How to Pick the Right Travel Agent

Any travel agent can book your flight and put you in a hotel room, but it’s been my experience that a surprising number of those folks know very little about train travel. And that’s important, because a rail savvy travel agent will look after the not-so-little details that can make a big difference during an overnight train trip.

For instance, he or she can arrange for your bedroom to be in the sleeping car right next to the diner. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk the length of three or four cars on a moving train to reach the diner or lounge car … three times a day!

If your Superliner roomette is located next to the lavatory, you may be startled awake during the night every time one of your fellow passengers hits the flush button. A good travel agent will make sure you are not assigned to roomette #1.

Only one of the five large bedrooms in an Amtrak Superliner has a soundproof wall between it and the bedroom next door. If your neighbors are loud talkers, you’ll wish your travel agent had known which room that is.

So to find out if a travel agent really knows how to book train travel, give him or her a one-question test:

What’s the difference between a Superliner roomette and a Viewliner roomette*.

Answer: Both accommodate either one or two people, but a Viewliner roomette includes a toilet and has a window for the upper berth, while the Superliner roomette doesn’t have either.

A rail savvy travel agent will know that and will be able to handle all the details of your train trip without a problem.

My thanks to Ted Blishak of Accent on Travel USA for suggesting that question. Ted and his wife, Sylvia, are two bone fide train travel experts and I recommend them without qualification. Their toll-free number is 1-800-347-0645.

*Amtrak uses Superliners on trains running from Chicago west and Viewliners on eastern trains.