Thursday, January 10, 2013

NYC: Getting there via Amtrak

Last week, one of my good friends from high school messaged me saying she and her husband were going to be in New York City for a day or two, and did I want to come meet up with them? Baltimore to NYC is only about 3 hours, so I said yes! I knew immediately that I would be taking the train there rather than driving; even though both methods take about the same amount of time, who is crazy enough to drive in New York City? (Despite driving in DC multiple times a week, I imagine NYC to be a whole different beast.)

Amtrak makes it easy to travel, especially if you are lucky enough to live on the East Coast. I can't personally speak for any other area of the country, but out here it's straightforward and convenient. Just get yourself to a station, use a user-friendly kiosk to print your tickets, and hop on your train. It's definitely not as cheap as riding the bus (for instance, there are many "Chinatown" buses that run between DC and NYC that run you $20-$50 a trip), but you get the luxuries of no traffic, comfortable seats, lots of space, nice views, Wi-Fi, and a food car. Sounds pretty good to me.


The closest Amtrak station to me is at BWI Airport, about 30 minutes away, so I just drove there Tuesday morning, parked my car in a garage (only $9 per 24 hours, which out here is a great price), printed my ticket out at a kiosk in the station (open 5am to 10pm), and got on my waiting train. I managed to get there in time for the 7:52 Northeast Regional, which put me into New York Penn Station at about 10:45am. I bought my return trip at the same time so I wouldn't have to worry about it later, from Penn Station to BWI at 10pm. You can also buy tickets ahead of time, which can get you a better price, especially if you have Student Advantage. I actually do have Student Advantage (15% off Amtrak!), but it requires a 3-day advance purchase, which I didn't have time to do. Alternatively, you can even get your ticket on your smartphone!


Once on the train, you choose your seat (at the time of my train, there were plenty of seats open) and one of the conductors will scan your ticket, either paper or electronic. Easy as that.

The main Northeast Regional route runs between DC and Boston. We stopped in Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Trenton, Metropark, Newark Airport, Newark, and New York City, while I was on it. One note about traveling this route is that there are a lot of "Penn Stations" - Baltimore, Newark, and New York all have them.


Train travel is pretty underrated in the United States. If you have the option of traveling this way (for instance, if you won't need a car at your final destination), it's pretty great. And at least with regard to getting to New York City, Penn Station is right smack in the middle of everything, so it's super easy to get around.

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