With all the shouting about airline discounts, you may wonder if Amtrak and other major rail systems are getting in on the act. The short answer for Amtrak is “not so much,” but the Canadians and Europeans are doing a bit better. Given the superior comfort of rail travel—and its sightseeing opportunities—rail remains a very pleasant alternative to the endless hassles of air travel. Seniors, especially, appreciate the greater ease and comfort of a rail trip, but travelers of any age who aren’t in a hurry can take advantage of some of the deals.
Amtrak isn’t running much in the way of summer-season promotions. Among its better deals:
- Seniors 62 or over can buy half-price coach tickets half-price coach tickets for travel on the Downeaster trains between Boston and Portland, Maine; valid through June 22. Mention code V543.
- Copies of the new DVD or Blu-ray versions of Pinocchio contain one free ride coupon for kids age 2 to 15 when accompanied by an adult. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray by May 31; travel October 1 through January 31.
As is often the case, various restrictions, blackouts, and seat limitations apply to these promotions. And these and most other Amtrak promotions do not cover sleeper- or business-class accommodations, and they allow travel on the high-speed Acela trains only on weekends. One nice feature of Amtrak’s website is that when you enter the trip details, the fare system automatically identifies any applicable discounts and displays the net fare.
Amtrak also regularly runs a series of weekly specials. They generally cover travel on a four-day window up to two weeks in advance. Fares are not spectacular: I tested a trip from Boston to Baltimore, and the “special” fare of $68 per-way was only $17 less than the regular fare of $85.
All of the recent and current Amtrak promotions I’ve seen applied to relatively short trips. Apparently Amtrak is doing well enough on its premier long hauls that it doesn’t see the need to discount beyond the usual year-round coach discounts of 15 percent off for seniors, members of Veterans Advantage and Student Advantage, 10 percent for AAA members, and active-duty military personnel.
VIA Rail Canada’s approach to last-minute travel is much more generous than Amtrak’s. Some current “xpress deals are up to 75 percent off regular full fares, and quite a few more are up to 50 percent off. Tickets are valid for travel for a period ranging from a full week to just one day, and the advance posting is one week or less, so you have to act quickly. Unlike Amtrak, some of VIA Rail’s deals apply to long haul trips, including the scenic runs between Halifax and Montreal, Toronto and Jasper, and even the flagship transcontinental run from Toronto to Vancouver. Some offers also apply to sleeper accommodations.
For many senior travelers age 60 or over, VIA Rail’s best deal remains its ongoing twofer: Buy one ticket at the regular fare, get a second at no extra cost in coach. In sleeper accommodations, the second traveler pays only 25 percent of the usual fare.
Rail Europe is running two interesting short-term promotions:
- Buy any major BritRail Pass by June 1 and you’ll get an extra day for no extra charge.
- There’s Always Next Time is a bit complicated. Buy a rail pass by June 30 for travel this year, save the used pass and turn it in for a voucher for a credit of $150 on your next RailEurope purchase. The regular price of the second ticket has to be at least $200.
The deals RailEurope features are often also available through such other agencies as Eurail and Rail Connection, but neither site currently lists them
Source: Smarter Travel