Adventure around America via Amtrak

This the home for my next solo travel adventure: Adventure around the United States of America via Amtrak.

Travelling from El Paso to Albuquerque via St Louis, San Antonio, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Spokane, Portland, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and Flagstaff.

When: August 2017.

The route is governed by the Amtrak system. That sets some pretty strict boundaries on one hand, but also simplifies planning in another. This is a trip in multiple segments but with the overarching roundtrip framework.

As you can see, This is a coast to coast to lakes to coast route.

Because we now live between El Paso and Albuquerque, it makes sense to start at one of those locations and finish at the other, allowing me to make the best use of the major amtrak lines.

I mentioned multiple segments. This will be to break the trip up, to make it as cost effective as possible (Amtrak has a really weird pricing system that I still can’t quite figure out), to make time to visit with friends and to explore, and to take opportunities to write.

I’m referring to these as segments rather than days of the trip for the time being. More detailed planning will elucidate the day to day aspects of this adventure.

Segments

1. El Paso, New Mexico – San Antonio, Texas – Houston, Texas – New Orleans, Louisiana

Length of Trip: 29 hours, 5 minutes

Name of Train: Sunset Limited

Quirks: Only runs 3 times a week.

3. New Orleans, Louisiana – Atlanta, Georgia – Washington, D.C – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – New York, New York.

Length of Trip: 29 hours, 46 minutes

Name of Train: Crescent

4.  New York, New York – Boston, Massachusetts

Length of Trip: 4-5 hours

Name of train: Northeast Regional

5. Boston, Massachusetts – Chicago, Illinois

Length of Trip: 22 hours, 50 minutes

Name of Train: Lakeshore Limited

6. Chicago, Illinois – Milwaukee – St. Paul/Minneapolis – Spokane, Washington – Portland, Oregon

Length of Trip: 45 hours, 55 minutes

Name of Train: Empire Builder

9. Portland, Oregon – Sacramento, California – Los Angeles, California

Length of Trip: 30 hours, 35 minutes

Name of Train: Coast Starlight

10. Los Angeles, California – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Length of Trip: 16 hours, 27 minutes

Name of Train: Southwest Chief

USA Rail Pass

I already know that I will be stopping along some of these routes before continuing along, but exactly where and how many places will be governed in part by how much that will add to the cost of the trip.

usa rail pass

While I could conceivably complete the trip in 30 days and 12 segments, it is going to offer more flexibility if I consider the 18 segments allowed by the 45 day pass. In order to determine if this is the most cost effective, I’ll also be compiling a budget analysis of each and every route. It may also make sense to book individual tickets that run in addition to the base for less expensive segments (or very short segments). Otherwise, it may make sense to also use a Californian pass for that state’s legs – The California Rail Pass allows for up to 7 days of travel in California over a 21-day period for $159.

One of the criticisms I’ve read of the USA Railpass is that the conditions are very difficult to understand and that the total cost is actually more than the cost of the pass as listed. Here are some of those conditions:

usa reservationsOne of the significant points is that the cost of the pass only covers the cheapest price for any given segment, meaning that certain routes result in a surcharge, and that the cost only includes the seat. However, the Amtrak website doesn’t give good information on how to calculate the surcharge and which trains are subject to these additional costs (this would obviously help planning).

Moreover, If you need a sleeper, as some of my routes would require if I don’t want to be exhausted the whole trip, then this also incurs a surcharge. The confusing part is that there is pretty much no information on the Amtrak website for how to figure out how to calculate the sleeper surcharge.

There is obviously lots to figure out, but overall, this will be a much more straightforward trip to plan than Overland to/from Oz (and has a much better chance of coming to fruition).

 

Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Traveler. Scholar. Photographer. Writer. Dreamer. Teacher. This Adventure around America is a crazy adventure marked with photos and word and inspired by the incredible women in Anna’s family, especially her late grandmother, whom she knew as Nan-Nan.

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