If there’s one thing that I can’t compromise on in this life, it’s the love for travel, but grownup responsibilities mean grownup expenses. The Budget Travel Tips series from First Choice Power examine how you can travel while finding a way to save money. Whether you’re in school, have a family, or just don’t have the income you wish to support your travel dreams, we share tips on how you can still see the world – without going into debt!
Time to Ride the Rails
If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’re familiar with how essential it is to your itinerary to travel by train. Sure, driving is an option, but train travel is better, since you don’t have to read as many maps and street signs in foreign languages. And you also gain the opportunity to swap stories and trade tips with other travelers!
Here in the United States, we also have access to train travel, but it’s rarely at the top of our “How do I get from Point A to B?” list. Perhaps it’s our love for independence and having our own car, or maybe the interstate highway system makes it too easy to forego the enjoyment of a riding a train.
Thus, we’re going to share our top train travel tips and explain why it’s a smart option when you want to save money while traveling.
Traveling by Train within a City
Residents living in major cities in the northern parts of the United States such as New York City, Chicago, Boston, or Philadelphia know train travel very well. It’s a necessity for getting around in populated cities where the physical square mileage of the city is small in comparison to the number of inhabitants.
If you’re heading to a major city with a train system, make plans to use it. You can do a little research online before you get there to learn the ins and outs. Trains are faster than walking, and are much, much cheaper than taking taxis or renting a car.
And if you are traveling in either Houston or Dallas, there are train options in these cities, too.
Dallas has DART, a transportation system that includes both bus and light rail, and makes stops in 12 other surrounding cities besides just Dallas.
Houston has METRORail, a light rail system that covers 23 miles of the city. These train stops often include stops at points of interest such as stadiums, art museums, universities, and Downtown attractions.
The key to riding on a budget: purchase a ticket that is good for longer than an hour or one train ride. For example, the Houston METRORail offers a card where you can ride as often as you like in one day for $3.
How’s that for traveling on a budget?
Cross-Country Train Travel
Traveling across country via train is a romantic notion! But this series is about budget traveling, not romance (though you can make the case that saving money is sexy).
Train travel is affordable in comparison to flying by air and for long distance travel in general because you can sleep on the cars themselves. Food is often included, too, or you can save a few bucks by packing your own snacks. It also helps to bring a refillable water bottle on your journey. It keeps you away from the crowded airports and off the busy highways, too.
Not only is it cheaper, it’s better for the environment. And you’re likely to see parts of the landscape you wouldn’t see via car, because train tracks run across places in America where no roads or highways exist.
Trains routes run along the Pacific Coastline, from Los Angeles to Seattle. They run through New Mexico where painted mountains are framed by giant blue skies. Explore Alaska by train, as you’ll see parts of the state where there are more glaciers than stop lights and more mountains than buildings!
Pop over to Amtrak to start exploring routes and fares, or hop onto TrainTraveling.com to find tourist routes that will take you on a journey of a lifetime. Students can travel Amtrak now for 15% off year-round, while military personnel enjoy 10% off ticket purchases. Children under the age of 2 ride free, and kids aged 2-12 ride for 50% off. Sign up for their email blasts so you’ll be the first to know when fares are discounted!
Do you ride the rails on a budget? Share your money saving tips with our readers below!