Let’s talk about getting there…. Normally, when we plan some sort of adventure, I, like most others, start by booking my flights. We start there because over time, we have been conditioned to think that flying is the most economical use of our precious vacation time. Recently, I’ve been reminded that air travel isn’t always the best option. It’s time to get back to travel! All Aboard!
Take a minute and think about what happens when you and your family go to Disney. What is the defining moment of being there? It isn’t the flight, it isn’t the car, it isn’t the shuttle, it’s the monorail. The train. The monorail speaks to us. It says we’ve arrived now go have fun.
I grew up around the New York City area and those from there or places like it always comment to me about the ease of a train or subway system. In fact, cross country movement was dominated by train travel for quite some time. The east coast line was a luxury from New England to South Florida for decades. So, for me, train travel is a comfort, a easy choice.
My dad came to visit me just before the pandemic. He came in by train. Right into the heart of Washington DC. When I drove in to pick him up (I live out in the country) I relished at the chance to get a good look at Union Station. The old girl was spectacular! It was bustling from the entrance arches to the boarding tracks. I felt reinvigorated for the love of train travel. Don’t get me wrong, I try to take the train any time I can overseas, I just never think about it crisscrossing our country.
The Age of Train Travel
So why did Americans move away from train travel? Well, the sixties jet set probably had more to do with that than we care to admit. We do think that it’s quicker but take this into account: if I fly from DC to NY it would take me at least 5 hours to check in, clear security, fly, get my luggage, and commute to my destination. I’m exhausted already! However, my dad got dropped off in the “kiss and cry” lane, boarded his train without having to deal with the TSA, and pulled into Union Station in 4 hours. I don’t know if you caught that: NO TSA!!!!
He had more leg room, didn’t need to check a bag, bought a snack with him, and walked around without bothering others when ever he needed a stretch. Why don’t I do this more often? One reason might be that we might skip the train is because of price. Upon looking, tickets run the same as flights with some markups and great deals here and there. The other reason is the misconception that train travelers are not the most upstanding citizens. Simply not true. They are probably better travelers than we are!
When I lived in Japan, I absolutely depended on the train system to get us to great destinations. We even had the fun of taking the bullet train. When my dad visited me there, we took the beach train to go sight seeing. Almost every train drops you off in the city center. This is particularly true in Europe with its grand stations. The trip from Dublin to Belfast is a dream on modern cars with tables in between seats of four. Perfect for a quick card game or some silly down time: just check out my Mom courtesy of my daughter’s iPhone. Heehee!
In the best of circumstances, a train can be part of the experience. We went to Alaska some years back and part of our trip was taking a train from Denali to the port. It did not disappoint! The kids were treated to animal sightings, the table next to us had Beatles music playing, card games were on many tables, the cruise line even used the time to check us all in to our rooms. When the train pulled up literally next to the ship, I was so impressed with the concept! Way to go Princess Cruiseline!
What does train travel look like now?
Well, it looks pretty good! I took my own advice this Summer and hopped on board at a quieter Union Station and took the New England Express (known as the Accela) up north to the little town of Westerly, Rhode Island. I sat back and enjoyed a nap and then smiled as I zipped past I-95 traffic that was headed out of the city for the weekend. While masks are still required on trains and in train stations, the effort was certainly worth it. It took just a minute off the train to find my ride and I was off to have some well deserved down time. I’m a fan!!
Eurail and Eurostar
European trains fall into a league of their own. They leave on time, they are clean, they are totally efficient! They often do a better job of getting you from point A to point B quicker and cheaper than renting a car or flying. Additionally, many destinations have their main stations smack in the middle of the city center, getting you into the thick of things much quicker than suburban airports.
Glacier Express: The Slowest Express Out There
For the ultimate Swiss train adventure, check out this amazing 58 kilometer journey. Inching slowly through the great swiss mountains from Zermatt to St. Moritz, you will thoroughly enjoy the world class vistas and towns every twist and turn of the way. Uber bloggers Nate and Kara enjoyed the entire adventure and share it here:
South Florida has a new friend on the rails courtesy of the Brightline. A shiny new train experience that gives you lovely service anywhere from Miami to Palm Beach. Look for Brightline to expand its service after COVID to include Orlando.
Air or rail?
So, next time you are planning that trip of a lifetime or even a small hop up the coast, take a minute and weigh all of your options…. maybe the clickety clack of the railroad tracks is exactly what you are looking for!
If you thought I wasn’t going to mention the greatest train movie of all time, you’d be super wrong!!! Get yourself in the train mood with the 1974 blockbuster- mega cast- hit: Murder On The Orient Express!!!! Here’s the magnificent Lauren Bacall reminding you to watch it!
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