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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
News has surfaced in the past few days that London is trying to open its old underground Post Office Railway, or Mail Rail, to tourists. The city still needs to raise quite a bit of money and pass public approval, but it hopes to knock the dust off this once vital mail-carrying route. If everything goes according to plan, the Mail Rail will be ready to roll by 2020.
That's a far way off, so there's no reason to get ahead of ourselves. Yet regardless of the eventual outcome, this contributor has enjoyed the historic glimpse into a previously unknown world. It may not look like much beyond a dirty, dusty subway system, but the circumstances surrounding its use and construction bring about an appreciation that goes well beyond the novelty of 1920s mechanical equipment.
After taking a year hiatus from participating in the Eurail Select Pass - which allows customers to purchase three, four, or five country rail passes - France has announced it will rejoin the program starting in April.
Currently and until March 31st, you can buy three, four, or five country passes, choosing from a list of 25+ countries so long as they are connected to each other. For those looking at the map, you can see the effects of the decision go beyond visiting France. This past year, Select Pass holders were out of luck when they wanted to travel from Spain/Portugal to Italy/Germany/Switzerland/Belgium. They had to buy single tickets or splurge on the Global Pass, which is at least double the price depending on the specifics of your travel dates.
Have you ever been on a high-speed train and, out of nowhere, felt the urge to dip your feet into a nice warm bath while you watch scenery wizz by the window? Most likely your answer is "no," but now you can do just that, thanks to Japan Rail's introduction of luxury foot-baths on their trains this July.
To start, the JR East services will sport the luxury foot-baths for the high season of summer travel. Passengers on the Tokyo to Shin-Aomori route and other cities northeast of the capital will be able to relax while soaking their feet in a traditional bath.
Monaco Travel / How to Get to / France Travel / Italy Travel / Train Travel / Helicopters / Trenitalia / SNCF / Delta / French Riviera Travel / Luxury Travel / → All Tags
The tiny Principality of Monaco just so happens to be both the world's densest country and its richest. Long a favorite of the cruise crowd and wannabe James Bonds, it's more than just Grace Kelly and gilded yachts; Monaco is one destination that deserves a prominent place on your bucket list and all week we'll be sharing why.
Despite the difficulty of locating Monaco on a map that lacks detail, traveling to the principality is remarkably easy from almost any major metropolis in Europe. There's no income or bling requirement to visit, and no special handshake to saunter up into its famous Casino. Monte-Carlo is actually fully connected to the rest of the world by air with a heliport, by rail with a lovely train station, and by its famous World Rally and Formula 1 roads.
Train Travel / Cell Phones / France Travel / United Kingdom Travel / Travel Tech / Trains / Eurostar / → All Tags
Now more than ever it’s hard to disconnect from things, and that’s certainly the case when you’re traveling about. Thanks to a little bit of connectivity ingenuity now you can even reach out and touch someone from under the English Channel, as mobile phone services are arriving for those zipping between the United Kingdom and France.
Those heading back and forth through the Channel tunnel will soon be able to give a ring to friends and family, as it sounds like 4G service will be arriving. It’s the north tunnel that’s getting the new cellular beams and bits, and this will be the first time you can continue to talk to your grandma as you travel from the island to the continent.
Although the American West was largely built around railroad lines, few people travel the region by train any more. However, New Mexico’s Rail Runner train is hoping to change that. The train, which runs between the state’s two biggest cities, was intended for tourists but is now popular with commuters who live in one city and work in the other.
Train Travel / Trains / France Travel / Spain Travel / Europe Travel / High Speed Trains / → All Tags
Your European holiday is about to get a little bit faster, as some new high speed train service is arriving on the continent. Now budget travel isn’t just an option aboard a low cost carrier, as the train might be able to zip you over to where you want to be.
Tickets are now on sale for the TGV train between Paris and Barcelona, and the speedy service should start up on December 15. Travelers can now visit Girona—that's just outside Barcelona in Spain—in just under six hours after departing Paris. Those looking to complete the whole journey between Paris and Barcelona can now do so in around six and a half hours. Connections are even available for those departing from London, as one can get from the UK to Spain in just over ten hours.
Those looking to take an international journey through the Channel Tunnel will soon get a new option, as connections between the United Kingdom and the European mainland expand.
It looks like train officials at the Eurostar Group have made friends with those over at Dutch Railways, and the plan is to connect London with Amsterdam beginning in 2016. That’s quite a bit of time to wait, but worth it if we don't have to wake up, gather up our stuff, and switch trains in Belgium or France to reach the Dutch capital.
Throwback Thursday / Airlines / Retro Travel / Train Travel / Baltimore and Ohio Railroad / Drinking Travel / Booze Travel / → All Tags
Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
Last week we paid $8 for a domestic beer while riding an Amtrak train.
In 1941, that price would have been the small sum of 25 cents on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, or the B&O for short.
Perhaps you recognized the railroad from playing games of Monopoly, as it's one of the four railroad properties. In real life, however, the Baltimore and Ohio was the Unites States' first passenger railroad, founded in 1828. While expanding beyond the east coast to connect into the Midwest, it operated through the Great Depression and the World Wars and eventually merged and merged again to become what is now known as the freight train operator CSX.
Train Travel / Boston Travel / CapeFlyer / Cape Cod Travel / Nantucket Travel / Martha's Vineyard Travel / Trains / Public Transportation / → All Tags
There’s still plenty of summer left, and by that we mean that there are a few days to enjoy the warmer weather as the calendar flips from August to September. For those who call Boston home—or just the Northeast in general—there’s never been an easier way to escape towards Cape Cod and the islands. Thanks to the CapeFlyer you can skip the traffic jams, and that’ll especially be the case during the upcoming holiday weekend.
The new train service has been doing its thing since around Memorial Day, and it will continue to do so through Columbus Day. Once aboard the train you can enjoy all the usual train stuff including the chance to grab some snacks and beverages, and they’re even beaming some free WiFi throughout the cabin. Feel free to bring you bike along too—as well as your kids—as both of them are permitted to ride for free.
Amtrak / Train Travel / Travel News / Trains / On-Track WiFi / → All Tags
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.