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Planning my first trip of 2019: Part 3

This post is the last article in the series that I wrote about planning my first trip of 2019.

As you remember

The trip home

There must be an end (allegedly), and this is my thought process for getting back.

I love traveling by train because going home can be an adventure. You still have something to look forward to; when you fly, your trip comes to an ends not long after you board and get your pack of snacks from the flight attendant.

If you don’t remember, I was in Disney World, and my sister, mother, and Mackenzie drove home back to Charleston, S.C. I am taking a few days at my sister’s before going home.

The first train

Amtrak in CHS
The Silver Meteor arriving at Charleston, SC (from the old station)

From Charleston back to Wisconsin, there are four routes to choose from that I have listed below. I would consider three of those four, three, I would consider taking, but they all start with a ride on the Silver Meteor.

I could pick the Palmetto, but I would have to spend the night somewhere, which would add to the cost.

The four possibilities from three locations to get to Chicago

Options one and two depart from Washington Union Station (D.C.) and include the Cardinal and Capitol Limited.

Option three means I stay on the Meteor till New York Penn and then board the Lake Shore Limited after getting a slice of pizza. This option would also include a transfer in Albany (because I want business class) but more on that later.

The last choice is getting off the Meteor in Richmond, VA, and hop on Amtrak’s connecting service bus to Charlottesville, VA. From there, I catch up with the Cardinal and take that back to Chicago. The only advantage with this route is avoiding a D.C. Layover, but these routes then add an extra layover. Plus, I would have to wake up early, and I don’t want to do that.

The exciting part of this trip is that no matter what route I take, I leave simultaneously and get to Sturtevant at the same time.  All three trains arrive in Chicago between 8:45 am to 10:00 am, and the next Hiawatha Train north leaves at 11:05 am, so it doesn’t matter what one I take home.

There are two major determining factors for this trip.

  • Cost
  • Comfort

I am cheapening out on this section of that trip and not getting sleepers (unless someone wants to fund an upgrade). Starting with the Silver Meteor, I am in coach class because the train only offers coaches or sleepers.

Trains I could take to Chicago

  • Route
    • 780 Miles
    • 17 hours 40 minutes run time
  •  Accommodations
  • Considerations for this train
    • Offers the cheapest tickets
    • About a nine-hour layover in Washington so I could go sightseeing
    • I took this train out to D.C., and I enjoy varying my routes when I can
Amtrak's Capital Limited
Capitol Limited at a station stop in Cumberland, Maryland
  • The Cardinal

  • Route
    • 922 Miles
    • 24 hour run time
    •  Accommodations
    • Considerations for this train
      • Business-class from Washington D.C. to Chicago
      • Shorter layover in DC
      • I can get a warm non-cafe car meal
      • Scenic route
        • This train travels on the northern border of the south
  • The Lake Shore Limited

  • Lake Shore Limited
    Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited in Albany.
    • Route
      • 995 Miles
      • 19 hour 10  minute run time
    • Accommodations
      • Coach Class
      • Sleepers (roomette, bedroom, and accessible)
      • Business-class from Albany to Chicago
        • There is some tricky ticketing, and I have to get off the train and get back on the train.
          • This train starts in two locations Boston, MA, and New York Penn, and joins in Albany, NY; the business class section of the train comes in on the Boston Section.
      • The diner is just for sleeping car passengers.
      • Cafe/lounge/business class car (booths on one side, retail in the center, and business class on the other end )
    • Considerations for this train
      • I would get to see New York Penn again and maybe get some sightseeing into the trip like Grand Central Terminal.
      • Two transfers and with one being on the same train
      • I like the route
      • Does cost more

    The bus was never a consideration for this trip, so I will not cover it, but the Cardinal information is the same, just shorter miles and less onboard time.

    What I am taking to Chicago

    Last year I rode all three trains and even took the Cardinal and Lake Shore in both directions.

    My choice

    Bussiness Class
    A peek inside at the business class section of the cafe car found on many of Amtrak’s Midwest Regional Routes.

    The Cardinal

    • I wanted business class as a cheap luxury.
    • The Cardinal was cheaper than the Lake Shore Limited and had no en-route transfers.
    • Points: Amtrak is offering 200 bonus points for booking business class on the Cardinal plus the extra 25% bonus points that you get from business class
    • Although not the usual Amtrak long-distance menu, the Cardinal has a dinette car to get a warm sit-down meal.

    The last train

    Front of SVT
    A street view of the Sturtevant Station

    The last train I am taking is Amtrak Hiawatha back to Sturtevant. I booked a later train, but I can always make the next Hiawatha if we get in earlier than my ticket.

    The Hiawatha is an unreserved train; in a nutshell, I can ride any of the Hiawatha’s, providing I have the correct ticket. I bought a  ticket for one of the “rush hour” trains, for these tickets are $2 more in my case and allow me to ride any train that day, including the non-rush hour trains.

    If I ride an off-peak train ticket with that ticket, I do not get my $2 back, but I look at it as insurance, which prevents me from sitting at the station.

    Why did I do this series?

    I wrote this three-part series not to brag or anything like that, but to share with you how I decide what trains to take. I know when you start traveling, whether by rail or other means can be confusing for new travelers. For example, I would not tell a first-time train traveler to switch from business class to coach class as I have done before.  I may have a different comfort level than you.

    The goal is to show you that travel can be accessible to you no matter your level in your travel journey. You can travel, often we create mental roadblocks that prevent us from doing activities we want to do. I want to help you eliminate those and g help you go to the places you want to see.

    Remember, all travelers that you see, including myself, were nervous on our first trip.

    Safe Travels!

    Kev

    If you are interested in learning more about traveling Amtrak, check out this page, or if you have questions, feel free to reach out.

    If you are interested in supporting travels with Kev, check out this page.

    Kev

    Kev has traveled over 125,000 miles on over 660 trains all around the United States aboard Amtrak. When he is not on the move, Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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