There are certainly advantages in flying over and choosing another mode of transport, especially if you are travelling a long distance, one of the most important advantages being speed. But while the United States continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Americans looking for ways to travel safely may be less interested in speed than they are in safety. A recent survey found that 67 percent of Americans currently do not like flying, leaving room for other modes of transportation to become attractive to travelers.
RVs have a moment, and RV rental companies are seeing a significant increase in interest in their vehicles as an independent way to get on the road this summer. Another option is to travel by train, as Amtrak offers overland routes that run from New York City to Napa Valley and everywhere in between.
Yes, trains are still public transportation, which means you’re still relatively close to other travelers, just as you would be on an airplane. Although Amtrak, unlike most domestic air travel, offers more private seating, which allows you to be comfortably away from other passengers for the duration of your trip, even if the trip can last well over a day.
Marie Baro did just that when she and her husband decided to board Amtrak’s California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco and takes just over 51 hours on the weekend of July 4.
“It was the very first time I rode the Zephyr train, and it was breathtaking,” Baro, who originally comes from France but currently lives in Detroit, told Tekk.tv. “The views in Colorado, Nevada, Utah and California were amazing. Also the experience of traveling by train for so long was incredible.
She and her husband booked a room consisting of two chairs on the lower floor that fold up into a comfortable bed, and a folding bed just above. This allowed the couple to keep their distance from the other passengers. When leaving their room, they were asked to wear masks, and only four or five people were allowed to eat in the dining room at any one time. Despite the restrictions, Baro says they did not interfere with the overall cross-country skiing experience.
“We still had the opportunity to meet people who were very interesting and different from us: a farmer from Illinois, a diplomat, an Amish couple,” Baro said. “It was definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life, and the COVID-19 did not stop us from enjoying it 100 percent – it could have done even better.
Baro explained that the sleeping car was only about 30 or 40 percent full, and even in the observation car, which, she admitted, was pretty full when they went up the mountains in Colorado, they could still keep a distance.
Kimberly Woods, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said that although the number of passengers dropped significantly in March, by that time, traveling by train was “the safest way to travel.
“Our current passenger base is made up of key workers, purpose-built travelers and travelers who use our private space as additional space,” Woods told Tekk.tv.
Amtrak has also waived all change and cancellation fees for reservations made by August 31, making it a little easier to decide whether or not to travel this summer.
There are numerous protocols beyond wearing masks that Amtrak has implemented to ensure a safer experience for travelers on both short and long trips. All Amtrak trains are equipped with air filtration systems that replace fresh air every four to five minutes. When entering a station, conductors will announce where and when customers can disembark to minimize door crowding.
Private room prices will vary depending on the route and season, but for a late August California Zephyr trip where you get off, room unit prices start at $563 per passenger.