Amtrak provides trains on intercity routes across the U.S. Traveling by train can be a relaxing and convenient way to get around the country. You can avoid lines and time-consuming security at airports, and arrive in the heart of a city rather than miles out of town. With some advance planning, you can often get the lowest Amtrak fares.
Check the Amtrak website. Click on the "Deals" tab to see advertised and weekly specials. Advertised specials are offered up to five weeks in advance. They often cover routes around Chicago and parts of long-distance routes. Weekly specials with usually 25 percent off are posted every Tuesday.
Take advantage of passenger discounts. A student advantage card gives a 15 percent discount. Kids up to 15 years old travel for half price and travelers age 62 and over get discounts of 15 percent on many trips. Amtrak also offers 10 percent discount to active duty military personnel, their spouses and dependents. Veterans with a Veterans Advantage Card can save 15 percent. You can also save if you are a member of AAA or the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
Buy rail passes if you are using Amtrak as a tourist. Rail passes give 15-day, 30-day and 45-day options, which are useful if you want to see a number of destinations. You can purchase passes online or via a travel agent.
Use Amtrak promotional codes. These codes offer different discounts for different parts of the country. Codes require a three-day advance purchase and cannot be combined with other discounts. The promotional fares are applied by entering a code when booking online. Websites such as RailServe.com (see Resources) keep a record of current codes.
Enroll in Amtrak’s guest reward program. Members are awarded points for every dollar they spend on Amtrak travel. Once they have earned more than 1,000 points, they can redeem them for free travel.
Book early. Amtrak uses four to five levels of pricing for seats and other than on peak periods, the cheapest seats go on sale first. Fares then increase as the departure date approaches.