Amtrak (800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service nationwide, which it promotes with vacation deals, rail access to ski resorts, the Auto Train to Florida, air/rail packages and Metroliner and Acela service to New York. For discounted fares, consider travel on Saturdays and during off-peak seasons. Senior citizen and children's fares are available as well as special packages for students and veterans. The Rail Sale (tickets.amtrak.com/Amtrak/railsale), an Internet-only deal, offers discounts when booking online on specific routes.
The Acela Express and Metroliners provide daily high-speed service between D.C. and Boston or New York City. Reservations are required and fares are higher than regular service. Service for both is available only at select stations between D.C. and Boston. Acela is running 15 out of 18 trains from 29 departures, but this fluctuates, so passengers should check departure times at the number and Web site listed above.
_____2003 Way to Go Issue_____
Booking Air Online With Ease (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Free Cities! (Well, Almost.) (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
52 Great Weekend Escapes (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Airport Security (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
How to Renew or Apply for a Passport (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
To B&B or . . . (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Organizations and Web Sites for Specialty Travel (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Airline Contacts (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Cruise Lines (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Catching the Bus (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Airport Shuttle Services (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. The Vermonter attracts skiers in winter, cyclists in summer and leaf-peepers in fall. Heading west to Chicago, the Cardinal transports passengers past luxe resorts like the Homestead and Greenbrier as well as Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains and West Virginia's New River Gorge. And although you have to get to New York City first, the Adirondack, which runs from Manhattan to Montreal, is another beautiful ride, stopping along the way in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The Auto Train operates daily between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to seasons and holidays. In mid-October, for instance, round-trip fares are in the $405 range for two people and one car. For sleeper car accommodations, tack on $260 for an economy room (two beds, no running water) or $615 for luxury digs with private bath.
Amtrak's Air Rail Program links the rail system with United Airlines so passengers on a round-trip journey can travel one way by train and the other by plane for quite a bit less than if they book the two legs separately (for example, round-trip from Boston to Los Angeles is less than $500). (Amtrak Adventures packages allow you to fly to a destination on United, explore it aboard Amtrak and return by air.) Amtrak Vacations: 800-321-8684.
For information on tourist trains that offer scenic rides, check out RailLinks.com (www.railinks.com/travel/pages). Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (215-557-6606, www.nrhs.com) also organize special rail outings.