When to Use a Travel Agent … and How to Find a Good One.

It really is easy to book a train trip on line at either the Amtrak or the VIA Rail (Canada) web site and that’s the best way to go unless your trip is complicated. By that, I mean if you’ll be changing trains along the way, or if you want to stop several times en route, or if there are any special requirements you might have. For example, if you have trouble going up and down stairs, you’ll want to be sure your accommodations are on the upper level of a Superliner and in the car right next to the diner. Details like that have to be nailed down by a real human being.

Both the Amtrak (800-USA-RAIL) and VIA Rail (888-VIA-RAIL) reservations people are very good and you will get good service working directly with them if you choose to go that way.

But you might wish to use the services of a travel agent … again, if your itinerary is complicated and you’ll need help with other bookings: hotels, rental cars, etc.

In my experience, however, many travel agents can sell you a plane ticket and reserve a hotel room, but really don’t know a lot about booking train travel.

To find out very quickly if a travel agent is rail savvy, just ask him or her to explain the difference between a Superliner roomette and a Viewliner roomette.

If they quickly respond that the Viewliner roomette includes a toilet and washbasin while, in the Superliner sleepers, the facilities are “down the hall”, you can be reasonably sure you’ve found a person who will do a good job for you. There is also a second window in the Viewliner roomette (see photo) for anyone sleeping in the upper berth, a feature not found in Superliner sleepers.

If you can’t find a rail-savvy travel agent on your own, contact Sylvia or Ted Blishak at Train Travel Consulting in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Call them at 800-347-0645. The Blishaks have traveled the world by train and are bonafide experts.