Why we should ditch the plane and take the train instead
Enjoying a train vacation instead of jetting away somewhere can make your travels much more sustainable. Yes, there are places that you can´t reach by train. That´s why we need to change our ingrained behaviours and start the other way around. Instead of first deciding on a destination and then looking for a way to get there, start at the other end. Look around for railway options not too far from you and see what they have to offer. Then, put together your vacation plans. When we impose a limitation on ourselves in one area, when force ourselves to look for new options and new solutions. We force ourselves out of the rut – and this can be highly rewarding. Allow yourself to explore hidden gems and novel experiences this holiday.
Crossing the United States by train
The train ride from New York on the east coast to San Francisco on the west coast can be completed in three days, without any stopovers, but many holidaymakers opt for a more leisurely pace that allows them to make plenty of stops along the way, sampling what this huge nation has to offer. There is undoubtedly something very adventurous and romantic in the notion of crossing the U.S. by railway. Among other things, you get to experience Colorado’s canyons – a route widely held as one of the most scenic ones in the world.
Who operates the trains?
In the United States, the long-distance trains are operated by Amtrak, also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.
Is it very expensive?
With Amtrak, it is possible to buy train tickets that will take you from New York to San Francisco for less than $250. This typically requires booking well in advance and will get you a seat – not a bed.
The reclining seats are comfortable, but if you have some more money in your budget, you can boost your comfort by opting for a private sleeping instead (for one or two people). Getting a sleeper adds a lot to the ticket price but does include all meals in the dining-car + coffee, tea & fruit juice throughout the journey.
Several different routes are available for those of us who wish to travel coast-to-coast by train in the United States. Prices vary of course, so always check with Amtrak before you make any firm plans.
If you board the train in New York, Washington DC or Boston, you will be in Chicago the following day. That is where you change train to continue to either Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. Another option is to travel coast-to-coast via New Orleans. This takes longer and you need to arrange accommodation for at least one night in New Orleans. The New Orleans – Los Angeles train operates three times a week.
The mesmerizing California Zephyr
The California Zephyr is a train route running from Chicago to San Francisco, and many coast-to-coast travellers opt to include this route in their journey. The trip takes around 48 hours and from your window, you will be able to see everything from the fertile plains of Nebraska to the Harsch Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, before reaching the beautiful San Francisco Bay.
The Southwest Chief
Another option when travelling from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean is to take the Southwest Chief route, with Los Angeles as the final destination. Parts of the journey goes through Navajo Indian lands and parts run alongside the famous Route 66. A lot of travellers plan for a stopover to spend some time by the Grand Canyon.