Six Reasons to Pick Train over Plane.

I’ve spent thousands of hours in airplanes. In fact, on one trip, I literally flew around the world. And I have more than enough miles on long-distance trains to speak with some authority on the differences between those two modes of travel.

The next time you travel, consider what you go through when you choose to fly. There’s the taxi ride out to the airport, two hours to check in and clear security, the flight itself, then probably another long, expensive cab ride at the other end. 

Now consider these six reasons for taking Amtrak the next time.

This photo was taken from Amtrak’s train #4, the Southwest Chief. We were about 20 minutes east of Palm Springs, Califonia. Behind us there were several hundred more of these huge wind turbines.
Jim Loomis photo

1. Beautiful Views

Yes, of course, the bird’s eye view you get from a plane can be pretty cool, but from 30,000 feet, you really can’t tell Portland, Maine, from Portland, Oregon. The fact is, there is no better way to really see the country than by taking the train and enjoying the constantly changing views from an altitude of ten feet.

2: Easy Access to the Station.

Railroad stations are almost always in or close to a city’s center, so when taking the train you don’t have to go through the expense of an hour or more in rush hour traffic to get to the airport. Instead, you’ll print out your ticket at home, depart from right there in the heart of town, and you won’t have to spend $60 or $70 on a taxi or deal with crowded shuttles when traveling to and from the airport.

3: And Easy Access to the Train.

Security for air travel is ridiculous and has been since the 9/11 attacks. We’ve been dealing with long lines, pushing and shoving, for more than 21 years now. Thousands of people, all under stress and in a hurry, pour through the Airport Security lines at the airport. If you’re going to lose or forget something, this is where it’s going to happen. 

Get to the station 20 minutes before your train’s scheduled departure time and, unless you’re leaving from New York or Chicago or L.A., there will be more than enough time to board before your train departs. OK, so allow another ten minutes or so for the bigger stations.

4: No Cost for Your Baggage.

Taking luggage on a flight is either a hassle or an expense—one or the other. You can carry your bag onto the plane and struggle getting it up and into the overhead storage bins or you check it for at least 30 bucks and a half hour wait on the other end of the flight. Well, for trains, the baggage limit is almost always much, much higher. Amtrak, for example, lets you bring two carry-on bags and both may be brought aboard at no charge. (Well, OK . . . maybe a couple of bucks as a tip for the car attendant who helps you with your bags.) 

5: A More Comfortable Ride.

Granted you’re usually on a train longer than a plane, but there is actual space to move around in on a train. Ordinary coach seats on the long-distance trains have more leg room than first class seats on a plane. And if you really need to sleep, the long-distance trains have sleeping cars as an option. Seek out a conductor and ask for an upgrade. 

For coach passengers, Amtrak’s long-distance trains have lounge cars, snack bars and viewing cars, all available to every passenger, whether you’re riding in coach or sleeper.  Most of the seats on a plane have no window at all . . . and you’re strapped in!

6: Better for the Environment.

This debate has been over for years: trains rank much better than cars and planes in terms of pollution and energy use. Up to 85% less air pollution than a jet aircraft according to some estimates.

Start conservatively, and the next time you’re taking a trip of 500 miles or so, and your destination is on or close to one of Amtrak’s routes, give the train a try. Call Amtrak Reservations and speak with a real person, not the automated “Julie”. Tell the person who takes your call that you’re new to Amtrak travel and I think you’ll find that person understanding and helpful.

If not, and you still have questions and concerns, email me. Give me as much lead time as you can and I will do my best to help. My email address is

All Aboard!