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GA Voice - - Outspoken -

There was a time when travel was ro­man­tic; those about to em­bark on a trip often donned their best cloth­ing while ser­vice providers pulled out all the stops with freshly pre­pared meals, cock­tails and en­ter­tain­ment. Those days are long gone now that air­lines have turned their fo­cus to sim­ply mov­ing as many bod­ies packed in as tightly as they can, but if you have time on your side, the ro­mance of travel can re­turn this sum­mer.

There are many who ar­gue the ro­mance of train travel never fully disappeared. We don’t have hoop-skirted women wav­ing hand­ker­chiefs on smoke-filled plat­forms any­more, but the prom­ise of vast swaths of beau­ti­ful coun­try­side still re­mains.

Holly James has been trav­el­ing cross coun­try by train with her wife four or five times a year since 2007. For her, train travel is all about the re­lax­ation of a slower pace.

“There is some­thing so ther­a­peu­tic about the click-clack of the train as it bar­rels down the tracks,” she told Ge­or­gia Voice.

Overnight trips more af­ford­able

Adam Goldstein, a Carnegie Mel­lon grad stu­dent who often touts the ad­van­tages of trav­el­ing by train, rec­om­mends overnight train trips be­cause they’re often more af­ford­able for fam­i­lies.

“Sleep­ing car pas­sen­gers re­ceive com­ple­men­tary meals in the din­ing car, may bring al­co­holic bev­er­ages on board with them to drink in their com­part­ment and may make use of the busi­ness class lounges in ma­jor sta­tions prior to de­par­ture,” he said.

Plan­ning a va­ca­tion with overnights on the train means there’s no need to book an ex­pen­sive ho­tel for a one-night des­ti­na­tion.

For those will­ing to spend a lit­tle money, an inclusive train pack­age can be a va­ca­tion unto it­self.

“Many of my older clients love tak­ing the Rocky Moun­taineer across the Cana­dian Rock­ies. It’s a beau­ti­ful route through the moun­tains, but it can get ex­pen­sive. High-

May 12, 2017

At­lanta-based travel agent An­drea Op­pen­heim rec­om­mends start­ing a train trip out West be­cause the tracks are smoother. (Photo cour­tesy Am­trak) end train pack­ages can run into the thou­sands for some routes,” said An­drea Op­pen­heim, who owns and runs Find A Pearl, an At­lanta-based travel agency.

Still, she said, train travel can be very af­ford­able on some trips, es­pe­cially when trav­el­ing in Europe, where train sta­tions are often con­ve­niently lo­cated in the cen­ter of his­toric dis­tricts and very easy to get to.

Op­pen­heim also notes that travel for LGBT fam­i­lies seems to be a bit eas­ier in Europe.

“Maybe you get sin­gled out as an Amer­i­can, but not as much be­cause of your sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion,” she said.

But, more tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­va­tive parts of Amer­ica are be­com­ing more LGBT-friendly, “and it’s more of a norm, and I’m see­ing the same thing in travel.”

When choos­ing a lo­ca­tion, James rec­om­mended start­ing out West be­cause tracks tend to be smoother there – and to not miss out on the food (es­pe­cially the tamales at the Al­bu­querque train sta­tion). For those look- ing to travel di­rectly from At­lanta, the New Or­leans to Wash­ing­ton, DC Cres­cent Route makes stops there. James rec­om­mends this par­tic­u­lar train be­cause “cross­ing the bayou with the track mere feet above wa­ter makes for ex­cel­lent wildlife view­ing.”

‘It’s mag­i­cal’

Train travel isn’t with­out chal­lenges, though. In Amer­ica, Am­trak doesn’t own its own tracks, which means they could be sub­ject to de­lays as freight trains often have supremacy in be­ing as­signed tracks. To pass the time, trains often have wifi, and elec­tri­cal out­lets at seats are nearly univer­sal – and there’s al­ways a din­ing and bar car that’s worth vis­it­ing.

Even with the pos­si­bil­ity of short de­lays, tak­ing the train re­moves the anx­i­ety most of us face when trav­el­ing.

“While I do fly, af­ter a se­ries of fright­en­ing mishaps on air­planes, I like know­ing the train is a vi­able way to travel should my flight anx­i­ety be­come an is­sue,” James said.

In­ter­ested in hop­ping on board a train for your next trip? Check out these tips from vet­eran train trav­eler Adam Goldstein:

Book early to save money or con­sider semi- or non-flex­i­ble tick­ets.

Plan a quick trip by choos­ing one des­ti­na­tion (like New Or­leans) or get more ad­ven­tur­ous by plan­ning a round trip with two dif­fer­ent routes.

If trav­el­ing overnight in coach class, throw in a blan­ket, pil­low, eye shade and mini power strip.

Plan­ning an epic cross-coun­try so­journ? Ever heard of a Eu­rail Pass? Well, Am­trak has some­thing sim­i­lar. The adult-fare USA Rail Pass starts at $459 for eight “seg­ments” (in­di­vid­ual train rides) over 15 days.

Check out the pro­mo­tions sec­tion of the Am­trak web­site for the nu­mer­ous deals on of­fer at any given time. is the go-to re­source for US and global train travel.


Train travel is also con­sid­ered more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly – and the scenic views sim­ply can’t be beat.

“I en­joy writ­ing and draw­ing, and the land­scapes avail­able to the train pas­sen­ger are unique and in­spir­ing; in some lo­ca­tions, it may be hours be­fore another paved high­way crosses the path of the lo­co­mo­tive,” she said. “En­vi­ron­men­tally speak­ing, it leaves a lower car­bon foot­print than an air­plane.”

Com­pared to pur­chas­ing air­line tick­ets, train travel can often get ex­pen­sive, but there are deals to be found – es­pe­cially for plan­ners.

“Am­trak fares in­crease based upon de­mand as the travel date ap­proaches,” Goldstein said. “Book­ing non-flex­i­ble ‘saver’ or semi-flex­i­ble ‘value’ tick­ets can po­ten­tially save you hun­dreds of dol­lars.”

For many, though, the cost of the train ride more than pays for its charm and sim­plic­ity. Rolling through the coun­try­side, watch­ing the world pass by and tak­ing the time to sim­ply en­joy the jour­ney is ex­actly what train travel is all about, James de­scribed.

“The sounds of the train at night are es­pe­cially sooth­ing,” she said. “The lone whis­tle in the mid­dle of the night, see­ing the stars with no light pol­lu­tion – it’s mag­i­cal.”

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