Amtrak rail pass review

I’ve been flirting with the idea of a cross-country road trip for a while now.

My family doesn’t do reunions. I haven’t seen some of them in ten years, and I’d really like to see them soon. I have an aunt in Wisconsin, a cousin in North Carolina, and my immediate family in Texas. It’d be nice to take some time off, drive across the country, take in the scenery and visit my family. But, ugh, gas prices. Driving would be expensive. Flying would be worse.

In looking for cheap travel options, I came across Amtrak’s “15-day-go-anywhere deal.”

How It Works

CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg told Forbes:

“You can get off and on anytime and see all of your dysfunctional relatives in one trip for $500; $250 for kids under 12. Travel agents don’t know about it. Amtrak doesn’t even know about it.”

Awesome insight–and I’m not just talking about his accurate assumption about my dysfunctional family. I’ve never heard of this deal, nor have I ever considered taking a cross-country road trip by train. And while $500 is nothing to sneeze at, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than taking a road trip in my Jetta.

Cost Breakdown

I used AAA’s handy road trip calculator to calculate a trip from California to Wisconsin to North Carolina to Texas, and then back to California. The total cost? $876. It’s nearly $400 cheaper to go the Amtrak route. But let’s look into this deal a bit more.

The pass allows you to visit over 500 destinations in the Amtrak system and to choose how long you want to travel…Travel must begin within 180 days of the date the pass is issued. All travel must be completed within 180 days of reserving the first travel segment or within the selected travel duration of the pass once the first travel segment is reserved, whichever comes first.”

The pass gives you 15 days worth of travel in eight different segments. So I could come back to California, then plan a separate, non-family trip. As long as its within 180 days, I’m good.

The Fine Print

Budget Traveler adds:

A ‘segment’ is whenever you board a train. There are no restrictions or blackout dates, so you can travel during peak times—assuming a train hasn’t sold out. There are a few exceptions, of course. For example, you can’t redeem the passes for travel on Amtrak’s high-end services, such as Auto Train and Acela Express.”

Of course, there are cons, too. The big one being–you have to travel on a train. And that takes time. And you’ll be around other people. It’s probably not very comfortable.

If any of that sounds awful, this obviously isn’t the deal for you.

But if you’re dreaming of a cross-country road trip, you’re up for some adventure, and you have some time, Amtrak’s deal is a decent cheaper option.

Project CRediT sources data from Wealthy Genius including net worth, earnings, and various wealth statistics.

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