It’s no secret that this season’s weather extremes have left us all a bit winter-weary. What better way to lift the spirits than to start planning your next vacation from the comfort—and warmth!—of your own home?
Using nothing more than an Internet connection and your debit or credit card, you can easily make all of your travel plans online. Many hotels, motels, rental cars, air or train travel, cruise lines, and even some tourist attractions, now offer online reservations and upfront payment options. Oftentimes, you can plan as far ahead as you like, and still have the option to alter those plans later as needed.
With all of the hassles and restrictions of airline travel and the recent cruise line fiascos, train travel is now becoming a popular option for vacationers. According to Amtrak’s website, “With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph—to more than 500 destinations.”
Amtrak trains offer scenic, comfortable travel, with meals prepared fresh daily, and several routes and destinations to choose from. Their website also offers the traveler the option of making reservations for car rental, hotel/motel accommodations, and even purchasing tickets to popular shows and events—all on the same travel itinerary. Each time you log in, you can access whatever plans you’ve already made, adding to them as you like.
And, although you may not be able to access all routes from the same city or train depot, with a little flexibility, you can arrange a plan that works for you.
Let’s say that you want to go to California via the northern route through the Rocky Mountains, but the depot closest to you only services the southern route that runs through Arizona and New Mexico. If you check the northern route for Amtrak (from the website), you can see all the stations on that route and find the one closest to you, rent a car, and drive there. Oftentimes, you can arrange with your car rental company to pick up the vehicle right where you left it.
Amtrak also offers many amenities and choices that other travel services do not. A full menu with three meals served daily, either in the dining car, or in your private cabin. Sleeping cabins come with built-in toilets, lavatories, and some even have showers.
Handicapped and disabled cabins are available at a greatly reduced rate, and are on the lower levels. Family-sized cabins are also available. The website even offers virtual tours of the different seating/sleeping options available, which makes it much easier to visualize the space you’ll be occupying.
Amtrak also offers vacation packages to such destinations as the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, and even Hollywood. These packages often include hotel accommodations, meals, and entertainment. And, if you’re just not sure about taking a round trip by train, consider taking the train one-way and then flying or driving back home.
Last year, my husband and I enjoyed a nice vacation to California via Amtrak, which I planned during the month of February online. By the time we took our vacation in July, we had everything arranged from the rental cars to hotels to tourist sites—so all we had to do was enjoy!
And, since we knew we’d be ready to come home quickly afterwards, we bought one-way tickets for the train ride there, and airline tickets for the trip home. We even arranged a car to pick us up at the airport, so we could leave as soon as we got our luggage—all online and arranged in advance.
So, if the weather’s got you down, play a little game of “vacation planning” online, and see what you can come up with. Even if you don’t make any definitive plans now, you can enjoy the chance to think of warmer, happier times in a less stressful environment. And, who knows, maybe you’ll end up making plans for the best vacation ever!