Travel Guide: Details on Amtrak, the Auto Train, vacations by rail and more

May 6, 2011

Amtrak (800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service nationwide, as well as Amtrak Vacations packages (e.g., the Grand Canyon Discovery Tour; 800-268-7252, www.amtrakvacations.com), regional tour packages (e.g., the Hearst Castle package), the Auto Train to Florida, rail passes, multi-ride tickets (including monthly passes for unlimited travel), multi-city tickets and Acela service. For lower fares, travel during off-peak days and/or times. Discount fares are available to seniors, children (half-price for ages 2 to 15 and free for those younger than 2), students, veterans, military personnel and AAA members with restrictions. Weekly Specials offering discounts on certain routes are available for purchase from Tuesday to Friday for travel every day of the week except Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are nonrefundable and cannot be exchanged.

Amtrak offers WiFi service in select stations and trains throughout the country.

Acela Express provides daily high-speed service between Washington and Boston and/or New York. Fares are higher than for regular service. Service is available to select cities, such as Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; New Haven, Conn.; and Providence, R.I.

Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. Take the Vermonter between Washington and St. Albans in Northern Vermont and experience the Green Mountain State’s scenic vistas. The Palmetto and Silver Service trains (a.k.a. the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star) offer service between New York City, Georgia and Florida with a stop in Washington. And the Capitol Limited runs daily between Washington and Chicago following the historic B&O line through the Potomac Valley, past Harpers Ferry and the Allegheny Mountains into Pittsburgh.

Passengers traveling to select national park sites can find the nearest Amtrak route at www.amtraktoparks.com.

The Auto Train operates nonstop service between Lorton and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to season and holidays and include meals. In early June, for instance, a one-way fare starts at $250 for one regular car and a reserved coach seat. Sleeper car accommodations are extra.

For more info on train vacations with scenic rides through the United States and beyond, go to Vacations by Rail (877-929-7245, www.vacationsbyrail.com), RailsNW (800-717-0108, www.railsnw.com), Routes International Travel Services (www.routesinternational.com/touristtrains.htm) and Rails USA (www.railsusa.com/links/Tourist_Railroads). Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (www.nrhs.com) also organize special rail outings.

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