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Aug 292012
 
 August 29, 2012  Posted by  Travel
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Who’s thinking about Thanksgiving or the December holidays in August? Train buffs, that’s who. Because they know, that unlike with airfares and gas prices, they can lock in today’s price on Amtrak for travel months down the line. With gas prices up yet again and the average airfare $400 and higher, travelers looking for wallet “relief” might well consider Amtrak whose reliability and on-time performance have improved dramatically in recent years.

Not only does Amtrak offer some attractive prices, you’ll be spared the stress of navigating airport security. No body pat downs to endure. Plus, if frugality rules at your house, we have five excellent reasons the next travel ticket you purchase should be on Amtrak:

1. You can lock in your price today for travel later.

“If you were to ask anyone what it would cost them to visit their aunt on Thanksgiving or their family at Christmas, or what it would cost to go somewhere next Memorial Day, they probably couldn’t tell you, because I know I couldn’t,” Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman, says. But you can buy an Amtrak ticket for those dates today and lock the price in.

“Unlike driving where you don’t know what it’s going to cost you six or eight of 10 months from now, with Amtrak travel, you can lock the price in and know exactly what you’re going to pay.” As with the airlines, the earlier you book your tickets, the less expensive they usually cost. But unlike the airlines, Amtrak coach tickets are fully refundable if you cancel more than 24 hours before your trip.

2. Kids ride half price.

Unlike the airlines that charge full freight as soon as your baby hits his or her second birthday, Amtrak tickets are half price through age 15. If you’re looking to compare us to other modes like flying, our kids fares are the best in the business because we don’t charge adult fares until they reach 16,” says Magliari. Each adult traveler can buy up to two half-price tickets for children ages 2 to 15.

3. Discounts for older travelers. 

The only airline we found with a senior fare is Southwest, and while it usually beats airline’s cheapest fare, it requires booking well in advance. Amtrak, on the other hand, offers a 15% discount to people age 62 and older on most fares. (In a few northeast corridors the senior discount does not apply.)

Still, obtaining the senior fare is not as intuitive as it could be. “Senior” is not an option on the “Buy Tickets” page, where you can choose “Adults,” “Children” or “Infants.” Instead, after you enter your starting city, destination and dates of travel, you are taken to a page with train times on those dates. After selecting your train, a page pops up where you can request a passenger discount or enter a promotional code. Choose “Senior” from the drop-down box and then click “Apply Discount.” The senior fare will appear.

4. Overnight travel saves you money and time.

If you’re driving and need to cover great distances, you might be tempted to drive all night.  Trains, on the other hand, move 24 hours a day, so you can get closer to your destination even while asleep. “By taking Amtrak, you’ll be able to do as good or better time than driving straight through overnight, and do you do so while actually safely sleeping, as opposed to curling up in the back seat while someone else is driving,” Magliari explains. Of course, you could opt to stop for the night on your road trip, but then you’d be shelling out for a motel room.

5. Eliminate long (and usually costly) trips to/from the airport.

Airports tend to be some distance from major cities, meaning you need wheels, a cab or shuttle ride or a long trip on public transit to get into the heart of a city. Unless home or your final destination is close to the airport (or you have friends or family willing to give you a lift), you could shell out big bucks to get around.

In cities like St. Louis or Chicago or other places in multi-frequency corridors, Amtrak has a suburban and a downtown stop. That means a choice. “We take you right to where the action is in most cases,” says Magliari. In fact, in some cities, coming into a downtown train station means you can take advantage of downtown hotel packages and stay close to the local attractions.

Amtrak is offering a special deal to its Guest Reward members: double points on travel Sept. 5-Nov. 16. You can always find all the current Amtrak deals on the railroads Deals page.

Photo courtesy of Amtrak

Kathie Sutin

Kathie Sutin has covered everything from construction to transportation. Features, however, are her specialty especially those about travel, food, health, parenting and people. Her work has appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Midwest Traveler, Southern Traveler, St. Louis Parent, Hooked on the Outdoors, Missouri Life, St. Louis Magazine, Air Tran’s flight magazine and Sauce Magazine and websites including stlbeacon.com and aaa.com. At her last fulltime gig, public relations writer for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, she developed a vast knowledge of all things St. Louis as she spread the gospel about free and things to do in the Gateway City. That came in handy when she launched St. Louis On The Cheap as did her lifelong strategy of paying less whenever she can.

One comment on “Amtrak offers money-saving travel alternative

  1. JulieCC on said:

    Don’t forget to join their rewards program and check out their weekly deals, which are usually on their most popular routes.