Saving Money on Travel, Part 1
Last weekend, faced with wanting to get from Cary, North Carolina to Brooklyn to visit our daughter, my husband and I took the plunge and booked tickets on Amtrak. The main factors in our decision to take the train were the high cost and hassle of flying or driving to New York City. We took Amtrak from the Cary station to Penn Station, NY for $280 round trip for both of us! In many European countries, such as Denmark, train travel has long been the norm. That hasn't been the case here in the US for several generations. With fuel prices rising daily, now is the time to explore alternative means of travel.
We were very pleasantly surprised by our Amtrak experience. First, we had a 10 hour train ride up the East Coast of the US. For us, this was a rare day to read, catch up on paper work, nap, and just enjoy some lovely scenery. This seems like a huge amount of time spent getting to New York this way, until you consider that this is just two hours longer than it takes to fly from Raleigh-Durham airport to any of the New York area airports. This doesn't even take into account the time spent driving to the airport, parking, the cost of parking, getting there early to get bags checked and go through security, plus a plane change. Amtrak recommends getting to the train station 30 minutes early, and parking is free at the Cary station. No change of trains is needed. You are free to move about the car, stand, stretch, and use your cell phone at all times.
I'd do this trip again in a heartbeat. It would be such fun to have the time to get off the train and explore things along the route. Southern Virginia has sparkling lakes and rivers, picturesque towns, beautiful marinas, and some lovely rural areas. The train pulls into Washington, DC's Union Station and also stops at Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia on the way to New York. The possibilities for pictures are endless for any photographer. I'm sure most Amtrak trips here in the US offer similar opportunities, but I haven't explored them.....yet!
A couple of words of caution, first do not check your bags. If something happens and you do need to change trains, your bags will not automatically go with you. Second, Amtrak has a reputation for running late. This was not a problem for us on this trip, however. Book ahead on holiday weekends as the trains are getting to be more popular daily.
In closing, I'd like to add that the Amtrak staff were helpful, efficient, funny, and made the trip even more fun.