I recently found this article about train travel:
“The hectic pace of air travel and the issues people hear on the news with changing airport security requirements make people look for a different solution,” said Alyssa Schulke of Schulke Travel, an affiliate of Travel Experts. “Except in places like Europe and Japan, where train travel can be quicker than air travel, you tend to need more time as well as need to be willing to disconnect a bit. I think this slower pace is beginning to appeal to people who have been used to the ‘go-go-go’ mode of getting from point A to B.”
Train travel, particularly in Japan, and on certain European routes is better than air travel, and can be quite luxurious. Certainly the sightseeing is better!!
Trains have a lot to offer depending on the company.
“Amenities range from fine dining with table linens and sommeliers, onboard education and lecturers, some offer interesting excursions on longer stopovers, some even do have Wi-Fi,” said Schulke. “And the bed I slept in on the Pullman to New Orleans was as comfortable as any hotel room. Overnight trains can also be an interesting way to defray hotel room costs for one night during a trip and save the day time for touring instead of transiting.”
I would NOT call it fine dining. And the wine tasting is just average, but helps fill some of the time, particularly at night. Some even have “movie cars”. The beds are okay, not luxurious, or as good as nicer hotels.
Lenau books train vacations, mostly for older couples who can take the time to travel this way. “This is a great choice when people want to see the country, but don’t want to fly,” said Lenau. “You need a lot of time to travel the country by train, so I always suggest a compartment, and not just a seat. It is much more comfortable and you have your own small bathroom.”
As far as dining is concerned, the trains offer a quick bite in the snack car or meals in the dining cars prepared by chefs.
My comments: the food is generally marginal at best. But the dining car is the best way to meet people, since they force diners to sit together at open seats.
Traveling by train isn’t limited to the United States. “Europe always makes sense for train travel, but I’ve also had clients on trains in Australia, Peru, India and Japan,” said Schulke. “There are always creative ways to combine train travel with other land arrangements for people who want to explore that option.”
There is plenty of time to take photos, write, read, watch the countryside, towns and cities pass. You get to see our country as most never get to do!
I have enjoyed every train trip I have taken, with the exception of the train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. The noisy and stinky Spanish women were just too much to see and smell! But otherwise, Europe, Japan, Africa, Australia, and the Americas have been both interesting and different. What more can you ask for?
The train does take more time, and it is not always cheaper than flying. But it is more enjoyable, definitely more relaxing, and perfect for sightseeing and making new friends.
A couple of hints from a seasoned veteran of train travel:
1. Stop at Trader Joe’s or a good grocery/liquor store to stock up on goods, esp. adult beverages and snacks.
2. Bring a pair of slippers that work well on land and sea. In other words, on the train, and in the shower.
3. Bring sunglasses and a camera.
4. Most long distance Amtrak trains do not have wifi yet. So bring your smart phone.
5. Bring a good book or two.
6. Wear comfortable clothing, but do not go tasteless!
7. Plan your stops wisely, some are very short, and some are great for getting a little exercise.
8. Bring a memo pad and pen, you never know when you might need it!!! (I had to use it to communicate with three Russian students on the Trans Siberian Railway)
9. Don’t forget to tip your sleeper car attendant.
10. Don’t forget to tip the staff in the dining car.