Pick the Right Travel Agent.

It’s not uncommon for me to hear complaints from people who have not gotten the best advice about train travel from travel agents. And the more complicated the circumstances or the itinerary, the more likely it is that the typical local travel agent may not be up to the challenge. 

The reality is, you probably don’t need a travel agent if it’s a short trip —let’s say Boston to Philadelphia or Chicago to St. Louis or L.A. to San Diego. If it’s something like that, just call Amtrak and book it yourself.

But if you’re thinking about a longer trip—traveling overnight, perhaps two adults and maybe with a couple of kids and if it’s your first time on an Amtrak long-distance train, it would be a good idea to get help from someone who really knows the ropes.

And how do you find such a creature?

Well, I don’t recommend just calling the nearest travel agency. The fact is, many—perhaps even most—travel agents don’t know much about putting together a long-distance Amtrak itinerary if it’s at all complicated.  

There is a way to find out if any travel agent is rail savvy. Just give them this little test:

Question: What’s the difference between a roomette in a Superliner sleeping car and roomette in a Viewliner sleeping car?

Answer: Each Viewliner roomette has a toilet, a washbasin and a window for the upper berth; the Superliner roomette doesn’t have any of those features. (You have to go “down the hall” to use the facilities.)

If the travel agent knows the answer without thumbing through an Amtrak brochure, you’ve probably found someone you can trust. As an alternative, I’m happy to make specific referrals.