The train, in my opinion, is a highly underrated experience.
Though I haven’t taken the train as often as I’d like to — because we live in a world that demands quickness and flying is usually faster — I really enjoy it.
My first time taking the train alone was my freshman year at Winston-Salem State University. I took the train a handful of times home to Charlotte, and each time, I wished the ride was just a little longer. It was spacious, clean and a really scenic ride.
Fast forward more than a decade later, and I still feel that way. Taking the train feels luxurious to me, even in coach. And there’s something about it that feels nostalgic and a little relaxing.
More people should take the train, especially if you’re in the Charlotte area. Here’s why:
It’s (usually) cheaper than flying.
Depending on the destination, the train is typically much more affordable than flying. NC By Train, the state’s Amtrak service, lists one-way train tickets from Charlotte to Raleigh for as low as $27. A one-way flight to Raleigh could range anywhere from $79 to nearly $300.
Considering further destinations, a family of four could flight to Orlando in August for $430. Flights on the same date could cost as much $1000.
It’s less hassle than flying.
Flying, though fast, can have its disadvantages. There’s long lines, security checkpoints, navigating sometimes confusing airports, and other stressors that can be involved.
Traveling by train reduces a lot of that hassle. There’s no TSA — no removing your shoes, no liquid allowances, no “all jackets off” sentiments happening before train travel.
Taking the train is pretty straightforward: purchase your ticket, grab your bags, get on. Of course, there are certain items that travelers are prohibited from bringing into the train cabin, but unlike flying, a full-sized bottle of perfume is not one of them.
You can also bring what you need, within reason, on to the train. For example, if you plan on a mountain getaway and want to bring you bike to ride the trails, you can bring a bike as a carry-on onto the train.
Space to work
Nearly all trains these days are set up for working; they typically offer free Wi-Fi, outlets or nearby places to plug-in, and trays for you to place a laptop or other device to use while you travel.
I took a five-hour train ride home from a conference a few years ago and got some work done. A few of my colleagues drove or flew home. The ones who drove couldn’t do anything and those who flew weren’t in the air long enough to get settled into working. Because I had five hours of time and working Wi-Fi, I got lots done.
Coach versus economy
Trains, like planes, have classes of seating. There’s coach, business class, first class and even private suites on some trains.
Though coach is most comparable to economy on a flight, coach, in my opinion, coach is a much better than experience than economy. Airplanes seem to be getting more and more uncomfortable with time, especially in economy class, and the coach car of a train typically feels more spacious. The seating is often larger and guests can usually sit where ever they’d like — or move seats — during travel.
While many airlines are beginning to charge a small fee to choose your seat, most trains allow you to sit where ever you’d like within the car, at no charge.
All points from Charlotte
Charlotte is in a prime location with easy access to so many vacation destinations. The mountains, the beach, other fun cities like Atlanta, Richmond, and Nashville, among others.
The train has options to visit hundreds of destinations, many of which are a short ride or halfway journey to.
It’s better for the environment
As climate change continues to be a growing concern, travelers should consider ways to decrease the effects of travel on the planet’s climate. One way of being a more conscious traveler is by reducing plane and individual car travel, option for train or bus travel as better alternatives.
United Nations’ Act Now, an initiative to share ways to reduce environmental harm, mentions train travel as a way to reduce one’s carbon footprint in comparison to driving or flying.
According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, road passenger vehicles — cars, motorcycles, taxis, buses — account for 41% of global CO2 emissions, flying accounts for 11% and rail transportation accounts for just 1%.
Views and scenery
One major advantage of taking the train is the scenery.
When I took the train home from WSSU in the fall, it was the first time I really took notice how colorful and picturesque the state can be. For about an hour of the ride, I looked out the window and took in the trees and the multicolored leaves.
Unlike flying, the train’s views are on the ground and provide the traveler a new show of landscape every few miles.