Train Travel vs. Plane Travel in the United States

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In Europe, where trains are famous for being on time and comfortable, the decision of whether to travel via train or plane can be a difficult one. Travelers in the United States, however, haven’t had to worry much about this decision because of the historically inferior quality of train travel here.

Over the last few years, however, a number of people in the U.S. have taken harder looks at whether train travel might make more sense than air travel under certain circumstances. Many of them have concluded that under the right conditions, it can make more sense to take a train than a plane. If you’re wondering which method of travel will suit you best, consider the following questions:

*What are the fares?—Traveling by train can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars over traveling by air, particularly on busy routes or at the last minute. A flight between Boston and New York booked 24 hours in advance could cost you nearly $700. The same route booked on Amtrak 24 hours in advance might cost less than $250.

*How long does it take—On shorter routes, traveling by train costs you less time than on longer ones, particularly when you take into account air-travel hassles like driving to the airport, checking in, and going through security. On longer routes, however, flying could save you hours.

*Where are you going—Trains often deposit you directly into the center of a city, while planes tend to head to airports on the outskirts of cities. Therefore, if you want to see the city itself, the train will put you right where you want to be, but if you’re ultimately traveling somewhere outside the city, this may not offer any advantages.

* What are you carrying?—For the most part, baggage restrictions are much less prohibitive when traveling by train. So if you’re planning to travel with a lot of luggage, you may want to take a second look at going by rail.

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