Summer is finally here, and we’re all thinking about ways to travel safely — beyond the backyard kiddie pool. Our usual lives may be on hold, but our reasons for traveling? Those are as strong as ever.
Whatever your reasons — maybe you planned to make the trek to your hometown this year to see your family, to give the kids a blues lesson on Beale Street, to finally visit Glacier National Park — if you hadn’t yet considered it, you may be pleasantly surprised by how safely you can travel by Amtrak. And easily and comfortably, too.
With some of the strictest cleaning protocols in the industry — including contact-free boarding, limited bookings, and required masks in stations and on board — the trip comes with some serious peace of mind. You could even book your own private room, the landscapes out your window putting any hotel view to shame.
After all, it’s not a usual summer — why have a usual trip? When you’re feeling ready to travel, here’s why you should go with the unusual — with Amtrak.
1. Physical distancing is easier on a train.
Amtrak has clearly articulated plans to keep you safe: Masks are required for both employees and passengers at stations and onboard trains, and they’re limiting bookings on reserved trains to allow for more physical distancing in seating areas — on top of the already generous legroom.
In fact, your entire trip will be as contact-free as possible. To board, your eTicket simply needs to be scanned by an attendant from the Amtrak app on your phone, so there’s no need to handle any documents. The café (many trains have a dedicated café car) only takes cashless payments, and you won’t even have to touch the doors between cars to get there — use the new foot-activated buttons to open them.
Many routes also have completely private rooms available. “Roomettes” and bedrooms comfortably fit two adults; family bedrooms and bedroom suites can accommodate two adults and two kids. Consider it your home on rails with ever-changing views and a personal attendant.
2. Your booking is totally flexible.
Concerned that your travel plans might change? Honestly, we all are. Along with their pledge to provide you with a safe and comfortable ride, your Amtrak booking also comes with the peace of mind of a hassle-free cancellation. All bookings made between now and August 31, 2020, can be changed or canceled without a fee. There are no complicated criteria to decide which tickets are eligible, and in many cases, they can be changed online.
3. Your bags won’t weigh you down.
If you’re the type who’s used to shoving all your belongings into one tiny under-seat bag, get this: Amtrak lets you carry on up to four items. Depending on where you’re headed, you may be able to check up to four bags as well, with no charge for the first two. Certain routes even allow you to bring oversized items like a bike for free.
4. Go ahead, pack the fridge if you’d like.
If you’ve ever watched a fidgety, unenthused kid start absentmindedly playing with their food instead of eating it, you’ll know how much easier it can be to just bring something for them that they’re definitely going to like. And on Amtrak, you can pack as much food as you need to satisfy your picky eaters — even if that picky eater is you! From a simple sandwich to something more gourmet, you have the ability to create your own onboard menu.
But don’t worry if you forgot your favorite travel snacks (or already worked through your stash), as café service is available on many routes for a quick drink or bite to take back to your seat. And if you’re traveling in a sleeping car cross-country, you get complimentary flexible dining service — that’s three meals a day of your choosing, delivered by your friendly sleeping car attendant.
5. Amtrak is setting the standard for safer, cleaner travel.
Amtrak has taken it upon themselves to enact some of the strictest cleaning standards in the travel industry. The onboard air filtration system has an exchange rate of fresh air every four to five minutes, and their own Medical Services Team is following guidelines that come directly from the CDC. They’re continuously auditing policies to stay aligned with the most up-to-date information available.
6. You’ll get peace of mind, station to station.
Amtrak is the sole operator of intercity passenger trains in the United States, which means you’ll find the same strict safety protocols during every leg of your trip. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making the short hop from DC to NYC or crossing the country on a long-distance route. They’ve got it under control, so all you have to do is relax, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
7. There’s no better way to see the country.
Have you ever thought about exploring the nation’s jazz corridor starting in the City of New Orleans? You can, on the train of the same name. Or if your tastes sway more toward the naturalistic, you’ll love watching the sunset over the ocean from the observation car of the Coast Starlight. Even if you just have your eyes set on a quicker trip up or down the Eastern Seaboard, the view out your train window is guaranteed to give you a new perspective.
So if you’ve never traveled by train, this is the perfect year to treat yourself to a new kind of journey. “Getting there” is often seen as merely a means to an end, but a voyage made by rail becomes part of the adventure. How and when you choose to travel again is a personal decision with no one right answer. So just remember: When you’re ready, there’s an Amtrak train waiting for you.