If you mostly fly, it’s easy to forget that many Americans travel by rail for the holidays. But as someone who regularly relies on Thanksgiving train travel between Boston and New York, let me assure you: A lot of people take the train for the holidays, so you should plan ahead.
Amtrak is warning travelers that Thanksgiving week is the busiest travel period of the year, and that it expects to “operate every available passenger railcar in its fleet” this year. It will add extra cars to trains on many existing schedules, and several routes which normally don’t require reservations will require them this year.
Amtrak is also urging travelers to buy their tickets early since, similar to airlines, the low-fare seat allocations sell out early. In 2017 it Amtrak saw the “largest passenger count to date during the Thanksgiving week, with more than 777,000 riders on its trains across the country.” The busiest day was the Sunday following Thanksgiving.
Tips for Thanksgiving Train Travel 2018
Amtrak released a few tips and updates for travelers in advance of the holiday season:
- Extra trains will run on the busy Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, DC, to allow for “full and extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity.”
- Out west, additional capacity will be added to the Capitol Corridor (Auburn/Sacramento to San Jose, via Oakland), San Joaquins (Oakland/Sacramento to Bakersfield) and Pacific Surfliner (San Diego to Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo) routes.
- The Pacific Surfliner will require reservations between Nov. 21 and Nov. 25, and the San Joaquins route will require reservations between Nov. 18 and Nov. 26.
Train travel in the U.S. is not without its drawbacks, namely a limited route map compared to airlines (though Amtrak does serve 500 destinations) and, especially in the Northeast Corridor, a tendency to get a little bottlenecked. But, Amtrak provides a spacious alternative to economy class air travel, with wider seats, more legroom, less time waiting around in a terminal, and free Wi-Fi on many trains.
Readers, have you taken the train home for the holidays? What was your experience?