These days, rising U.S. travel costs can easily get ahead of you. In particular, air fares continue to climb, even as service quality deteriorates. Fortunately, Americans increasingly have a viable alternative. Greener and less stressful than travel by air, Amtrak is often the most economical way to go. And, thanks to an array of Amtrak discounts, passengers can often land rock bottom fares on travel by train!
For budget-conscious train trekkers, Tuesday is the most important day of the week. That's the day when Amtrak posts its latest SmartFares; 25% savings on one-way rail fares for routes and destinations across the country. Amtrak SmartFares are available for travel from one to two weeks in advance and are sold Tuesday through Friday only.
Regular Amtrak travelers know that they can save on regular fare prices by booking two weeks (14 days) in advance — up to 50% and more! This mid-August 2013 comparison of lowest regular one-way fares and corresponding advance purchase fares makes the point:
Boston to Washington $146, advance purchase $76
New York to Miami $314, advance purchase $141
Chicago to Los Angeles $305, advance purchase $169
Portland to Seattle $33, advance purchase $25
Kids love trains and Amtrak loves them back with special fares for children. In most instances, full fare paying adults get to take along two children (ages 2-12), each for 50% off the full adult fare. Baby on board? Each full fare paying adult with an infant (under age 2) in tow pays no additional fare.
Age also has its advantages when it comes to seniors traveling by rail. Travelers, ages 62 and up, get to lop 15% off the lowest available rail fare on most Amtrak trains. Lucky New England seniors enjoy half-price fares on travel between Portland, Maine and Boston aboard Amtrak's Downeaster.
Like all Americans, Amtrak salutes our men and women in uniform. On most fares, an exclusive 10% discount is extended to all active duty US military personnel, as well as their spouses and dependents. Travelers with a valid Veterans Advantage Members Card get 15% off most Amtrak travel — and "VetRewards" Card members, enrolled with Amtrak Guest Rewards, receive bonus points for every dollar they spend.
If you have the time and plan to go the distance, hitting the tracks with a USA Rail Pass can be an economical alternative to conventional ticketing options. Amtrak's USA Rail Pass offers 15-day, 30-day and 45-day options for travel throughout the United States. Limiting your itinerary to the Golden State? For just $159, a California Rail Pass gives you up to seven travel days within a three-week period.
Additional Amtrak discounts available to eligible travelers include up to 10% discounts for AAA members; and savings of up to 20% for groups of 20 or more. Commuters and other frequent Amtrak travelers can save on travel by train by choosing from multi-ride ticketing options for travel on selected routes across the country. Limited-time regional promotions are also money-savers. Offers in August 2013 range from 2-for-1 travel to Ticonderoga, New York... to reduced fares to sporting events in Oakland and San Diego, California.
The easiest way to take advantage of Amtrak discounts is by booking online. For the lowest prices, be sure to book at least a couple of weeks out — and remember that you can book Amtrak travel up to eleven months ahead. Reservations for most discounted travel can also be made at many Amtrak stations or by phoning 1-800-872-7245 (TDD/TTY 1-800-523-6590).