There's something inherently enjoyable about train travel: You get an up-close perspective of the scenery, and not having to go through the misery of airports (lining up to go through security check, for example) is a huge plus. With leaf-peeping season in full force, we've never wanted to hop on a train more.
As the national rail network for the U.S., Amtrak offers train routes spanning 46 states and over 21,000 miles. It's not exactly known as an affordable means to travel: You're likely to find bus tickets — or even flights with budget carriers — cheaper than a ticket on the passenger rail. However, don't just give up the quest for train travel just yet. Read on for five budgeting hacks to save on your next Amtrak trip.
Keep An Eagle Eye On SmartFares
Just like many airlines do, Amtrak regular rolls out flash sales to boost customer interest. These weekly specials on one-way coach fares come at 30% off, and are updated weekly at its official site. One caveat to keep in mind: These discounts are typically only available if you book Tuesday through Friday.
Get A Rail Pass
If you're planning on doing a long-haul train journey, the operator's rail pass program is a great resource for procuring a multi-trip pass that lets you travel within a region freely within over a 15, 30, or 45-day period. For instance, the California rail pass, which allows seven days of travel over a period of 21 days, costs $159 per adult.
Railserve.com is a no-frills online destination for Amtrak deals. The site aggregates all the promo codes and special discounts you need to know, according to regional routes. Check its Facebook page for up-to-the-minute updates on cheap fares before you make a train booking.
Become A Member
This one is a no-brainer: Joining a rewards program is never a bad idea. You can get two points for every dollar you spend on Amtrak trips by signing up for the Amtrak Guest Rewards. You can redeem free travel after earning 800 points, and new members are rewarded 500 bonus points upon signing up, provided that you travel within 90 days of joining. Sounds like a pretty good deal to us.
Book Two Weeks In Advance
Unlike flight prices, Amtrak fares don't go through fluctuation periods at all: You'll simply get the best prices if you book early, and the rates go up as there are less and less tickets left. There are decent deals for early birds: You can knock at least 25% off your adult fare for bookings made 14 days in advance. This deal applies to train routes in the Northeastern region, between popular stops like New York, Philly, and Boston. For Amtrak, planning ahead really does pay off.