Yes, I’m a bit odd.
When planning a trip, most people usually search the cheap airfare websites. I grab a map. My first impulse is to find a railroad near my destination, especially one that includes a scenic or historical route.
I’ve written before about the pleasures of sea travel, so in this post I share 10 reasons I love long distance train trips.
- The scenery – My grandmother Louise, a veteran world traveler, sometimes lamented how she saw “just a lot of airports.” Rail travel instead provides a constant cultural window into life being lived at eye level.
- No jet lag – Trains allow your system to acclimate gently to a new time zone without the shock of a long-haul flight.
- No driving – Avoid traffic jams and road stressors altogether by letting someone else take charge. Amtrak’s Auto Train even transports your car. If delayed, just take a nap or catch up on your reading. Even the train driver doesn’t have to worry much about steering, bad weather or getting lost!
- Interesting stops – Train trips allow you to alight at remote places to enjoy nature’s finest. Last year we stopped over for two days to visit Glacier National Park! Unlike airfares, it often doesn’t cost extra to add these fun stopovers.
- Roomy seats – Compared to a cramped plane or bus, trains are much more comfortable with plenty of room for hand luggage and long legs like mine!
- Minimal security checks – No long lines, and much less hassle than extensive airport screenings.
- Excess baggage – Luggage limits are much less restrictive than airlines. I’ve taken a full set of golf clubs onboard an Amtrak train and the attendant cheerfully put them over my coach class seat – try doing something like that on an airline!
- The Rhythm of the Rails – Being rocked to sleep at night by the clickety-clack, and then watching sunrise from your window.
- Breakfast – One of my very favorite travel experiences is waking up early on a train and ambling down to the dining car for French toast and hot coffee. Absolutely delightful.
- Finally, rail travel provides one of those rare times we get as adults to just simply be in a relaxed atmosphere. As our world become more hectic and stressful each year, this kind of downtime is healthy, therapeutic and necessary. This is also why I love transoceanic sea crossings.
- “I’ll get motion sickness” – I don’t know anyone who’s ever gotten sick on a train! The large windows and generally straight tracks eliminate almost any chance of this happening.
- “Trains cost more” – It’s true that some European express trains are more expensive compared to cheap airlines, but in many countries train fare is incredibly cheap and a great value. Rail passes offer flexible options in both the USA and Europe, and you can also save on lodging costs by taking overnight trains.
- “I can’t afford the time” – Unless you have a bet like Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, can you afford not to? I recall truckers lamenting the opening of the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, as it meant the end of a pleasant 90-minute ferry ride. Most of us need to create space away from today’s hectic pace of life.
- “Aren’t there hidden extra costs?” – Nope. Your fare pretty much includes everything except food.
I hope you will consider this option in the future, and if you go, I wish you a fun adventure and relaxing time.
“Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.” – E. M. Forster