His idea: a cross-country trip via train. When I first heard that, I thought, “Cross-country? Really? That’s expensive! How in the world….?” My husband sat down at the computer, pulled up a chair for me, and showed me some of the things that he’d researched. As it turned out, it was relatively inexpensive (I will give you an actual number before I end this post…so read on!) considering all of the places we were planning on going…and all of the things that we would see. Besides that, choosing to ride the train instead of drive is safer AND allows my husband, who does most of the driving most of the time, to enjoy the scenery with us and interact with us.
The planning was not easy. We had 14 days, and we wanted to see as much of our country as feasibly possible. We looked at Amtrak for schedules, deals, and ideas. Finally, we decided that we would drive to Atlanta (from our home in Myrtle Beach), catch the train there, head south to Louisiana…we would have a layover for one night in New Orleans (which is where we boarded the Carnival cruise for our honeymoon, so it was kind of a special place to us anyway). After New Orleans, we would head to Texas. I had never been to Texas before, but my husband had lived there for several years. I had always wanted to visit Texas, so when this opportunity came up, I jumped at it. We decided to spend a couple of days in San Antonio. My husband assured me that would be enough time to see everything that we would want to see there. From San Antonio, we were going to head over to California! (So, all in all, we would travel from the East Coast to the West Coast!) While in California, we decided to see Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, and Yosemite national park. It took a long time to narrow it down to all of this, to plan it out, to check all of the train schedules and work out our itinerary. I spent several hours in front of the computer…planning, re-planning…scheduling, then re-scheduling…it was very frustrating, and very stressful. Sometimes I would have to call Amtrak to talk to them about what we were planning, ask them any questions that would arise, etc., etc. My comments on Amtrak Customer Service via phone are only positive. They were so nice, so helpful, and so much calmer than I was at the time! One of the last conversations that I had with them before the actual booking was a long one where a lady walked me through each segment of our trip, helping me to figure it all out. She spent so much time helping me, and seemed like she genuinely wanted it all to work out like we were wanting.
We ended up purchasing a U.S. Rail Pass. The rail pass got us 8 segments. As it turned out, we needed 9 segments. So, we had to pay for the rail pass and only one other segment. It was about $1580 for the entire train trip! That number really surprises me because to travel that far, I expected the price to be much more! This was for a family of five, round trip. If you take that number and divide it by 5…it was approximately $300 a person! We didn’t have to pay for gas…we didn’t have wear and tear on our vehicle…and we weren’t going to get lost! To us, the expense was so surprisingly small from what we were expecting to pay for a cross country train trip.
We had not had a “real” vacation since our honeymoon, so I was a little rusty on what I should pack…what will we need….what should we take with us on the train to eat as we travel. There would be no stopping at fast food restaurants to get burgers and fries! We saw that there was food available on the train…for a price… As we looked at the menus online, we found that this was not going to be the way for us to eat. It was too expensive, for a family of five, for sure. We decided that we should carry things with us to eat along the way. Next in the series of our vacation posts, I will go into more detail about what we took with us to help keep our vacation within our budget!