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In case you haven’t checked the calendar, today is the first day of October, and to us that means that the fall foliage season is officially underway. Sure the colors of autumn are just starting to show, but that hasn’t kept Amtrak from planning on how best to show passengers a good time.
Amtrak is bringing what they call the Great Dome Car to the upstate New York fleet which, as you can imagine, allows for greater viewing of the outdoors while comfortably seated indoors.
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Riding the rails out of Chicago will not only get easier, but a whole lot faster thanks to a plan to run a high-speed rail link between the Midwestern metropolis and the Gateway to the West, St. Louis. Just last week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn allotted a whopping $102 million from the state's budget for improvement of the rail corridor between the two cities.
The plan for the sped-up Amtrak line will allow higher speed trains to travel up to 110 mph between St. Louis and Dwight (about 75 minutes from Chicago). The final leg to Chicago will also be ready to go fast in 2017.
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It's already nearly mid-June and thus well into the season for donning some rainbow hues and head out in the the "wild pink yonder" to Gay Pride festivals all over the country. Even if the parades, floats, and glitter are not your thing, it's important to recognize that now is also the time travel companies market extra hard for your dollar.
Sure, it's simple to book a regular flight, train trip, or even cruise without having to proclaim your sexuality, but it's good to have options.
Here's your one-stop reference for websites of airlines, trains, and cruise lines specifically dedicated for the gay traveler:
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Fido and Fluffy will no longer be sad back at home during your next trip, as Amtrak is now welcoming furry friends on certain trains and some routes. Just yesterday Amtrak started up this new program, so now you can plan your vacation itinerary with some tourist stops that your dog will enjoy as well—world’s largest fire hydrant?
The train transportation giant has a few special cars that will allow pets as part of a trial run that will do its thing for like six months or so. Amtrak's Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains that do their thing between spots in Illinois like Chicago and Quincy are part of the pilot, and if the animals behave things might just become available nationwide on more trains and more routes.
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Whether you're a frequent flyer or an armchair traveler, there are certain details it's nice to review before making plans for that next big trip. Every week, we'll squeeze our mindgrapes and share tips to make sure you're the best informed flyer in seat 1A...or 38K.
This Week: The 5 Things Everyone Should Do Before Taking a Train Trip
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If getting back into the workweek is a little hard this morning—no problem—as we’ve got some daydream destinations to get you through the day. Sure the odds aren’t exactly in your favor when it comes to winning a contest, but you can’t win if you don’t play. So here’s a couple contests going on this week, so take a few minutes and throw your name into the hat for a chance to win.
Amtrak Eats Sweepstakes
Take things easy and travel by train, as Amtrak is offering the chance to score some tickets and spending cash. The contest ends tomorrow, so just head over to the site. The big prize is round-trip sleeping car accommodations for four on Amtrak, $2,500 cash, and even a seven-piece cookware set from Cooking Channel.
Southwest Visit Florida Sweepstakes
A free ride in one of those blue-bellied planes always sounds like a good idea to us, and now through the end of the month Southwest Airlines is giving away some free flights. Head here to enter a few things like your name and email address, and you’ll be ready to go. Big winners will score two round-trip tickets to Florida and three nights at TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach.
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We didn’t take a ride aboard Amtrak last month, but we might have been the only ones. Apparently the nation’s favorite train had a nice hefty boost in ridership last month, so they must be doing something right.
It seems that Amtrak often gets a bad rap regarding what it does wrong and never what it does right. However, in July the numbers seem to speak for themselves. The train beat its own best records, as Amtrak announced that more passengers took a trip in July than during any other month in the company’s history. In case you’re interested in the numbers, it sounds look almost a cool three million—2.9 to be specific—rode the rails during July of 2013.
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Riding the US rails just got a little bit better, as Amtrak is reaching into their pockets to pay for a little bit of a technology upgrade.
Travelers must be enjoying the WiFi and other in-train offerings, so the decision has been made to boost the connection options and speeds in hopes of attracting even more in-train WiFi fans.
Amtrak leans on cellular carriers to grab their WiFi signal, so we’re sure there will still be some dead spots or other areas where things aren’t ideal. Still, we can’t really complain given the price—WiFi is free aboard Amtrak.
Take a train through Europe, and you're bound to follow sparkling rivers near castles or dart through tunnels bored into scenes from a Tuscan dream. Take a train through the United States, and you're going to see lots of backyards with algae-green above-ground swimming pools, and Wal-Mart parking lots.
Okay so we're exaggerating a little, because sometimes, from the train window, you do get to see what's promised in "America, The Beautiful:"
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain...
This scene is exactly what kept us company through some of a recent Acela ride from New York to Boston. For a $120 one-way ride, the view better be worth it.
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The commercial, which will soon be interrupting your favorite TV program, shows off their high-speed Acela service on the East Coast. All statuses show "On Time," passengers move freely move about the train, using their electronic devices, and some even head to the bar car for socializing. All thisAmtrak subtly reminds youis the rule on their trains, but the exception when you chose to be bound by the rules of flying.
There's just one problem. Travelers who have taken the Acela before won't be fooled. For example, we just hopped an Acela last month, traveling from New York to Boston, and our train was delayed an hour. The WiFI onboard may have been free, but it wasn't speedy enough for us to work as normal, so we did end up spending much of the time in the bar car, our hands sticky with spilled coffee as we attempted to add sugar while the train rocked ahead, not nearly traveling at "high-speed" speeds.
If you see the inside of an Amtrak train more than you see your house, apartment, or your loved ones—we’ve got good news. You’re still probably going to ride the rails more than you’d like, but at least Amtrak is getting ready to award your loyalty for choosing them for your trips.
Amtrak has already had a couple different flavors of frequent traveler perks and benefits, but they’ve upped the ante with their latest offering. The new top tier of their Amtrak Guest Rewards program is known as Select Executive Benefits—not the cleverest name—and will get you all kinds of neat travel benefits and other stuff.
This year, Amtrak is celebrating the 5th annual National Train Day on May 12 and though it doesn't mean any discounts on summer train travel (yet! fingers crossed!), it does mean that Dawson will be at New York Penn Station to talk about her love of trains. WEIRD.
While specific activities around National Train Day haven't been announced, the party will go down at train stations in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and, of course, NYC. Essentially, this serves as a notice that it could be very fun to travel on Amtrak from one of these stations on May 12...not so much because of Rosario, but because there are bound to be giveaways and little bonuses.