Amtrak

Not flying? Try Amtrak’s $299 Rail Pass

It’s like the Eurail Pass, but for the U.S.

If you’re not quite ready to get on a plane, perhaps you’re up for an adventure by train.

Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass, which allows 10 ride segments in 30 days, is on sale through June 22 for $299. That’s $200 off the regular price of $499 and just a smidge under $30 per ride.

Where does Amtrak go? Pretty much everywhere. The rail service says it serves more than 500 destinations.

Sound tempting? Here’s a bit of how it works.

Purchase a pass by June 22 and start your travel adventure within 120 days. The pass allows you to ride 10 Coach class segments within a 30 day period, starting with the first trip you take. Upgrades to Business Class and private rooms are not permitted.

Passholders book their own itineraries and receive an electronic ticket for each segment to show to the conductor. Modifications to your itinerary are permitted as long as they are made before the scheduled departure of a segment.

What’s a segment? If you board and disembark a scheduled train, Amtrak counts that as a segment. Need to make a connection? That’s another segment.

Some other USA Rail Pass rules to keep in mind

Southwest Chief near Fishers Peak, Colorado.

The USA Rail Pass isn’t good on those speedy northeast Acela trains, nor on the popular Auto Train that transports people and their cars 900 miles from Washington D.C. to just outside of Orlando, FL. You can use it on the Maple Leaf Route, but not for the Canadian stations.

The pass is good for Saver and Value Fares, not for Flexible Fare tickets. And you can only take two roundtrips (four one-way segments) between the same two stations.

If you’ve got time and the desire to see a lot of the country this summer, then $299 for 10 rides can get you pretty darn far.

Travel Tidbits for trains, planes and cars

Oktoberfest at Pittsburgh International Airport

Oktoberfest kicks off at Pittsburgh International Airport this Friday with live oompah tunes, classic German brews and dishes, complimentary pretzel bites and more.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Friday Grammy-nominated accordionist Kevin Solecki will be playing oompah tunes in the Center Core.

And throughout the month, the classic German brews at the airport’s Penn Brewery will include Great American Beer Festival medalists, Penn Oktoberfest and Penn Gold. On the menu will be classic dishes like Bavarian Pretzels with German Obatzda dip, Wurst Baguette on a Pretzel Roll and the German Reuben Sandwich.

More Oktoberfest parties are planned at PIT during the weekends of Sept. 20-22 and 27-29.

Amtrak’s BOGO sale

Amtrak has extended its Buy One Get One (BOGO) Saturday companion fare sale for destinations in the Northeast.

The sale applies to tickets booked on Saturday trips on either the Acela service in business class or Northeast Regional service in coach. (Three day advance purchase required).

These trains have stops in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Rhode Island and Richmond, Virginia. Use the discount code “C222.”

Rather drive?

The premium rental car brand Silvercar by Audi has partnered up with activewear brand Outdoor Voices in Austin to offer renters a cool deal.

Now through October, all Silvercar by Audi rentals at the Austin location come with Outdoor Voices apparel, a “Doing Things” local guide and a discount good for $100 off a purchase of $250 or more at Outdoor Voices.

Travel Tidbits: Hawaii, Amtrak, Comic Book Art

Travel Tidbits from airports and airlines near you

Southwest expands Hawaii flights from California

Southwest Airlines announced new nonstop flights from Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to both Kona (KOA), on the island of Hawaii, and Lihue, Kauai (LIH) will begin flying in January 2020.

Once these flights begin, you’ll be able to fly to all four main Hawaiian Islands nonstop from SJC.

Southwest will start flights between SJC and Lihue four days per week (Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun) starting January 19, 2020. Flights to Kona will be three times a week (Tue/Thu/Sat) beginning January 21.

These new flights will be in addition to Southwest’s existing daily, nonstop flights between SJC and both Honolulu and Kahului (Maui), which began in May.

Take the Train – half off

You can’t take the train to Hawaii, but you can take it lots of other places – for half price.

Amtrak just kicked off its September Sale, offering 50% off tickets nationwide. The sale runs Friday, August 16 through Saturday, August 17, 2019 and covers travel anywhere between September 1 and September 30, 2019. Even better: no blackout dates.

Comic art at John Wayne Airport

Like comic books? Then you’ll love this comic book art.

Mixed Media Collage artist Fernando Del Rosario brings his “Real Heroes” collection of inspiring quotes and original composed art – made from comic books – to John Wayne Airport (JWA).

“My Real Heroes collection is meant to grab you, lose yourself within each piece and come out inspired, motivated, and creatively recharged,” said Del Rosario. “Every one of these comic book pages is from my collection as a kid. And this is my way of sharing my story and my inspiration with the public.”

Del Rosario’s artwork is on display in the JWA Community Focus Space from August 15 – September 17, 2019.

Deals, discounts & treats for travelers + moms

Mother’s Day celebrations at airports

Airports across the country will be marking Mother’s Day with complimentary flowers, music and more.

Today between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the post-security Great Hall at Los Angeles International Airport, the Mother’s Day celebration will include a photo booth, complimentary wooden roses, and appearances by some of the pups from the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPs) program.

And, as they have for many years, this weekend volunteers at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport will likely be handing out flowers to arriving moms and those waiting for their moms.

We’ll add more Mother’s Day activities as they roll in.

Delta Air Lines rolling out free in-flight WiFI

Starting May 13, Delta Air Lines is kicking off a much-welcome two-week pilot program to offer free in-flight Wi-Fi in all cabins on 55 short, media and long-haul flights.

The carrier says this is the first step towards offering complimentary Wi-Fi for everyone, all the time.

“Customers are accustomed to having access to free Wi-Fi during nearly every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying, too,” said Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Onboard Product in a statement. “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right – this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.”

The free Wi-Fi service won’t support content streaming, but will let passengers browse, email, shop, message, and engage with social media for free.

Delta’s Wi-Fi for purchase and free mobile messaging will remain available throughout the test.

Take the train

Amtrak, which also offers free Wi-Fi, has launched an Unconditional Love Flash Sale now through Monday, May 13.

The two-for-one ticket offer is valid for travel nationwide between June 1 and September 30. Use discount code C250.

Bonus: if you’re an Amtrak Guest Rewards member (or sign up to be) you can also earn double points if you travel by May 18

Rolling down the tracks…Happy National Train Day

(Golden Spike ceremony. Photo: Andrew J. Russell, courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)

Flying is fun, but once in a while taking the train just makes more sense.

Saturday, May 8th, 2010 is National Train Day and there will celebrations around the country in major train stations, small depots, and transportation museums around the country.  You can read my column on the festivities – Marking Americans’ love affair with the rails , but here are a few highlights and a few bonus photos.

Model Trains at Union Station D.C.


(Union Station train display; photo by Stephen J. Boitano)

Amtrak is celebrating National Day Train Day with free events that include model train displays, tours of private railroad cars, cooking demonstrations and a wide range of other activities at train stations in New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. Each of these stations will also be offering something extra:

Photo of Babe Ruth in baseball exhibit

(Babe Ruth photo courtesy Baseball Hall of Fame)

At Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, there will an exhibit titled Baseball Junction: The History of Baseball and the American Railroad with memorabilia, photos and videos. Several former major league players will be on hand to sign autographs as well.

(Muddy Waters poster from the Chicago Blues Museum)

At Chicago’s Union Station, they’ll be talking about the role train travel played in the history of blues music in America.  Posters and other memorabilia from the Chicago Blues Museum will be on display and there will be a performance of train-themed blues songs by Big Bill and Larry “Mud” Morganfield, who are the sons of legendary blues musician Muddy Waters. Mississippi Delta blues musician Bobby Rush will join them.

(Railroad Braceros courtesy Aaron Castañeda Gamez)

And Union Station in Los Angeles will have an exhibit about the Railroad Braceros.  During World War II, there was a shortage of manual laborers in the United States and thousands of Mexican citizens were invited to come to the United States as part of the bracero, or guest worker, program.  The more than 130,000 Mexican men who joined the ranks of the Railroad Braceros helped build and maintain the country’s passenger rail system.

There are more than 130 other events marking National Train Day around the country. To find out what’s happening in your town, check NationalTrainDay.com.