Traveling in the height of c. 1910 luxury!
Submitted by murph on 24 July 2007 - 8:55pm. amtrak | montana | trains | transportation
We've been hoping to take a trip to Montana in the next couple of months, once Cara is free of classes for more than a week at a time. Plane tickets don't seem to be getting below about $550/ea, though, and, since N'western is just about the only way to get there, there's no guarantee our flight would actually go anyways.
So I decided to look into Amtrak. I've taken Amtrak to MT and back before, and it's not a bad trip - really, more relaxing than the same trip by car, and much more comfortable than flying (the fact that it takes 32 hours by train, compared to 8-10 flying, makes the two modes about equal in my book, assuming I'm planning a decent vacation). One Amtrak trip was, in fact, where I met my friend Kenzi - nothing like sharing a seat for the 8 hour Mini-no-place to Chicago stretch with someone to get a feel for whether or not they are a psycho killer. (My vote: not, hence my first foray into blogging activism, five years ago now.)
Amtrak, round-trip, for both of us, would be about $660. Sweet. However, this involves sleeping in a train seat, and, while a train seat is about three times the size of a plan seat, certain travel companions who shall be identified only by the fact that they fall into the category of "people I'm married to" are less tolerant of adverse sleeping conditions than I. To head off cranky camper syndrome, I checked sleeper mini-cabins. Holy moly! $1,700+ round-trip! Okay, maybe not for this trip. We'll just take enough vacation to make up for sleep lag.
But, meanwhile, I noticed that Amtrak has a "guest rewards" program - like frequent flyer miles on the train. A trip from here to MT, sleeper mini-cabin, costs 20,000 points. And they're coming out with a credit card this fall. Assuming a point-per-dollar deal, that means I can get an 8% refund on anything I spend on the credit card by buying tickets to Montana? (At about this point, I'm wondering if I can have my mortgage auto-payments go to the credit card, rather than the bank account...)
As bonus observation 1, it's 1 point per dollar spent on Amtrak trips, within minimum 100, meaning that Chicago is two $20, 100-point trips. As bonus observation 2, I notice that the Ann Arbor station is in the "central" zone, but Toledo is in both central and eastern zones. If you know Amtrak, you know that, from here, you go to Ann Arbor for trips west, and Toledo for trips east - meaning that the zone breakdown is as good as it gets, aside from living in Atlanta or Denver.
If you're reading this and your name is something other than "Esther", or "Dale", your eyes have probably long since glazed over. And if your name *is* one of those things, well, please tell me if you have any success signing up. Nothing kills a good buzz like a malfunctioning website.