Good news for anyone interested in booking an extended domestic trip this summer:
The Amtrak rail pass is back—and it's discounted for a limited time. This week, Amtrak announced it would relaunch its USA Rail Pass, a multi-ride ticket that allows passengers to book 10 segments of travel over 30 days while paying one low fare.
Now through June 22, the pass is just $299 per traveler, a discount of 40 percent (it's normally $499 per person).
Crunching the numbers, the discount means that the cost of each travel segment comes to less than $30 each. Amtrak defines a trip segment as anytime a passenger boards and alights from a train. So, for example, if you booked a trip that included a connection, that would count as two segments.
The pass is valid for hop-on, hop-off travel across 500 of Amtrak's destinations, and would be ideal for travelers considering longer trips on some of the company's more scenic routes. We would recommend booking a trip on the Downeaster, which travels through Brunswick and Portland in Maine and up to Boston. Or buy a seat on the Southwest Chief, which shuttles riders from Chicago through Kansas City to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; and on to Los Angeles. From there, you could take the Coast Starlight up through Portland, Oregon, and on to Seattle. Or you could opt for a tour of the South on the Sunset Limited, which stops in New Orleans; San Antonio, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Phoenix; and Los Angeles.
After purchasing the pass, travelers will be able to book and change their itinerary and receive e-tickets for each leg of their trip. The pass is valid for use within 120 days of purchase, but once travelers take their first trip, they must use all 10 segments within 30 days.
There are no blackout dates or time-of-day restrictions, but there are other exceptions to be aware of. Some routes are restricted and cannot be used as part of the rail pass, including the Acela, Auto Train, Maple Leaf, and Thruway Bus series 7000 to 7999. Additionally, you are limited to making only two roundtrips between the same two stations (which would make up at least four segments of your 10 segment total).
The pass is also valid for travel for Saver Fares or Value Fares only—if a route only offers Flexible Fares, it isn't bookable with the rail pass. Additionally, travelers with the pass can only book in coach cars (private rooms or business class aren't available), but with its roomy seats, oversized picture windows, and plenty of legroom, that fare class is a comfortable option for sitting back and watching the scenery roll by.