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Getting around the country by train is a great way to see all the US has to offer, especially if you’re on a budget. Amtrak, the country’s national rail operator, runs over 30 routes that travel to over 500 destinations.

The USA by train is a great way to explore the country, as it offers the opportunity to see incredible landscapes and sample some of its best American food. It also allows you to meet the locals along the way. 

Here are some tips to help make your first trip by train more enjoyable.

Research Routes

One of the most useful features of train travel in the US is the interactive route planner, which can help you plan your trip. Before you start planning a route, it’s essential to thoroughly research the various options available to you. This will allow you to make informed decisions and find the best possible destination. There are a variety of route examples that you can choose from.

Arrive Early

Before your train leaves, you must get to the station at least 30 minutes early. This will allow you to get ready for the journey and ensure you have all the necessary bags. You can also check the time between connecting trains and the current meal schedule.


After settling in, you’ll be surprised by the variety of people you’ll meet along the way. You can take in panoramic scenery views by visiting the observation car or grabbing a snack or a drink from the snack car. If you’re staying in a room onboard the train, you can enjoy various prepared meals in the dining car.

Pack Snacks

You can bring your own beverages and food onboard the train, especially if you have special needs. This is an important rule, as alcoholic drinks are typically served in the dining car. However, you can still enjoy your own private stock as long as you follow the guidelines of the train. You can only bring this drink onboard if you stay in a sleeping car.

Pack Carefully

It’s important only to bring what you can carry, and you should avoid bringing multiple pairs of shoes if you have to make quick changes. If you need assistance with your carry-on, you can ask for help from the Red Cap service at certain stations.

Plan for Delays

Due to the tracks shared by both Amtrak and freight trains, there are often delays during longer cross-country routes. For instance, traveling from Chicago to Denver on the California Zephyr might have to stop at a certain point to allow a freight train to pass.