Saving BIG Bucks on Amtrak Travel

I’ve recently helped some friends here on Maui plan a ride on the California Zephyr next Fall around Thanksgiving time. As always when I do Amtrak booking, I came across some interesting insights.

These folks will be traveling from Denver to San Francisco and their ideal schedule has them leaving Denver on Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, which is smack in the middle of that long, four-day weekend.

An hour west of Denver, the California Zephyr passes Gross Dam as it climbs into the Rockies. (Kevin Morgan photo)
By booking well ahead of time, and because they’ll be traveling on what will obviously be a slow travel day, they were able to get a large bedroom for that entire trip for just under $600 … that includes rail fares for one senior and one adult, plus the cost of the bedroom. And, since they’re traveling in sleeping car accommodations, all their dining car meals will be included in that fare. WOW!

By comparison, I priced that very same trip in those same accommodations exactly one month earlier and one month later. The cost for travel in October was $1175 and for that same trip in December, $1027. Double WOW!!

Interestingly, and as testimony to the popularity of sleeping car accommodations on Amtrak’s western trains, I had to check on a few different dates in October because all the bedrooms on several of those trains in October were already sold out.

The obvious lesson here? When booking sleeping car space on Amtrak, (1) book as early as possible and (2) look for off-peak days.