Crossing the US by Train

Train travel is a more viable option than many people many realize.

When we think about about traveling between states, only planes and cars are likely to zoom across our minds. But trains are still a viable option – and a much easier one than many people may realize. 

Sure, the golden age of railroad transit has passed. That train has left the station, if you will. But Amtrak, which has operated all passenger trains in the country for 43 years, carried more than 31 million passengers in 2013. More than 75 percent of those passengers took trips of 400 miles or less – about the distance between Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Chicago.

Despite the short-trip convenience, longer, coast-to-coast train travel is still in the cards. Amtrak offers small rooms called roomettes, which are small but efficiently designed. Rest rooms and showers are in the same car. There are also larger, more expensive sleeping alternatives, which Amtrak calls bedrooms, bedroom suites, family bedrooms and accessible bedrooms. Some have private toilets and showers.

Of course, coach cars contain wide, reclining seats but do not have the luxury of privacy. Whichever option you may choose, be sure to buy insurance for travel to protect your travel investment.

As far as pricing goes, Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham says ticket costs fluctuate like airfares. 

"The further in advance, the better the deal," Graham told Orange County Register.

To purchase a one-way plane ticket from New York to Los Angeles about three months in advance, it costs roughly $350 to $500. In comparison, train tickets for the same one-way trip three months out falls around $220 for coach and $1,300 for a roomette. This includes all meals in the dining cars. Breakfasts often feature a choice of scrambled eggs, French toasts or an omelet; lunch includes a salad, bratwurst, beef or vegetarian burgers and chicken dish; dinner selection consists of steak, vegetarian pasta, chicken, fish and turkey. 

Perks of Train Travel
Although flying is faster, intercity train travel can be fun. Here are some of the perks of train travel:

  • You can soak in the countryside. You can't admire the Great Plains or a sunset over the Mississippi River while 35,000 feet in the air. 
  • You don't have to worry about getting tired behind the wheel. Save yourself some energy and arrive in your destination ready to go. 
  • It's more environmentally friendly. This mode of transportation pollutes the environment far less than others.