Traveling in the Northeast – Amtrak Revisited
I’m delaying the next post in the series of hotel program reviews to revisit the topic of traveling in the very congested Northeast Corridor between Boston and Philadelphia or even Washington DC. I first wrote about traveling on Amtrak this past summer when I was going back and forth between New York and Providence or Boston about every other week. With the holidays in full swing, I’ve found myself taking the train quite a bit once again as I go back and forth between working in New York and visiting family in Massachusetts.
The answer to the question of which mode of transportation to take when traveling in the northeast has not changed since my last post: Amtrak is by far the easiest and most comfortable way to get up and down the coast. However, my preference for train travel is much stronger than it was this summer now that I have seen first-hand what it’s like during the holidays to travel along I-95. Over the past month I’ve taken four round-trips to Boston and will taking another trip down to Washington DC in the next week from New York. Of the four trips that I’ve taken, there has been a combined delay of maybe half an hour – there was a 20 minute delay on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but that’s really been it. Compare that to the hours and hours spent waiting for four years in the Philadelphia airport when I used to fly home from college – never again! For the three and a half to four hour trip down to New York, I can watch a movie on my laptop, which is plugged in so I don’t have to worry about my battery dying, or I can get some work done with the (marginally useful) WiFi. I can get a snack and drink from the Café Car or just sleep: all while never stopping. When I took the train back to New York after Christmas, there was some bad weather that had most of the coast worried about driving conditions. My train wasn’t late by a minute. We left Boston right on time and arrived at Penn Station without a single delay. Compare that to…
…My brother who had driven up to Massachusetts from New Jersey with his wife. They left Boston at 1:00 in his car. They didn’t get home to New Jersey until past 8:00, a drive that should have only taken about four hours. That’s a three or more hour delay. Compare that to me leaving Boston at 5:45 and getting into Penn Station right on schedule at 9:50 – no delay and almost as fast as driving with no traffic. There is one downside to taking the train and that is Penn Station in New York. Because Penn Station is so large, you don’t know the platform a train is leaving from until 10-15 minutes before departure. When they finally announce the platform, there is a mad-rush to be the first one on board the train for the best seats. While it’s not a horrible experience most of the time, when it is busy as it was over this holiday period it can be quite a stressful experience. However, if you don’t care to get the “best seat” then there isn’t much to worry about because you can just wait for the crazies to get on the train. Nevertheless, because Penn Station is so big, I would definitely suggest getting there 20-25 minutes ahead of time just to make sure you find the waiting area in order to see which platform you’re leaving from.
Overall, I have to say that traveling on Amtrak has been a great experience for me time and time again. It will be my go to choice whenever I need to get up to Boston or down to Washington DC while I’m living in New York. If you’re looking to take a longer trip on Amtrak (overnight with a sleeper car) you can read Howie’s review of his trip with Rick on the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle this past October.
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49