Amtrak is an inexpensive, enjoyable way to see the USA, but it gets even cheaper when you start applying the railroadÂ¿s secret discount codes. Available to all (well, all who read this newsletter, at least), theyÂ¿re easy to use and can cut 20 percent or more off the price of your ticket. Combined with AmtrakÂ¿s other discounts, they put a little more magic into your train trip.
Your first stop when booking a train ticket should always be Amtrak's weekly specials (http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/WeeklySpecials), where they sell tickets on specific routes from a few days to a month in advance at up to 90 percent off. The weekly specials are best for tickets into or through AmericaÂ¿s heartland; for instance, we found a ticket from Chicago to New Orleans for $58.80, 70 percent off the regular fare. We also found a ticket from New York to Chicago for $58.80, a surprising deal on a popular long haul route.
If you can't find your route on the weekly sale page (and remember, it changes every week), don't despair. Discount codes cover many of AmtrakÂ¿s most popular routes. Sometimes they're also combinable with senior, children's, or AAA discounts. So pile on the discounts to get the absolute lowest fares.
Now, how about some codes? To use a discount code, start booking a ticket on www.amtrak.com. On the page with the list of trains, marked "2 - Select Train" -- there's a promotion code field near the bottom. Enter the code before you click the "View Fare" button. If one code doesn't work, try another.
Individual travelers in the Northeast should punch in V735. This beautiful code gives you 20 percent off the standard adult or senior fare on standard Regional, Downeaster or Empire trains as far north as Portland, ME or Albany, NY, as far south as Washington, DC and as far west as Harrisburg, PA. ItÂ¿s good for travel through April 25, and you must make reservations three days in advance. Feb. 17-20 are blacked out, but the code will work on any other day.
If you have more people traveling, you can save more. Code V832 gives you 50 percent off the second personÂ¿s fare on Regional, Downeaster, Empire and Keystone trains as far north as Portland and Albany, as far south as Washington and as far west as Harrisburg. ItÂ¿s valid for travel through March 31, you must book three days in advance, and Feb. 17-20 are (of course) blacked out.
Groups of 3-6 should jump on code H545, valid on the same trains as above for travel until August 31 (though you must purchase by March 31.) With that code, the fare of the third and every subsequent person is 90 percent off. For that deal, Feb. 17-20, April 13-17, and May 26-29 are blacked out. But still, thatÂ¿s amazing.
Farther north in the states of New York and Vermont, we find code V707, which takes 50 percent off a second personÂ¿s fare on the Empire Service, Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack trains from New York City as far as Niagara Falls, Montreal, and Rutland, VT -- but not all the way to Toronto. This one is stuffed with restrictions, though. ItÂ¿s only good for rides until March 31, and not on Fridays and Sundays between 9 am and 6:59 pm or on Feb. 17-20.
Heading farther south? Get on board with V657. That covers all trips on the Crescent, Piedmont and Carolinian trains, anywhere between New York City all the way down to Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta and New Orleans. YouÂ¿ll get 20 percent off those tickets, but this code is only good for trains from Feb. 20 to March 13. As always, you must purchase three days in advance.
Skipping down to Florida we find code V647, which only works within the borders of the Sunshine State to shave 20 percent off of fares on trains between April 12-26, with no advance purchase necessary. This works on the Silver Star and Silver Meteor trains, anywhere from Jacksonville down to Miami.
If youÂ¿re heading in or out of New Orleans from a nearby city, try V545. That strips 20 percent off of fares on the Crescent south of Atlanta and on the City of New Orleans train south of Memphis, both ending up in New Orleans. ItÂ¿s valid for travel through June 10. But if youÂ¿re coming from farther north, use the V657 code we mentioned above instead.
The only code we found in the West requires a little extra legwork. Fill out the form at http://www.santabarbaracarfree.org/register.htm and youÂ¿ll get a two-for-one fare coupon on either the Pacific Surfliner train from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, or the Coast Starlight between LA and Seattle. The offer seems to be good through June 15, but thereÂ¿s a limited supply of coupons and some blackout dates that they donÂ¿t mention on the website.
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