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Taking a trip? How to get There

Updated on July 21, 2013

Road Rail or Air

Summer is the time to travel, weather is beautiful, kids are out of school, attractions open, so you have a vacation planned, so now how do you get there. This is a little hub about the best and worse way to travel to the final destination. Every way to travel has pluses and minuses. I prefer rail if I have the time, as my hobby is railroads, but if I am driving I have the option to check out the railroads along the way and at my destintion as well.

Have a read and see what you prefer.


Everyone thinks of traveling over the road is the best way. The freedom of pulling over, stopping at places you want to see, taking pictures. Great sounds good lets wrap this hub up and get packing...ahhhh not quite, lets look at all the angles and you can decide. As you can see the freedom of the road looks appealing, but if you have kids, there are things that are going to come up that could make it a very long trip. If you do decide to take a road trip here are some ideas to keep the kids occupied. First thing to do is make sure you have plenty of things to do, books, CDs, DVDs, and plan a few games like the:

1. Alphabet Game-Where each person spots something that begins with that letter.

2.Licence Plate Game-This game is great if you are near a state line or a border as there are more plates to notice.

3. There are also many board games that offer travel versions of the games for trips.

Make sure that your route includes rest stops to allow for the kids to stretch their legs and burn off some energy.

Bring some snacks if they get hungry on the road. Try to keep it low sugar as this would keep them calmer. There should be a couple of pillows for when they get tired.

When planning the trip see if there is a small attraction each day of traveling to keep the children excited about the day in the car.

The cost obviously depends on the distance but this author researched a trip to see a friend in Livingston Montana, and for a Honda CR-V with 30 mph highway, Gas would be about 100 dollars, and I could stay over night which would be about 89 dollars a room. This trip could be done in one long day of about 14 hours but I have a 2 yr old so 2 days would be better.

Greyhound Bus Line is another option. I have never taken Greyhound, but after reading a few other Hubs and hearing personal stories that this may not be best option anyway. It is cheaper, but I think of the bus as the grounded version of a plane. They do not serve food and are crowded. The ideas I gave for car travel above also fit here as the kids would need to be occupied. One of the pluses of the bus is that the would be driver could enjoy the trip.


In the US, passenger trains are operated by Amtrak. A trip on Amtrak is a very pleasant experience. I have taken the Empire Builder twice (once as a child) and the Cascades service between Vancouver B.C. and Eugene OR. The drive time is 1 hour 30 min minutes to 2 hours and the scheduled time for the Cascades between Bellingham and Seattle is 2 hours 20 minutes. The cost may be higher on the train than to drive(depending on type of car), but for this 90 mile trip it costs roughly $220 RT for a family of four. To drive the same route costs a bit more:

Gas: $60 (as of 7/5/12)

Wear and Tear: $90*

Time ($10 per hour): $40 (RT)

Parking: $20

*Wear and Tear is figured by the federal government figures at 50¢ a mile.

Taking the train allows the entire family to relax, visit, have a meal in the cafe car. The stress of driving is relieved and gives time for relaxation.

On long distance trips, the train is even nicer. On a cross country trip from Seattle to Chicago on the Empire Builder is a beautiful 2 1/2 day trip, over two mountain ranges and then across the great plains. The Empire Builder offers a dining car, lounge car, as well as easy access to Glacier National Park.

Cost of Amtrak: (Summer trip for family of 4)

Four (4) Reserved Coach Seats $1900 average

Access to all coach cars, Diner and Lounge car. You must pay for your meals in the diner. There are three sittings in the diner: an early sitting (4pm), a 5:30 or 6pm sitting, and a later sitting roughly about 8. The 4pm sitting is typically the one with more families.

If you wish to travel in a sleeper there is an extra fee: with AAA Discounts for everyone, the round trip cost is $2760, for a family room. The meals are included in this fare. The passengers in the sleeper have access to the full train, more room to stretch.

The family room is on the lower level at one end of the car. with toilet and shower on the other. You would be sharing these facilities with the entire car. There is a toilet on the upper level, but the only shower facilities are on the lower level. It is a chunk of money, but to have the time with family, with your own space to stretch out and have your own space, makes it worth every penny.

Comparatively driving the same route costs:

Cas: $459 (RT)

Wear and Tear: $2063.75*

*Wear and Tear is figured by the federal government figures at 50¢ a mile.

Hotel: (RT) $100 average per night: 600-1200

Total: 3722

Time: 3-6 days depending on your pace and what the family can handle.

The train may be your more expensive option and takes longer than flying, but cost lessmoney and time than driving, but it allows for total relaxation of all involved.

Regional Transport

Most major cities have some sort of rail transport. New York, Boston, Philly and Chicago have some of the most well established commuter systems in the nation. New York and Chicago starting as far back as the late 1800s, The individual railroads provided the services as thecities and suburbs expanded. In the 70s, Regional Authorities were forming to relieve the railroads from the some of the financial burden.

The most common type of agreement was that the Transit Districts would buy the euipment from a certain railroad, then lease it back to the same railroad and then the rairoad wouldoperate it on that line. Take the Burlington Northern line from Chicago to Aurora for example, a group called the West Suburban Mass Transit District (WSMTD) formed in the early1970s and bought the 25 E units as well as a numbre of the bilevel coaches. Then they leased the equipment back to the Burlington Northern to operate over the line. The WSMTD was a public department so it was able to tain state funds to offset the difference between ticket price and operational cpost, where as before the railroads were operating at a loss. As time wore on there were many of these districts and overhead agencies were formed. Today, Chicago hasMetra, Boston MBTA, and NYC has MTA, other citieswith commuter rail are Seattle, San Francisco, and even Los Angeles, the Car Capital of the world , is even recognizing, what an asset commuter rail can be. Newer players to the commuter rail scene are Nashville, Minneapolis,Santa Fe and Dallas-Ft Worth.


Air travel is probably the fastest way to get around this country. For trips where time is short, where getting to the destination is more of a priority, then flying is an option. You don't get to see much and the cost is roughly the same as Amtrak (Seattle-Chicago RT). Just like Amtrak, and even more, the prices of flights continually change, even on a daily basis.

If you don't have the time to enjoy getting to your destination, then flying is the best option, however as we all know it can get cramped and just like the road trip the children have to be kept occupied. Oh and you don't have to worry about TSA.

Choices Choices

I personally would prefer the train over any other mode of transportation. I drive the shorter distance however to have more flexibility at my destination. The plane is the only option for intercontinental travel, but thats alright its those trips that the destination is more exciting than getting there. The train, well lets just say Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer.

I also wrote a hub on getting around Chicago, if your vacation includes the area, then read that article was well. It'll give you some ideas on getting around that great city.

Have a fun trip.

© 2012 Clayton Hartford


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