Showing posts with label Amtrak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amtrak. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday: Ridin’ the Rails for Free!

washington wednesdays 005Mary and her husband, who live in south central Washington State, will be traveling round-trip to Chicago aboard Amtrak this fall – on free tickets – thanks to Amtrak’s Rewards Program and a Chase credit card offer she received.

That is a savings of $636.

The Amtrak card – which doesn’t have an annual fee -- works much like those cards that offer airline points.  Mary received 16,000 points from Amtrak for joining the rewards program and another 16,000 from Chase for signing up for the card. The Chase points were added to her Amtrak account as soon as she made a purchase using that card.  It took between a month and six weeks for the points to be posted.

Once they appeared in her account, she put in their travel dates and destination ‘hoping to get a few dollars off the cost of the tickets’. Instead, she found that the amount of points required for the trip was 32,000. Her points paid for the trip. She’s booked it!

“I already had booked a neat brownstone in the Lincoln Park area and will use the card to pay for it and hopefully accrue some more points by next May, when we plan to take Amtrak to Carmel,” she wrote.

Mary’s note came right before news of the latest round of price increases on airline tickets. If you’re tired of airports and want to give Amtrak a try, you might want to also check out the Amtrak credit card site. (Offers can change so you may not find the same deal that Mary got.)

If you missed last week’s money-saving Travel Tip,’ click here to read it.

If you’ve got a tip – place to stay, a good deal, a way to save travel dollars – send us an email to Be sure to include details and we’ll use it in a future Travel Tip Tuesdays! 

And, if this is your first visit to TravelnWrite, welcome! Hope you’ll return soon or better yet, sign up to have TravelnWrite posts delivered to your inbox.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ridin' Washington's Rails

We did it! After talking for months about this multi-generational 'girls trip' to Portland, Oregon, a trio of female travelers set out last week to visit a fourth who lives in the "City of Roses".

           King Street Station, Seattle
As many of my trips do, we began aboard Metro's 255 bus that picked us up across the street from my Kirkland home and dropped us an easy walk from Seattle's King Street Station; home to both Amtrak and SoundTansit trains. Restoration work continues at the stately old station that opened in 1906 with a clock tower patterned after Venice's Campanile di San Marco. When finished, it will be one of Seattle's showplaces - it is already looking good.

On the southbound journey we rode Amtrak's Coast Starlight which carries passengers as far as Los Angeles' Union Station.  My return trip the following day was on Amtrak's Cascades that runs between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C.

My traveling companions (pictured on the left) and I each had round-trip coach class tickets ($81.90 per person with a AAA-Club of Washington discount) that got us comfortable seats on the upper level of the double-decker train car. We had large windows, and ample leg room with both leg and feet rests. The seats would have been perfect but for the two undisciplined little boys who sat with their mom behind us. Remember the movie, "Throw Mama from the Train"? 
It comes to mind. . .

                 Trail & Rail Ranger on board
A highlight of the 3-hour and 45 minute ride was learning about Amtrak's Trail & Rail Program, a partnership with the National Park Service that puts volunteer rangers on board to explain the natural and cultural sites along various U.S. routes.  Two rangers on our train had notebooks full of information that they used when making announcements along the way in the Sightseer Lounge Car, pictured above.  

This Trail & Rail program operates on various Amtrak routes from spring until fall.  For instance, the rangers told us  volunteer rangers can also be found on Amtrak's Empire Builder between Shelby, Montana and Seattle.

The Portland adventures of the Female Foursome  -- two over-50-somethings and the two under-40-somethings -- continue in the next post.. . .

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On track in the Pacific Northwest

            Portland, Oregon's train station
"This is so beautiful," the man from Genoa, Italy exclaimed. "I think I have the good side." 

We were aboard Amtrak's Cascades traveling between Portland, Oregon and Seattle,Washington, passing through a part of southwestern Washington that I had always considered 'somewhat boring'. 

           Crossing the Columbia River
I had met the Italian  in Portland's train station while we waited in a long line for seat assignments. Having completed the business portion of his Pacific Northwest trip he was traveling by a train to the area's largest cities: Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.  He asked for  recommendations on what he should see; I ticked off the usual tourist sites as we inched our way towards the counter.

We'd chatted again as I made my way to the dining car for coffee. Back in my seat, I thought about his enthusiastic declaration and realized that I was guilty of traveling a familiar route, close to home and simply taking it for granted.

I decided it was time to really pay attention to my trip; I pulled out my notebook and made note of my discoveries:

*  Winlock, Washington, just south of Tacoma, home of the World's Largest Egg - the conductor announced it but unfortunately a freight train kept us from seeing it. It is 12-feet long and weighs 1,200 lbs - no joke; follow the link I provided above.
*  Speaking of Tacoma, if you pay attention as the train eases into the station from the south, you will go under the Chihuly Bridge of Glass with its Crystal Towers gleaming above you.
*  Passed a town I don't think I'd ever paid attention to before called Bucoda but its been around since the 1870's when it served as home to the first Territorial State Prison. 
*  A profusion of blooms filled acres of flower gardens along a portion of our route making me wonder if they were the Hmong Gardens I read so often about in newspapers; the ones that had suffered from our strange northwest weather this year.
* And then there was Mount Rainier, at 14,411 feet (4,392m) the highest mountain in Washington State. In the late afternoon sun it beauty was so striking that other passengers roused themselves from napping to take a look.

Majestic Mount Rainier from the train
Wish I could tell the Italian visitor that -- thanks to my brief encounter with him -- I won't ever take this trip for granted again.


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