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The view near Oceanside
Our semi-regular correspondent Julia Buckley, a Londoner who decamped to the US west coast, is learning some very valuable lessons about how we travel in America. Here, she shares her thoughts on a recent Amtrak trip through sunny CA.
Being from Europe where high speed trains are (thankfully) becoming the norm and you can hop in a carriage in one country and, two hours later, be in a different one without any airport nastiness, I'm a big fan of train travel. So when I had to make a one-way journey from LA to San Diego last month, training it down the Cali coastline seemed ideal. I’ve driven that route plenty of times and always been envious of the fact that the train tracks seemed to be bang on the beach. Plus, it’s easier to take photos while you’re lounging on the top deck of the train, rather than driving like a maniac down the 5. So I decided to lose my Amtrak virginity.
My one-way ticket cost $31 (including taxes)much cheaper than flying. At 2hr50min, I decided it wouldn’t actually take much longer than flying, either, once you add in check in time, getting to the airport and so on. It seemed like a no-brainer. I was very excited. And then began the catalogue of mistakes.
Snowpocalypse 2010 / Travel Tips / Delays / Winter Travel / Weather / New York City / Snow Travel / Bus Travel / Train Travel / Amtrak / Greyhound / Megabus / Boltbus / → All Tags
If you've got any hope of traveling into or out of the Northeast today or tomorrow...or really on into the New Year, jot down your airline/bus/train information and stay closely tuned to their updates through these channels:
· American Airlines: a website and Twitter
· Continental: a website and Twitter
· Delta: a website and Twitter
· JetBlue: a website and Twitter
· Southwest: a website and Twitter.
· United: a website and Twitter
· US Airways: a website and Twitter
Travel Tips / Train Travel / Amtrak / Surfing / Sports Travel / Luggage / Baggage / → All Tags
Since airlines are constantly jacking up their baggage and oversized baggage policies, if you are traveling with oversized baggage it is in your best interest to check out your shipping options. Recently we looked into shipping our surfboard from the Southeast to the Northeast so we could do a little New England surfing next month.
Taking oversized baggage on a domestic flight will usually run you around $100 each way, and that doesn't count the awkward hours lugging your giant items to and fro the airport, which when coupled with a flight is sure to cause irritability even in the most zen traveler.
What are your options? UPS quoted us $500, counting packaging materialsyikes. Amtrak, however, charged a reasonable $50 to transport the board to South Station in Boston. Amtrak also offers insurance, with $1.00 equals $100 worth of insurance.
So about America's lagging train travel network and service? Yea, Amtrak has a plan. In Philly yesterday, Amtrak unveiled their 40-year plan for increased routes and high-speed trains, called "A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor." The gist of it is that, if the country can spend $117 billion to get this plan completed, then in 2040, we'll have faster trains and new tracks to enable passengers to travel between NYC and DC in 96 minutes and NYC and Boston in 84 minutes.
Those same routes, operated now on the relatively higher speed Acela trains, take 167 minutes and 230 minutes, respectively. The question now isn't whether or not the country needs this, but whether or not train travel in the US can afford/survive the billions in spending and the 30 more years of waiting before anything like this even comes close to being rideable.
Train Travel / Travel Ads / Acela / Amtrak / → All Tags
Raise your hand if you tuned into NBC last night for the season premiere episodes of Community, 30 Rock, The Office, Outsourced and The Apprentice. If your hand is raised, it's possible that you caught a special travel commercial too, one that certainly made us sit upright and pay attention. The ad began peacefully, showing a train weave through a landscape, but then a voiceover came on to list off many of our current gripes with air travel, and we nodded along:
Why is travel these days about what you give up, and not what you get? Like electricity for gadget power at your seat. Room to stretch your legs and your wingspan. Food when you're hungry. And taking off your shoes only if you feel like it. These aren't luxuries; they're basics. Get them back on Acela.
Once again Amtrak is giving New Yorkers a reason to leave the car in the garage and hop on a train instead. They have teamed up with I Love NY and are offering passengers 20% off their train fare in New York State. The savings can be applied to any trip on the following routes: Adirondack (NYC to Montreal), Empire Service (NYC to Niagara Falls), Ethan Allen Express (Albany to NYC), Lake Shore Limited (NYC to Albany to Buffalo) or the Maple Leaf (NYC to Toronto).
The deal is valid for coach seating and reservations must be made at least three days in advance. The promotion ends May 28, 2011. To book, just use this reservation form and your discount will be applied automatically.
Travel Tweet of the Week / Twitter / Twitter Travel / On-Track WiFi / Acela / Amtrak / Train Travel / → All Tags
We love Tuesdays. Why, you ask? Because the day brings many travel tips and quips as "Travel Tuesday" on Twitter, and we're going to share our favorite with you. Got an avid travel twitterer we should follow? Let us know.g
It's a sad, yet true, fact that as upgrading technology is forever a race. Now that some airplanes have in-flight WiFi, the rest of aviation is running to keep up. And it can't just be airplanes, but trains tooAmtrak just got wifi on their Acela trains and in select stations, and it's even free. How much longer will it be until automobiles come equipped with their own personal networks so that passengers can surf the web faster on their smartphones?
And although we can now access the internet wirelessly in so many previously unimaginable places, cable and telephone companies like TimeWarner and Comcast continue to confuse and provide service that isn't all that fast unless you opt for the pricey packages. Twitter user @courtneywmay is irked as well:
Acela will have more usable Internet than this office. How sad.
Trust usthere is nothing more frustrating than paying through the nose for internet at home, only to find free service that beats the heck out of yours at places like McDonald's or a bus station. But then we're all for more WiFi everywhere, so we suppose we can't complain too much.
On-Track WiFi / Train Travel / WiFi / Amtrak / Acela / Technology / → All Tags
The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived! Kind of. We mean, it's probably not the biggest piece of news ever, but it's exciting nonetheless and a step forward for USA rail travel when we say that Amtrak's Acela have free WiFi right now! They promised us that they'd have it flowing by March, and we're surprised to see that they were good on their word.
According to the AP, the free WiFi isn't just on the 20 Acela routes, but it's even at a few of their stations. You'll find a free Amtrak signal in the gate areas of Washington Union Station, Baltimore Penn Station, Philadelphia 30th Street Station, New York Penn Station, Providence Station and Route 128 Station in Boston. They also report that Wilmington Station will get it when they finish up their station renovations next year.
Amtrak might just be turning things around this year. They’ve adding WiFi to the rails, and now they’re trying to lure customers away from the crowds and inconvenience of air travel. They’ve begun to install advertisements in airports like SeaTac (Seattle-Tacoma), and they’ve even started to invade the trays where we part with all our travel gadgets before heading through airport security.
The new marketing strategy focused on the X-ray trays is exclusive to Chicago O’Hare right now, but we wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing it elsewhere. After all, there are plenty of other airports with aggravated passengers and Amtrak stations. The ads point out the humorous side of airport security by encouraging passengers to wear mismatched socks because Amtrak will never know. It’s true; we’ve had our share of awkward sock moments while waiting in the TSA line.
On-Track WiFi / Amtrak / Train Travel / WiFi / Techonolgy / Acela / → All Tags
Woo-hoo! Another victory for the modern traveler as Amtrak has named this the year of free WiFi aboard their Acela trains. To tell you the truth, we knew this was coming, even that it would be free, but we didn't know when it would be completed or if we could even count on it.
Well we can count on it! Amtrak announced that installation of WiFi on the Acela trains (which are the express routes on the East Coast) will be completed by March, as part of a celebration of the Acela's tenth anniversary of service. Other upgrades due for the trains include "leather seats and improved tray tables and power outlets." Score!
But who knows when we'll get to try out the WiFi and outlets; the Acelas are too damn expensive. Yeah right like we're paying $100 for a one-way to Boston when a WiFi and outlet-equipped BoltBus takes almost the same time and costs around $30. Keep trying, Amtrak, but we're proud of your achievements thus far.
· Amtrak adding free WiFi on Acela Express Trains [USA Today]
· Amtrak Competes with In-Flight WiFi by Adding Internet to Acela in 2010 [Jaunted]
· Amtrak travel [Jaunted]
Holiday Travel / Thanksgiving Travel / Christmas Travel / Travel Tips / Train Travel / Amtrak / → All Tags
So maybe you shied away from buying airplane tickets this year or you've always ridden the rails over the holidays; either way leave it to us here at Jaunted to see you through today's insane travel rush. Millions of you will be out there on trains, probably Amtrak, and you'll be anxious to just get to your destination already. For a little quick reading with a dash of priceless travel tips, check out these Top 5 Stories To Help You Survive Holiday Train Travel:
Amtrak / Trains / Train Travel / Acela / On-Track WiFi / Technology / → All Tags
Alright so how broke Amtrak is and how badly they need more passengers and cash is old and negative news. So how about some good news for train travel? Just a few days ago, it was announced that Amtrak is planning for WiFi on its Acela trains by 2010. This is what their passengers badly need, and hopefully the Northeast's few Acela routes are just the beginning.
2010 may be just around the corner, but frequent Amtrak passengers have been vainly attempting to connect to a network onboard for months now. For instance, when we chugga-chugged our way for fifteen hours (each way) between NY and the Midwest in March. Oh yes, we found an open network or two that moved with our train, but couldn't successfully connect. What's that about?