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45 day trip across US .. Help !!


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#1 Guest_Procrastinator_*

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 05:11 AM

Greetings to all the learned travellers of Amtrak on this forum ! I come from a land far far way ( India, to be exact) . After years and years of dreaming about it , I am finally about to embark on a journey of a lifetime , a 45 day trip across the US . Even though I absolute love planning the details of the trip, I am a bit stuck here, as the US is just too huge to be able to cover everything. So my fellow travellers , I come to you with a call for guidance !

 

The only thing that is firm right now are my O&D dates and cities. ( Reach Phoenix on the 21st of Nov and leave from NYC on the 10th of Jan). What happens between them is a mystery which i need to solve, with your help of course. Currently, my plan is to be able to travel from PHX to NYC by train, via the many great towns/cities of the US. However, from what i understand , the AMTRAK service isn’t spread out throughout the country and so can be an obstacle in this plan . Although it would be great to be able to cover the trip via trains only, i guess buses (Greyhound ?) is also an option. Also, being a foreigner , I may be ignorant of a lot of places which i may want to visit during the trip. I am not really interested in seeing architecture and popular places in big cities . I would rather go to smaller towns and get to experience the culture there. This is going to be a budget trip , and therefore wouldn’t want to splurge a lot. 

 

The priority is of course to be able to cover all these spots by train . I would really appreciate some inputs from all of you here , as I attempt to plan and embark on this journey of a lifetime !

 

 


#2 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 06:30 AM

Welcome to AU!

 

Here is a link to all of Amtrak's schedules: https://www.amtrak.c...able-070117.pdf

 

No Amtrak train directly serves the  city of Phoenix. There are two trains that directly serve the state of Arizona, the Southwest Chief (SWC or Chief) which travels between Chicago, IL and Los Angeles, CA and the Sunset Limited (SL) which travels between New Orleans, LA and Los Angeles. You would take a bus from Phoenix to Flagstaff to get on the SWC or take a bus from Phoenix to Maricopa to get on the Sunset Limited. The SWC is your better option because it runs daily while the SL only runs 3 times per week. I'd recommend Arizona Shuttle  schedule 8578 out of Sky Harbor Airport leaving 3:45pm and arriving at Flagstaff Amtrak 7:05pm (if your flight arrives in the afternoon or evening, stay overnight in Phoenix). Then you take SWC train #3 west, leaving Flagstaff at 8:57pm and arrive in Los Angeles the next morning at 8:15am. Those of you familiar with the Arizona Shuttle, is two hours enough time for a connection in Flagstaff or should he/she try for an earlier bus out of Phoenix?

 

https://www.amtrak.c...dule-031217.pdf

 

You could take the Arizona Shuttle to catch the Chief eastbound to Chicago but if you do so you have to board it at 4:37am! So I strongly recommend going west first! 

 

Many trains run out of New York. Practically you will have to go from coast to coast via Chicago at least once (if you're ambitious, more than once). I would want to visit the South (Florida, Texas, New Orleans), but you said you weren't really interested in that.

 

You said 45 days. Did you get a USA Rail Pass? If not, it's a good idea. https://www.amtrak.c...h-usa-rail-pass


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#3 Fred Wis.

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 09:07 AM

Since you are starting in the southwest, don't miss the Grand Canyon. Spectacular sight. Be sure to catch at least a sunrise or a sunset there. After that , it would help to know what your interests are. Mine include the national park system. So, I would head to Yosemite, and also  the redwoods of california. Next would be take in the west coast. I am told the train trip north is gorgeous, it's on my bucket list. Then if it were summer i would head east to glacier national park and then south to Yellowstone. Both tough to do in the winter, especially on a budget.So i would consider backtracking to San Fransico and heading east on the California Zepher. Viewing through the mountains is incredible winter or summer. If your into skiing maybe stop enroute for some early season fun in the snow, but your schedule may be a bit early for that season. Perhaps someone more familiar with that can chime in. Change trains in Chicago, and get a feel for early winter and maybe 1 day checking out great museums and the aquarium.Then maybe south to New Orleans, One of my favorite cities. Can get a real taste of southern food and music there, plus plenty of history. Then east on the Crescent and many more options that way.



#4 Bob Dylan

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 09:47 AM

Welcome to the Forum and to Amtrak.

Others have given you some great ideas ( especially the 45 day Rail Pass) so I'll try to make a few suggestions and give you a few tips.

1) Read the Trip Reports here on Amtrak Unlimited and the First Time Rider Forum

2) Dontt rule out our Big Cities, especially LA, San Francisco,Portland and Seattle on the West Coast, and Salt Lake City,Utah ( the,California Starlight runs between LA and Seattle)

3) Stay in Hostels, most Major Cities here have very good ones. Also try to book your Long Distance trips on the Train/Bus since they serves as a Hotel which saves money

4) Take Food and Snacks when riding Coach sin e the Diner and Cafe are expensive ( Meals are included when riding in a Sleeping Car

5) Dint travel with too much stuff! Travel Light and,Travel Right

6) Besides the National and State Parks, in addition to the Grand Canyon consider Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of the world.

7)Other major Cities not to be missed: San Antonio,New,Orleans,Memphis,Chicago,Washington,DC and of course The Apple, New York!

8) Sleeping Car Rooms can be very expensive so try to plan your Long Distance trips where you can find "Low Bucket Fares"( there can be differences of Hundreds of Dollars per Night depending when you travel)

9) Small places worth a Visit Close to Major Cities such as( cheaper too!): Davis,California/Glennwood,Springs,Colorado/Charlottsville,Virginia etc.

10) Use Day Passes on Local Transit such as Subways, Light Rail,Commuter Trains etc.

11) Check out Mega Bus,Bolt Bus etc.instead of Greyhound, lots of Cheap Fares on each Route(Limited to a few on each Bus, but low as $1)
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#5 oregon pioneer

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 12:50 PM

I second the advice above. Here's a link to Hostelling International USA. As a single traveler, that is your best buy for lodging. I stayed in their hostel in Baltimore (around $30US, compared to hotels at $125). It was clean and companionable. I never felt unsafe. I like Baltimore, and their free Charm City Circulator bus system.

 

There are many nice small cities in the US. At that time of year, you may like some near the California coast, such as San Luis Obispo (home of Cal Poly, a technical college), or Eureka/Arcata, home of Humbolt State College (reached by Amtrak connecting bus from Martinez).  You may also like Flagstaff, where the SW Chief train stops (frequent Greyhound from Phoenix). And, as an Oregonian, I am quite sure you would like Portland and Eugene (check for hostels and Air B&Bs, as the hotels can be expensive in both places).

 

You might also like the Oregon Coast, where the lodgings have low-season rates that time of year. The drawback is you must take a bus -- however, the scenery is wonderful! If you want to travel anywhere in Oregon, here's a convenient link (including a tab for public transit options): tripcheck.com. Amtrak also offers connecting bus services to many small cities and towns. You must be booked on a train to book the connector through Amtrak (but you can often book as a stand-alone by identifying the bus service provider, and going directly to them). If you are using a rail pass, connecting buses count as a segment.


Jennifer

 

I'm a "little Old Lady in Tennis Shoes" (LOLITS) from Eastern Oregon. I love to travel by train, though I live way out in the toolies, far from the nearest Amtrak station (Chemult). My station would have been Baker City, but they cancelled the Oregon Pioneer just before I took my first long-distance train trip as an adult. I've taken most trains in the West, but I'm still exploring new routes in the east.


#6 caravanman

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 01:33 PM

Welcome to the forum! I have enjoyed many train rides in India myself, sadly you will find both the USA train and Greyhound services are quite limited in reach and frequency.

As I live in the UK, I won't offer advice on what to see... :D

 

Hostels International are a good brand of hostels, and I have met many travelers from all over the world when using them.

 

Please be aware that the railpass is not unlimited travel, the 45 day one only allows 18 trips, each time you change trains, or use a connecting bus, that counts as a trip, known here as a "segment".

 

I feel that if you want to see "small town" America, you will need to take some local buses, so maybe the railpass may not be the best value for you.

 

Good Luck!

 

Ed.

 

 



#7 Mystic River Dragon

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 02:59 PM

When on the east coast, you might want to stay in Philadelphia instead of New York--cheaper, friendlier, and more manageable, with excellent train service. Just make sure to stay in Center City and do not leave there.



#8 nshvlcat

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 10:41 AM

Then maybe south to New Orleans,

If you decide to travel south to New Orleans, please consider a one day stop in Memphis to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley's home and a visit to the famous Beale Street (walkable from the train station).


If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.


#9 Bob Dylan

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 03:34 PM

[quote name="nshvlcat" post="723795" timestamp="1505230882"]

[quote name="Fred Wis." post="723666" timestamp="1505138839"]

Then maybe south to New Orleans,[/quote]
If you decide to travel south to New Orleans, please consider a one day stop in Memphis to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley's home and a visit to the famous Beale Street (walkable from the train station).[/quote]
And eat some Ribs and visit the Sun Records Studio!😎
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#10 Guest_Tom Gagliardo_*

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 11:58 AM

Welcome.  Glad to hear that you are eager to learn about America.  (I hope someday to visit India.)  The USA is a big country.  I travel a lot and still have many more places in the US that I would like to visit.

Here’s one idea.  Numbers in parenthesis (#) are segments that would count against your total if you buy a 45-day pass.  I noted a few things to see, but there is so much more.  Meeting people and eating local food (San Francisco, New Orleans and New York are great) are travel goals for me.

 

Day 1 Phoenix to Flagstaff

Day 2 Grand Canyon National Park **

Day 3 Flagstaff/Southwest Chief to Albuquerque (1)

Day 4 Albuquerque (Sandia Peak/Pueblo Cultural Center/Petroglyph NP)

Day 5 Railrunner train to Santa Fe/Car to Acoma Pueblo (must take tour) **

Day 6 Albuquerque to Chicago/Southwest Chief (2)

Day 7 Chicago ** (Field Museums/Sears Tower)

Day 8 Commuter trains to Wilmette (Bahai Temple)/Naperville/Milwaukee

Day 9 Chicago to Washington, D.C./Cardinal (3)

Day 10 Washington, D.C. (US Capitol and Monuments/Mount Vernon/Great Falls on the Potomac) **

Days 11-12 MARC Train/bus/car north to Baltimore (B&O Railroad Museum)/ south to Richmond (Civil War Museum/Colonial Williamsburg (4/5) **

Day 13 Northeast Regional to New York City (6)

Day 14-15 New York (Calatrava’s Oculus and World Trade Center Memorial/Little Italy and Chinatown/Statue of Liberty) **

Day 16 Commuter train New Jersey/Long Island/Connecticut/Hudson Valley **

Day 17 New York to Atlanta/Crescent (7)

Day 18 Atlanta (Sweet Auburn/Ebenezer Baptist Church/MLK memorial and Civil Rights Museum)

Day 19 Atlanta to New Orleans/Crescent (8)

Day 20 New Orleans (bars, street cars and cemeteries/Bourbon Street **

Day 21 New Orleans to Los Angeles Sunset Limited (9)

Day 22 Los Angeles (Hollywood/LaBrea Tar Pits) **

Day 23 Los Angeles to Oakland/Coast Starlight (10)

Day 24-25 Oakland/San Francisco (cable cars, City Lights Book Store/Haight/Ashbury/Muir Woods/Napa Valley) **

Day 26-27 Oakland to Phoenix Coast Starlight/Sunset Limited (11)

 

** Add 1-2 days at each place and total is 45 days



#11 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 02:45 PM

The OP will leave from New York to return to India so he/she has to wind up in NYP, not Phoenix. Maybe after Oakland/San Fran I would suggest California Zephyr so you can see the Rocky Mountains. Stop at either Salt Lake City so you can see the Great Salt Lake and/or Denver, then get off at Chicago. Then it is the Lake Shore Limited to Buffalo, maybe stop by Niagara Falls, Boston, then back to New York on NE Regional trains (you can go straight from Chicago to New York if Buffalo, Niagara Falls, or Boston don't interest you) I'd recommend stopping by Philly (I'm partial though and Mystic River Dragon says it's cheaper) and catching the Crescent from there instead of going up to New York since you will end up there anyway.

 

Can a passenger take the Thruway Bus from Phoenix Airport to the Flagstaff Amtrak station and take the SWC on a later date if booked together or does that have to be the same day? I'm pretty sure you can't book a Thruway Bus through Amtrak without booking a train but not sure if you require to leave immediately after you get to Flagstaff or you can stick around and visit the Grand Canyon as Tom suggested.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 




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