A Guide to Taking Amtrak

15 Things I have learned from taking Amtrak

Over the years, I’ve become something of an expert when it comes to taking Amtrak. Do anything routinely, and you’ll become intimately familiar with both the good and the bad.

Here are some things I’ve learned that might help you the next time you’re thinking of taking Amtrak.

amtrak travel tips

General

If you like to ride in peace, make sure you know where the quiet car is. On the Regional it’s right next to the Business Class car and on the Acela, next to the First Class car.

Sit on the left side of the train if you’re traveling north in the morning or south in the evening.

Sit on the right side of the train if you’re traveling south in the morning or north in evening.

Disregard the last two pieces of advice if you prefer to have the sun in your eyes throughout your trip.

If you have an iPhone, download the Amtrak app and save your tickets to the Apple Wallet. It’s one of the best things ever.

Regional Train

In my experience, trains with specific names, like the Vermonter or Silver Star are always late.

If you can afford it, the Business Class upgrade is always worth it.

The best place to work on a Regional train is the Cafe Car. There are large tables that you can spread out on.

The best way to sleep on the train requires you to have both seats. Recline your seat about 5 inches and then rest your head on the other seat.

Acela

I find the Acela trains to be generally more reliable, comfortable and on time than the Regionals.

The Acela Cafe Car doesn’t have the same set-up as Regional Trains – i.e. no big tables to spread out on. If you need to work and like to spread out, grab a table at either end of each car.

Good Question

How do some people seem to know the track before it’s announced?

1. Lucky guess. Seriously, the more you travel on Amtrak, the more you start to learn which tracks your trains depart from.

2. Club Acela. If you gain status through Amtrak Guest Rewards you are allowed access to Club Acela, where they will announce the track before it’s put up on the large departure board. I use the one in New York Penn Station all the time. I believe you have to be Select Plus to have access.

Is Acela First Class worth it?

Unless you have a lot of disposable income, generally I would say no. I have only paid for First Class once. However, I’ve ridden in First Class many times through upgrades I earned by gaining status on Amtrak Guest Rewards.

When’s the best time to use First Class upgrades?

When you gain status via Amtrak Guest Rewards, you are often given a handful of First Class Upgrades.

I tend to use them when I travel around dinnertime and have had an extremely busy day and when I have something to do immediately when I get to my destination. You get a nice meal – and healthy pours of wine – in First Class so it’s a good option when you really need to unwind.

Is it worth it to buy Guest Rewards points?

If you had asked me prior to the new points rules went into effect, I would have said, “Yes, no doubt.” Frequent Amtrak travelers will remember that regardless of the ticket cost, it used to be 4,000 points for a Regional and 8,000 for an Acela.

I usually book trains last minute, which makes the ticket prices slightly higher. So I’d always buy points because the cost of the points would be less than the cost of four or five tickets.

They’re using a sliding scale for points now based on ticket price and so far I am not impressed. You could end up using 13,000 points for an Acela. So, unfortunately, I don’t think buying points is worth it anymore.

Chime in below with your Amtrak travel tips (or horror stories, which, honestly might be more fun).

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

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