Over the last several weeks I’ve found myself traveling from the Boston area to New York City once or twice a week as I search for a new apartment. I went to college in Philadelphia so I’ve spent much of the last four years driving up and down the east coast. However, with the price of parking (sometimes $50+ per day) and gas, driving down for the weekend is very expensive. The flight from Boston to New York is about an hour and can be affordable, but with the added time of driving to the airport, the cost of parking for the weekend, time spent going through security at the airport, and getting from JFK/LGA/EWR to Manhattan, flying just seems too inconvenient and not very cost effective. That leaves me with Amtrak.
Amtrak offers two different services between the Boston (or Providence) area and New York: the Northeast Regional and the Acela Express. The Northeast Regional is the “local” train that makes several stops along the way. From Boston to New York is a little over four hours on the Regional train. The Acela Express stops at four stations from Boston to New York, reaches speeds of 150 MPH, and takes just over three hours. I’ve taken both and I definitely prefer the Acela as it is not only a faster train, but it’s also a much newer train with nicer seats. The train isn’t as loud as the Regional so if you prefer quiet, the Acela is the way to go. The Acela is an all business class train so it costs a little more, but it is usually less than $30 more each way over the Regional: well worth it in my opinion.
The best aspects of Amtrak in my opinion are the free Wi-Fi and the two plugs at each set of seats. This means that for the entire 3-4 hours I can be working without having to worry about running out of power or lacking Internet service. While many airlines are offering Wi-Fi on planes, I don’t travel enough to warrant a monthly plan so the fact that Amtrak’s is free is huge to me. It’s not blazing fast, but it works well enough to get emails and browse the Internet. Also in the train – the dining car! They have lots of options from snacks to meals and soda to wine. It’s reasonably priced – much better than airline pricing anyways – and is available for the entire ride. I am a huge fan of the box of chocolate chip cookies and have gotten them on every trip so far – both ways!
Amtrak has a rewards program for frequent riders that is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, meaning that it is easy to get points into the program. By traveling on Amtrak you will earn two points for every dollar spent. Having the Amtrak credit card will get you an additional 2 points per dollar for Amtrak spend and 1 point everywhere else on top of the 32,000 point sign-up bonus. A one way trip on the Northeast Regional is 4,000 points. 4,000 points will get you from Boston to Washington, DC and anywhere in between. The Acela will cost you 8,000 points for the entire length of the service. For award redemptions, the Acela doesn’t make sense in my mind unless you really want to get to your destination quickly. While the Acela is nice, its not twice as nice as the Regional.
If flying is too inconvenient and driving is too expensive, Amtrak may be the answer you’re looking for … nothing quite like pulling up to the station 5 minutes before scheduled departure and making it without breaking a sweat (even with a bag).
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day FlyerTalk is giving away A FlyerTalk Luggage Tag & Hoodie combo for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (with your First Name, Last Initial, and 3 letter airport code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.