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Tips for Train Travel

Train travel in your future? Here are some tips that will help make the trip more comfortable…

A Superliner is a double-decker train, a Viewliner has one level only. Sleepers on the lower level of a Superliner tend to have less of side-to-side motion but may be a bit noisier due to proximity to the tracks. They are also near the showers. Upstairs rooms have a better view, but tend to rock a bit.

If you’re booking a private sleeping compartment, don’t check the fare for one traveler and then multiply that fare to arrive at the cost for a couple or family. The way it actually works is that each passenger pays coach fare, and the cost of the sleeping accommodation is for the entire party. So if two people are taking the Crescent from NY to New Orleans and staying in the same sleeping compartment, each person would pay $122.00 for coach fare, with a single additional charge of $295.00, which covers the sleeping compartment and meals for both people.

If you’ve booked a private compartment, bring a small overnight bag with whatever you’ll need for your journey — there isn’t much room to store luggage. Coach seats have overhead racks that can accommodate a couple of overnight bags. You can check your larger suitcases.

Amtrak says that redcaps are on hand to help you with your luggage, but in practice both they and luggage carts can be hard to find. Pack only what you can schlep yourself.

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If you want to get on and off the train for more than just leg-stretching and smoking, purchase the North America Rail Pass, which provides 30 consecutive travel days with unlimited rides and stopovers throughout the United States and Canada. The pass entitles you to coach class travel, but you may upgrade to business class or sleeping car accommodations for an additional charge. The rail pass is $999 during peak periods (May 25, 2007 to October 15, 2007) and $709 for off-peak travel.

Don’t wait until the last minute to book sleeper accommodations; they can sell out months ahead on popular routes.

If you’re travelling at night, consider booking your trip to coincide with the time when the moon is full or near full. Travelling through a moonlit landscape is much nicer than hurtling through the dark.

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