For many, the upcoming holiday season will mark a return to travel. While some travelers will choose to fly or opt for a road trip, there’s a third option to consider for your holiday travels: booking a train. Train travel offers a number of benefits that other modes of transportation do not. Hesitant to ride the rails right now? Like airlines, train lines have implemented a number of new booking and safety procedures to help protect you and your loved ones when you travel.
Here are some of the top reasons to book a train for your next trip, plus what to expect (safety-wise) if you decide to ride.
You can lessen your impact on the environment
According to the US EPA, aircraft produce 12 percent of all domestic transportation greenhouse gas emissions. Trains, on the other hand, emit significantly less carbon dioxide compared to planes. In fact, if you take a train, you cut carbon dioxide by half compared to a plane ride covering the same distance.
You can save time with train travel
Not only are trains better for the environment, sometimes taking a train is faster than flying. When you factor in (typical) wait times at the airport—like those found at the check-in counter and/or bag drop, security checkpoints, your boarding gate, customs (when traveling internationally), and baggage claim—you get loads of time back when you travel by train instead. Plus, many train journeys depart and arrive at stations located in city centers, meaning you can save even more time by avoiding traffic delays (and save money when you can eliminate the cost of additional ground transportation).
You can book a train based on capacity
Traveling in the COVID era means conducting extra safety-related research up front to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your trip. One consideration is the amount of other passengers you might encounter during your travels; fortunately, train lines have considered this, as well. Amtrak, for example, has announced it’s limiting the number of bookings on its trains and making passenger volume available in real-time so you can view the percentage of seats that have already been booked on any given train. National Rail in the UK is adding train carriages to its lines to promote physical distancing.
Here are some of the other new safety protocol and procedures train travelers can expect:
- Passengers are required to wear masks or face coverings for the duration of their train journey, as well as in all train stations.
- Limited capacity to promote physical distancing.
- Social distancing guidelines and accompanying signage at stations, platforms, and on trains.
- Some trains offer private rooms for extra space and privacy.
- Enhanced onboard air filtration systems and cleaning procedures.
- New boarding and disembarking procedures to encourage physical distancing upon entering and exiting the train.
Tip: Visit TripIt’s Traveler Resource Center for myriad resources to help you stay informed about changing travel and safety guidelines before and during your trip.
You can get work done
Need to get some work done during your trip? For the duration of your train journey, you have uninterrupted access to Wi-Fi (many train lines offer Wi-Fi for free!) and the seat pitch and leg room—especially if you’re used to flying in economy—is ideal for setting up a temporary workstation. Plus, there are power outlets available if you neglected to charge your laptop beforehand.
… Or, you can relax and enjoy the scenery
While trains don’t offer the seat-back entertainment that flights do, they actually do you one better: Traveling by train allows you to not only gain a different perspective on the states or countries you’re traveling through, but you’ll also have the unique opportunity to take in the sights, as well. The Amtrak Cascades route from Eugene, OR to Vancouver, BC, for example, offers passengers views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker before passing through breathtaking rainforests and cloud forests. You won’t get that experience at 35,000 feet up.
Holiday planning is stressful enough, nevermind the added worry of how you’re going to get to your destination. As you consider returning to travel during the COVID era, weigh all of your transportation options—you might find that traveling by train is the least stress-inducing and most socially-distant mode that works for you.