As a writer, traveling by train has a special allure. There is something about riding through landscapes from one place to another that allows writing to flow much more freely. Even if you aren’t a writer you can experience the benefits of traveling by train. The most attractive thing about riding the rails is the lower price when compared to to flights. Yes, it may take longer but you don’t have to pay for a hotel on an overnight haul. You can even make the journey from one place to the next as part of the vacation itself.
Unfortunately, the United States is the caboose (I had to) when it comes to countries offering respectable train travel. Who knows? Maybe in a few years the train may be just as favorable as it is in Europe and Asia.
(Image Source: Flickr | Kool Cats Photography)
Unlike the coal engine above, technology has come a long way to cutting emissions from train travel. Traveling by train emits the least emissions of all mass transportation per passenger mile. A plane traveling 100 miles uses 61lbs of carbon emissions while the rail system uses only 21lbs for the same distance. While this is good for the environment it is also good for ticket prices. Since its emissions are low per passenger mile it is less vulnerable to increasing fuel prices.
(Image Source: Flickr | Prasad Kholkute)
No Frustrating Security Requirements
Imagine not standing in a long security line. Or, not needing to arrive two hours early so we have time to take off our shoes and do the security dance. There is no need to ration out liquids into 3oz containers then put them in a ziplock. You can usually arrive 30 minutes before departure and walk straight to your platform.
(Image Source: Flickr | onnola)
Space and Comfort
It seems like the space allotted in airline seats gets smaller and smaller. That may also be because I am 6’3″. Regardless, unless you fork out a generous amount of money for first class then you’re stuck in a confined space. Most passenger trains offer more legroom than airplanes and you’re free to get up and walk around without waiting for the seatbelt sign to go off. Many trains offer free WIFI and you’re free to use your phone at any point of the journey.
(Image Source: Flickr | ume-y)
Train stations tend to be located in central parts of the city. Thus putting you either closer to your hotel or public transportation. This means you save money on taking a cab into the city from an airport outside of the city. High-speed trains in Europe and Asia have made some trips shorter than air travel by having train stations by offering better access to public transportation.
(Image Source: Strange Luke Photography)
More and more airlines (Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier) are even charging for carry-on luggage. While even fewer offer one free checked bag. Even then there is no way airlines can compete with the luggage space offered by trains. For example, Amtrak’s baggage allowance is as follows: two carry-on bags up to 50lbs each (as well as personal items such as a purse, diaper bag, etc) and up to four checked bags up to 50lbs each, to which the first two are free. The third and fourth are $20 each.
(Image Source: Flickr | Dimitry B)
We all know that buying airline tickets at the last minute is expensive. Not to mention how much the prices to fly fluctuate greatly. Train fares stay fairly consistent day-to-day on particular routes. There are times when the prices rise such as on or around holidays and during peak season. But, you can count on a consistent fare, even if you buy a ticket last minute.
(Image Source: Flickr | Ruben Bos)
When you’re at an altitude of 30,000 feet it is tough to see the intricacies of any landscapes. Sure, you get to see a point of view that is limited to your altitude but you don’t get to emerge yourself in it. The scenery you will see on a train is spectacular because the tracks generally run through rural areas. You may get there at a slower pace than in a plane, but you get to experience much more. Let’s see you stick your head out of a Boeing like the image above. Yeah, it’s not happening.
(Image Source: Flickr | Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars)
The Dining Cart/Carriage
This is single-handedly the best thing about train travel. While some very expensive first-class flights offer room for dining it is nothing like the experience of train travel. You can be enjoying a romantic dinner while watching the foothills of the Ozarks pass by. And, the great thing about the dining cart on the train is that it is included in your fare.