All Aboard: 11 Affordable, Scenic Railroad Trips
There's a certain nostalgia associated with train travel -- the magnificent expanses and glittering cityscapes, the sound of the train whistle, the clatter of the rails, and the beauty of the trains themselves. For young fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, train rides bring cartoon fantasies to life. Add to all that the increasing hassle of air travel (proliferating fees, time-consuming security checkpoints, cramped coach seating) and train journeys become even more appealing.
Amtrak features limited-time offers on its website and a variety of budget-oriented booking options, including SmartFares 30 percent cheaper than regular coach fares. Amtrak also offers discounts to AAA members, students, seniors, active-duty military and their families (10 percent off), and children (half off for ages 2 to 12; infants ride free). Amtrak officials say the best way to get the lowest fare is to book well in advance (tickets go on sale about 11 months before the travel date). Fares tend to fluctuate, however. The prices included here were found on the Amtrak website during a late-June search and may not be representative of future fares.
Amtrak is merely the biggest name in train travel in this country. There are countless other options -- smaller local or regional trains -- that have a charm all their own. Canada offers still more fascinating train journeys worth consideration. Here's a look at 11 scenic train trips that won't break your budget.
Another one of Amtrak's most famous and scenic routes, the California Zephyr highlights the Nebraska plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevadas. Running daily from Chicago to San Francisco, the Zephyr offers a true slice of Americana. While more expensive than many of the other Amtrak routes, the journey is also substantially longer. The coach fare to ride the Zephyr from Chicago to the routes final destination in San Francisco was $321 in July. To make the ride cheaper, travelers can opt for a shorter portion of the route, rather than the entire journey. The coach fare from San Francisco to Omaha was $149, and still offers many scenic and memorable moments.