[Amtrak US #4] Drawing the BIG PICTURE



While preparing for a trip, the most exciting moment for me is the time looking at the map to choose which cities to visit and what roads to take.

For 2018 Amtrak trip, the starting point for my planning was the map that Amtrak provided on their website.  This interactive map is called ‘Amtrak Travel Planning Map.’ (***I don’t know why, but this link doesn’t seem to work in mobile devices. Will update if I can find the mobile version of the interactive map. Again, Amtrak is not the most user friendly company!)

The map is useful to kind of draw a BIG PICTURE in your head. For instance, my starting point is Boston so I could check where to the railroads extend from Boston. I could go South (to New York), North (to Maine), or to Northwest (to Chicago). I decided to go to Chicago because my final destination is Seattle and it seemed pretty reasonable to head Chicago if you look at the map (plus, I visited NY and Maine many times already.) Then from Chicago I could go further Northwest to North Dakota and Montana, but then my trip will end too soon! So I decided to go South to New Orleans…. and so on.

This is my BIG PICTURE of Amtrak trip 2018!

<BIG PICTURE for Amtrak trip 2018>
Boston–> Chicago–> New Orleans–> Houston–> Tucson–> (This part I decided to travel with a rental car: Sedona–> Grand Canyon–> Las Vegas)–> Los Angeles (Thruway Bus, which is Amtrak USA rail pass covered Greyhound Bus… meaning free with USA rail pass)–> San Francisco–> Portland (Oregon)–> Seattle (then back to South Korea)

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 6.23.14 PM

Really, it is just like a starting point and much more details had to be decided later. For example, I had to decided whether I would stop by Cleveland (the hometown of Indians and Cavaliers -good bye King James!-) before heading to Chicago. I decided to skip it for this trip because I had looooooooong way to go and it felt like too much time on Midwest.

My itinerary is a bit unique because I am not coming back to where I started. Well… I think every traveler is one of a kind so there might not be something like THE ‘answer sheet.’ But for a guidance, I borrowed the book <All Aboard> from the library and skimmed through it . It is a nice little guidebook that gives you a motivation and basic info about train trip (like you get free meals if you pay extra for roomette, which I will get back to later.) There seem to be a few more books about train trip like <Tourist Trains Guidebook> , but I haven’t read it yet.


<All Aboard> by Jim Loomis

These are the suggested itineraries from <All Aboard> FYI. The routes are mostly loops that one can come back to the starting points. The lovely titles of the itineraries are from the author (Jim Loomis, he runs great website about train trip in US.)

»Big City Tour: Chicago-Washington, DC-NY-Boston-Chicago
»Glaciers to Glitz: San Francisco-Seattle-Chicago-San Francisco
»A Western Triangle: Los Angeles-San Francisco-Portland-Santa Fe-Los Angeles
»Big Mountains, Little Towns: Los Angeles-Santa Fe-Galesburg-Granby-Davis-Los Angeles
»Oh, Canada!: NY-Toronto-Vancouver-Seattle or San Francisco
»The Santa Fe Trail: Chicago-Dodge City-Santa Fe-Grand Canyon-Los Angeles-Chicago
»The Ultimate Round Trip: NY-Washington DC-New Orleans-San Francisco-Seattle-Chicago-Boston-NY
»Semigrand Tour: Seattle-Chicago-New Orleans-Los Angeles-San Francisco-Seattle
»Fall Colors I: Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Chicago-Washington DC-Philadelphia
»Fall Colors II: NY-Saratoga Springs-Ticonderoga-Montreal-NY


[Amtrak US #2] Choosing the right USA rail pass



First step for USA train trip… after you made up your mind to go on a trip of course, is choosing the right pass for YOU.

There are three kinds of passes, depending on the duration of a trip: 15, 30, 45 days. You can take a quick look here. Unlike Eurail pass, USA rail pass is not ‘unlimited.’ It has limited number of ride segments. ‘Segment’ is a term used by Amtrak that is similar to the ‘number’ of rides, but a little bit different… will explore more on this on following posts shorty.

For now, this is the simple info table of three passes. Prices are final including tax (I wasn’t charged for any extra.)

15 days

30 days

45 days





Price (adult)




Price (child 2-12)




I am planning for one month of trip so it seemed pretty obvious to choose 30 days pass. But at the last moment I kind of hesitated between 30 days and 15 days because I found out there is separate California Amtrak pass!

California pass is for 7 days of four one way rides and Amtrak sells it for $159. (You can look it up in here. However, not like USA rail pass, you cannot purchase a California rail pass online, you have to call Amtrak 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) or travel agencies.) Depending on the itinerary, it looked like it might be better to combine 15 days USA rail pass+7 days California pass.

But I decided to stick with 30 days pass because

  1. 30 days pass was cheaper when you consider ‘per day’ price:
    *simple comparison
    15 days USA rail pass+7 days California pass= $459+159= $618—> $618/22 days=$28/day
    30 days USA rail pass=$689—>689/30 days=$23/day
  2. I am planning to travel all the way north to Oregon (Portland!) and Washington (Seattle!) before I go back to Korea.

If you are planning to end your trip in California, 15 days USA pass+7 days California can be nicer because absolute price (though not per day price) is cheaper.

Ok, next step is actual purchasing of the pass(es). So let’s get the credit card ready and head to… 🚂the website.