Don’t Get Taken for a Ride with Full Price Train Tickets

by Guest Contributor · 11 comments

There are plenty of ways to play the system in Europe and get cheaper train tickets. Booking early, traveling at odd times, and making use of bargain passes are all traditional ways of cutting a train ticket’s price dramatically. In the US, though, things are much less accommodating. In fact, since the government started subsidizing Amtrak, rail prices are equal – if not higher – than plane ticket prices, but there are still ways to save.

How Much Room Do You Need?

As always, space is a luxury when traveling. Just like planes, trains have a limited amount of space, and if you want to be able to lie down, enjoy a private compartment, or spread out – to some degree – you will pay for it. When you compare the fare of tickets from Denver to New York for a reclining seat and a room, the difference is shocking.

The reclining seat will set you back about $300 but if you want to get a “room,” expect to pay between $200-500 more, depending upon the size of the room involved.

Make Use of Memberships

If you belong to an auto club, the AARP, or are a member of the military or a vet, or are still in school, or are traveling with a child, make sure to ask for your discounts. These range between 10-50% off the full price, so they can really add up.

Also, consider joining the Amtrak member plan; you get points for your miles, just as you would with an airline club, and those points can be used for free trips.

Check for Specials

With the economy in a slump, everyone is vying for your travel dollar, and train services are no different. Every week, new specials are announced, and if you are traveling for vacation and have some flexibility in schedule and location, this is a great way to get tickets for a lot less.

Travel Off Peak

There are times when traveling is more popular, such as around the holidays. Not everyone is comfortable flying, and train travel still has a touch of romance for some. If you join the crowds you will pay more; if you travel when everyone else is staying home, you will pay less. Basic supply and demand will affect train ticket prices, just as it does everything else.

Consider Booking the Whole Trip

If your goal is leisure, think about having the train company book all of the details for you. Travel packages are often less expensive than trying to book all the disparate elements on your own. Tours, meals, hotels, and train schedules are all organized and coordinated for you, so you save on stress as well as on tickets.

Perhaps the best reason to travel by train, especially in light of the increased time, is the opportunity to see something of the country through which you travel. When you hop on a plane and spend a few hours at 30,000+ feet, you have no connection to what you are traversing. There is no way to determine the value of what you and your family share as you travel by train, but keep that in mind next time you are thinking about how transportation.

This is a post taken from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook. Check it out by signing up for the free frugal newsletter.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I
    think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the
    hang of it!

  • aryton senna says:

    Just got great fares for 4 RT Arezzo -> Roma -> Arezzo on Trenitalia which may have the worst web site on the planet!

  • Dave says:

    My daughter wants to come home for a visit, but Amtrak wants over $800 for a round trip ticket from Denver to Pittsburgh……and the trip takes 2 1/2 days EACH WAY !!!

  • kenneth varns says:

    Not only do get to see this great country of ours but you get to meet some very very interesting people plus the level of service is much better than any of the airlines . p.s. and I don’t think you recieve a PAT DOWN .

    • JIm says:

      ” I don’t think you recieve a PAT DOWN .”

      Not yet, but you will, you will. Read TSA’s proposals for “enhanced” rail passenger security sometime.

  • Ann says:

    If service on Amtrak is not exactly perfect, it is still a thousand percent better than the nonservice you get on airlines these days. Unless you are in a big hurry for some reason I can’t imagine why anyone would opt for a flight. So-called first class is as dreadful as everything else on a plane. I don’t understand why anybody puts up with it unless they have to.

  • Perry West says:

    Travelling off peak times is really a good way to save money on trains. Every time a holiday comes in, all of the prices of services will go up and that is normal. So, ever since, I travel when there is no much passengers.

  • Babs says:

    Not to ruin your trip but we here in the U.S. think microwave food on trains is a delight. Don’t expect to hear many “thank you” and “can I do something for you” from the Amtrack staff as they are unhappy employees.

  • KM says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have yet to be on an American train, but I always wanted to. But with the prices so high, I always felt like I might as well drive if it’s going to take so long anyway, and at least I can see things along the way. But I am not comfortable driving in Boston, so I will keep the train in mind when I visit my friends there. And good to know they have discounts if you are traveling with kids as I will be bringing mine along.

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