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Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

Sydney, Australia
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Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

Our Aussie family of 5 will be travelling from Washington to Boston by train on Friday 8 July.

We are flexible in the time that we leave and the class of travel we book, its a long trip and we want to be comfortable and sit together.

We are in the US for 3 weeks so will have a reasonable amount of luggage, some of which will be large suitcases, whilst we are capable of handling our luggage ourselves we would prefer if we could check it in rather than take it on board ourselves.

We are considering booking the Acela Express service that leaves around 10am to avoid the peak hour rush (we will need to come by metro from Dupont Circle to Union Station) for 5 its about $785.

and takes 6 1/2 hours.

The alternative is the Northeastern Express Business Class service that takes over 8 hours and costs US$600.

We are happy to pay the extra if its quicker and more comfortable, but really can't tell from the Amtrak site.

Do all of the trains have reserved seating? It says reserved seating on the Coach tickets but I can't see it on any of the others.

I know flying would be about the same cost but we think we would like to try the train instead, we are only going to cities this trip (Washington, Boston and NYC) and it will be a bit of chill out time to watch the countryside roll by...at least thats what we are hoping! And we will have spent an awful lot of time on a plane on our way over!

We are returning to DC on 19 July but only from NYC so a much shorter trip, not sure what to book for that either.

Any thoughts on our plans or suggestions would be much appreciated!

New York City, New...
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1. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

There aren't assigned seats on either the Acela or the Northeast Regional trains; reserved seating simply means you're guaranteed a seat. On neither choice of train, however, will you be able to check your luggage at the station. But a "red cap" (a porter, Amtrak's version of airport "sky caps") will trundle your luggage to the train for you. And if you hail a red cap before general boarding starts, he will get you on the train before everyone else is permitted to board.

I would *not* pay the extra money for a Business Class seat on a Northeast Regional; the regular coach seats are wider/more comfy than those on an airline & sitting in Business Class won't get you there any faster :-)

Riding from Boston to DC is a rather long haul. Since the cost of Acela tix doesn't appear to be a deal breaker for you, I'd book the "cheap seats" [a/k/a Business Class] on the Acela.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

P.S. For your second trip -- from NYC to DC -- you might consider traveling via Bolt or Megabus. Yes, the seats won't be as comfortable as those on Amtrak (these bus seats are more akin to airline coach seats), but you may be able to get tix for as as little as $1 each & they won't be more than $25. Start checking the web sites about 6 weeks ahead of your departure date; they don't sell tickets far in advance, but like Amtrak, prices rise as the date of departure draws closer.

https://www.boltbus.com

http://us.megabus.com

Bolt does have some buses that pull into Union Station (the train station); that's a bit more convenient than the other pick-up/drop-off points.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

Thanks!

Disappointing about the assigned seats!

How do I find the magic Red Cap and how much do I tip them?

Also wondering what time is best to aim to leave Washington, its a Friday and in July, so I am thinking it will be pretty busy, is it likely to be a bit quieter if we leave at 10 or 12 rather than earlier? Or are we better to leave later in the day and not get to Boston until late?

You can tell I'm not a regular train traveller ;- )

Will have a think about the bus...scares me even more than the thought of the train LOL!

Edited: 08 April 2011, 03:00
Washington DC...
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4. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

The Acela trains originate in DC, so getting seats together should not be a problem. The Red Caps are usually out at the main entrance to Union Station, but you can find them elsewhere around there. If you give them your luggage they will take you to the train before the gates open for the rest of the passengers. With the amount of luggage you probably have, I would tip $10-15, or even $20 if he is really helpful.

Amtrak tickets get more expensive as the train you want starts to fill up, so getting your reservations in early can save you money.

Sterling, VA
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5. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

Given the size of your party, I would recommend tipping the red cap at least $20. With just the two of us, when we used a red cap, we tip $10 for 2 to 3 bags.

New York City, New...
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6. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

I'd book either the 9 AM or the 10 AM Acela. The prices for the later Acela departures are already quite a bit higher than for the 9 or 10 AM departures, which means they've already sold a fair number of seats on the later trains... doubtlessly to people who are leaving work early on that Friday afternoon to get a head start on a getaway.

You've not indicated how much luggage you'll be hauling, but the buses do have stricter policies re: luggage: both Bolt & Megabus say you can only stash 1 suitcase per passenger in the cargo area under the bus and take 1 (Megabus) or 2 (Bolt) small carry-ons (e.g., briefcase, backpack or purse). The FAQ pages make it sound like they strictly enforce the policies -- although I honestly don't know because I've never traveled with more than just a weekender bag & handbag.

On the couple of occasions when I've used a red cap, I've tipped $5/bag because I thought the convenience of pre-boarding was definitely worth that.

Edited: 08 April 2011, 03:33
Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

Thanks

Boarding early and getting luggage taken is surely a bargain for $20!

Think I will book the 10am then we will have time to get to Union Station after the worst of the peak hour on the metro. We will be coming from Dupont station.

I will need to check how far in advance you have to check in to get on the train.

I really am a TOTAL train novice!

Washington DC...
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8. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

There is no checking in for the train. You show your ticket to the conductor on board and he punches it and gives you a chit that you keep with you showing where you are getting off.

New York City, New...
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9. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

I think she's asking when they should arrive at Union Station to snag a red cap and get pre-boarding privileges. Amtrak typically doesn't start boarding until 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Get to Union Station by 9:30 AM and you should be fine.

Once you get on the Metro train at Dupont Circle, it's about a 10-minute ride to Union Station. The escalator up from the Metro platform brings you right up to the Amtrak gates' concourse. One of you can get the tickets while the rest of you, with luggage, secure a red cap's services.

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10. Re: Train from Washington to Boston which class to choose?

Here's a map of Union Station's interior:

unionstationdc.com/mimages/UnionStationDirec…

You do not need to go to the Amtrak ticket counter to obtain your pre-paid tickets. There are QuikTrak ticket kiosks in the gate/boarding areas. Pic and demo video here:

www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer…