So, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago to Grand Rapids last night. This was my first trip with Amtrak and I was a bit skeptical. One hour into the 4-hour trip I was sold. Here's why:
The Amtrak Superliner
The holiday traveler's best friend
1) At the train station: Tickets obtained by Quik-Trak with the bar code provided by e-mail. Enter the boarding lounge and wait for train to be called. No security lines (which could be a bit disconcerting if dwelt on). You can arrive within 30 minutes of your train, get your ticket and walk right on.
2) Baggage: This particular run (CHI-GRR) doesn't have baggage check so I had to carry my large suitcase, which I was really tired of doing. BUT I was able to stash it on the first level of the train car and go right up to a reserved seat. It was easy to grab on my way off the train. No waiting for baggage handlers to bring it out. This was a HUGE bonus for me after waiting 30 and 50 minutes respectively in Nashville and Chicago for this same suitcase.
3) Seating: I was on an Amtrak Superliner. My parents have used this run before but did not have the Superliner; their train was more bare bones. If you take Amtrak and get a Superliner, you can expect comfortable seating with LOTS of legroom. The seats recline with leg rests.
4) Cabin: The ride was smooth and quiet, give or take a few light conversations around me. The best part is that you can keep your cell phones on, unlike the airplane, so there is internet and text messaging to be had. A good distraction on the 4-hour ride.
5) Weather: With the weather as crazy as it was in the Midwest yesterday (Friday), airplanes were grounded and flights canceled. But not the trains...they were running!
6) Cost: My round-trip ticket cost $94. Certainly there is not a plane ticket (CHI-GRR) to be found for that price.
Like I said, I was skeptical at first but it didn't take long for me to become a believer. I think if I ever need to get somewhere within a four-hour radius, I'll look up Amtrak first. Adding up the time it takes for arrival, check-in, security, boarding, flight and baggage claim with airlines, the train makes a whole lot of sense. And it's a whole lot more comfortable, too.