July 14, 2024

Riding the rail: traveling by train instead of plane

This archived article was written by: Lisa Anderson

Vacation is a time for seeing new places, spending time with loved ones and dealing with the horrors of travel. Instead of going by plane, try taking the train.
When traveling, the main issue is usually cost. Booking tickets less than a month in advance can be a nightmare at times, and prices only go up as the travel day draws closer. If I wanted to fly round trip from Salt Lake City to Denver two weeks from today, I could expect to pay $350 on average. For the train, I can leave from the Helper station if I wish, and the cost drops to around $50.
Another important issue is time. While taking a train can be cheaper, nothing beats an airplane in speed. Barring a delay, that trip to Denver would take almost two hours on a direct flight. Looking at that same trip via train, it will take close to 12 hours. Many people can’t afford to take such a long trip, despite the reduction in cost.
If you can afford the extra time though, there are other advantages to taking the train. Unlike a plane, train seats are more comfortable, as well as roomier. Adjustable footrests, tables and chair recliners are all within easy reach. It is hard to find comfort in a plane, and even first-class seating pales in comparison to coach seating on a train.
Another consideration is baggage. Planes are known for long security lines and strict rules for carry-on items. Trains, however, have very short lines, usually handled in groups of 20 to 30 at a time. You can choose to leave your luggage in the large storage areas near the door, then take your carry-on bags with your to your seat. You can even choose to bring a small cooler as a carry-on, giving you cheap and quick access to food.
Speaking of food, airplanes have long been known for small meals that lack taste. First class is supposed to have something with higher quality, but that means paying the extra cost for first-class seating. Trains, however, have a rather large choice when it comes to dining. Aside from a menu hanging on the snack car wall, you also have three sit-down meals a day, each with an entirely new menu to choose from. While train meals are only served at set times, the casual menu can be ordered anytime you wish.
Last, but certainly not least, there is the issue of scenery. While watching a plane take off can be amazing, it is a rather short experience. Once in-flight, looking out a window will usually reveal nothing but white clouds. A train is very different. With large windows on all sides, riders can view the passing scenery if they choose to. On a ride from Helper to Denver, you can expect to see beautiful canyon scenery that is only visible by train. Between canyons on one side and roaring rivers on the other, it is a view many can’t take their eyes off of.
Many people today care more about their destination instead of the journey to get there. While a plane is indeed faster, there are many benefits to taking the slower train. Cost aside, small comforts alone have convinced many to take an extra day or two and enjoy a calm train ride. If you ask me, everyone should ride the rails at least once in their life. It is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.