Amtrak trains depart Chicago and locations in central and eastern Michigan and make stops at New Buffalo, Michigan, just steps from the beach. Passengers can continue south to explore the summer delights of St. Louis, Kansas City, and New Orleans as well.

West. How about the "Grand Canyon Family Adventure"? Or "Glacier National Park: The Heart of Big Sky Country"? Or head for the coast, where the Coast Starlight can get you to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other summer hot spots where you'll find the music and food festivals, great weather, and mountain-beach one-two punch that makes the "left coast" the ultimate vacation destination.

I'd suggest that you visit for a complete rundown of what the rail line is offering summer travelers. Its 12-page "Family Adventures" online brochure is highly addictive and already has me hatching plans for my own summer getaways. With comfortable seats, great views, and increasingly available Wi-Fi (currently available to about 75 percent of Amtrak passengers), it may be my favorite way to see America.

TALK TO US! When was the last time you rode a train? Are you going to take Amtrak this summer?


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TSA To Allow Small Knives Back On Planes

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With so much competition, airlines and hotels have had to get creative to keep customers coming back. So it makes sense that an airline and a hotel group would band together to foster loyalty to both. Starting March 1, Starwood Preferred Guest elite and Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will get Crossover Rewards, which means both miles and points when you book flights or hotel rooms. More specifically, Delta Medallion members earn one mile per dollar when staying at a Starwood hotel, plus the Starpoints. They will also get perks like priority check-in, late checkout, and that all-important free internet access. And Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members who fly Delta get a free checked bag and priority check-in and boarding, plus one Starpoint per dollar spent on top of the usual miles.  To join the program, register your accounts through either Delta SkyMiles or Starwood Preferred Guest. What do you think of these programs? Would they keep you loyal, or do you always go with the lowest price, no matter what?