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Get Schooled in Savings With Amtrak's College-Visit Discount

July 16, 2003 -- For many teens, college visits are a first chance to see the nation (or even another nation; we hear McGill's a pretty good school.) As college visit season arrives for the Class of 2008, Amtrak's got a great deal for teens and parents looking to hit the road before they hit the books: 50% off on many trains if you're visiting a college.

To take advantage of this discount, you've got to school yourself a bit. First, print out this coupon ( Get it signed by your high school counselor. Then call 800/USA-RAIL when you're ready to book your train and say you're using a Campus Visit Discount Coupon, discount code H178. (You can't get this discount on the Internet.)

The discount is good now through December 8 for travel through December 15.

If you're considering making this a family excursion, teens can bring along up to two parents or guardians for half-price each, and younger siblings (under 15) always ride half-price on Amtrak if they're with their parents (

Amtrak offers its most frequent service in the Northeast, of course, but the railroad serves college towns all over the country. The two-hour ride from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor, for instance, is a mere $8.50 with the discount. A trip from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh/Chapel Hill, NC takes six hours and costs only $22 with the discount, and Amtrak serves most of the major University of California campus towns, including San Diego, LA, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Berkeley.

(We'd advise against taking the train in Texas, though, as it's awfully slow -- a trip from Dallas to Austin takes six hours, half the speed of Greyhound.)

There's a Catch

This is a great deal, but there are a few catches that might trip up even the brightest pre-frosh.

First, you can't use this discount on Friday or Sunday afternoons in the Northeast Corridor. That's enough to send teens to the Chinese bus ( Prospective students at Temple, the University of Pennyslvania, or Franklin & Marshall may also be interested in the separate 20% discounts on trains to Philadelphia ( or Harrisburg (, which are good on all weekend trains.

The discount is also unavailable on the train to Maine, high-speed trains in the Northeast and some buses, and it's blacked out over Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekends.

If you can work around the restrictions, though, this discount could give prospective college students some much-needed freedom -- or could make for some great family trips without the hassle of driving.