Here’s how to travel cross-country by train for less than $500

Here’s how to travel cross-country by train for less than $500
Posted at 6:45 AM, Jun 17, 2024

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A cross-country road trip is on many people’s bucket lists for a good reason. The U.S. is filled with many must-visit national landmarks that are spread out from coast to coast. However, if your idea of a cross-country road trip is kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the scenery, you may want to leave the car at home.

Thankfully, Amtrak has a way to help you realize this carefree cross-country dream via the USA Rail Pass. The pass includes 10 train rides, or what Amtrak calls “segments,” which can be taken over a period of 30 days. You can choose from 500 different destinations and can start your trip off at any one of them. Tickets will run you $499; however, when you break it down per segment, each trip ends up costing roughly $50 (and with gas prices the way they are, you may even end up saving some cash).

After buying your rail pass you have 120 days to book, and once you’ve booked your first segment you have 30 days to complete your trip. To book your segments you’ll have to log into Amtrak’s page and head to the “My Trip” section where you can select your embarkation point and future segments. According to their webpage, Amtrak considers a segment “any time you board or disembark” a train.

While the trip is coach class, the seats on the train are wide and reclining. There is significant legroom and, of course, large windows to take in the stunning scenery. Also, you won’t have to worry about being assigned the dreaded middle seat — there are only two seats per row.

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One of the best things about the USA Rail Pass is that you get to handpick your destinations and create an itinerary based on your personal preferences. For example, maybe you’ve done a cross-country trip before, and instead, feel like breezing down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. Or perhaps you call the West Coast home and want to explore the Southeast. Whatever your preference, Amtrak can help make it happen.


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If you’re unsure where to start (or just don’t feel like overthinking it), Amtrak does have recommended routes that include a few must-see destinations. For starters, you can choose the Sunset Limited tour, which takes travelers on a beautiful sunny trip through the southern U.S. starting from New Orleans and going on to San Antonio, Tucson and Phoenix. It ends in Los Angeles.

If you feel like shelling out a bit more cash, Amtrak also offers curated trips that have upgrades featuring comfortable bedrooms for sleeping. For example, its California Zephyr trip starts in Chicago and ends in San Francisco. It lasts 51 hours total and can be upgraded to include roomettes, which feature seats that can be transformed into beds at night. You can also book a bedroom, which is twice the size of a roomette and features a sofa, luxury bedding and your own private sink, bathroom and shower.

If you go coach, tickets for the California Zephyr can cost as little as $150-$300 per ticket, and can run as high as $2,000 or more for a bedroom with meals included.

So what do you think? Would you take this cross-country trip?

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This story originally appeared on Don't Waste Your Money.