The weather outside may be frightful, but Amtrak's discounts are delightful. We've uncovered some Amtrak discount codes for November and December in this round, and some that last well into 2008. More 2008 codes are sure to come when Amtrak refreshes their list in January, and we'll be there.
One warning, though: Amtrak codes take a holiday over holidays. In other words, codes won't work during Thanksgiving and Christmas, from Nov. 20-27 and Dec. 14-Jan. 2. (They also won't work next year from January 18-21, February 15-18, and March 20-24.) That's just the way it goes -- Amtrak codes exist to fill empty seats, and when Santa's on the march, few seats are empty. I was once on Thanksgiving train that was standing room only!
So what are these marvelous codes? They slash Amtrak's prices. To use a discount code, start booking a ticket on www.amtrak.com or dial 800/USA-RAIL and talk to an operator. This is important: do not buy your ticket in person. Annoyingly, there's a growing number of codes that don't allow you to use them online, but they work over the phone.
If you're booking online, 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. Remember the blackout dates listed above, and also that most codes require a three-day advance purchase. Finally, get your tickets mailed to you or pick them up from a Quik-Trak machine at a station; I've seen reports of human Amtrak agents refusing to acknowledge discount codes.
When searching for budget fares on Amtrak, your first stop should always be Amtrak's weekly specials page, where they sell tickets on specific routes from a few days to a month in advance at up to 90% off. 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 Amtrak'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.
But now to the codes.
Our 2008 Code Preview
Most Amtrak codes available right now last only until Dec. 13, 2007. But we've got a bunch of codes that will work in 2008.
In the east, you'll love train travel in New York State and Canada by using code V464 for 20% off your tickets -- but only over the phone, not online. V464 appears to work with any of the Empire Service trains within New York State, the trains to Montreal and Toronto, and even the Lake Shore Limited train to Chicago. It's good all the way through September 2008.
If you're headed north from Boston to New Hampshire or Maine on the Downeaster train, several discounts can apply through the end of June 2008. Anyone can use V453, which takes 25% off daytrips where you take the 12:50 through 3pm trains down from Portland, ME (or anywhere south of that) and the 11:10pm train back from Boston. On Sundays, kids under 15 can ride free on any Downeaster train (up to two kids per adult) by using V486. And between Tuesdays and Thursdays, anyone 62 or over gets a whopping 50% off by using V481.
Further south, codes V640 and V644 get you 15% off any of the Silver Service trains from New York City all the way down the east coast to Miami. That's train numbers 91, 92, 97, and 98. Thank the convention bureaus from Kissimmee and Miami, FL for this one, but the codes also work to all other destinations on these trains through April 30, 2008.
The Orlando Magicard (www.orlandoinfo.com/magicard) offer has been extended to May 31, 2008. You can use it to book yourself a ticket over the phone (not online) with V542. That will get you 20% off tickets on the Auto Train and Silver Service to the Orlando area, so this code is cheaper than V640/644, but applies to fewer stations within Florida.
In the country's midsection, AAA members get an additional 10% off, on top of their existing AAA discount, on the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle. This applies to trains running between January 7 and March 13, 2008; use code H743 and bring your AAA membership card onto the train with you.
Non-AAA members traveling the Texas Eagle between Chicago and San Antonio, and any points between, can use V788 to get 50% off a companion ticket. That's like 25% off each of two tickets, because there need to be two people traveling to get this fare. This code will work through the end of February 2008.
On the West Coast, you can get a free companion ticket on the Cascades route between Eugene, OR and Vancouver, BC from now through next May 23, by using code H750. That code comes courtesy of the city of Portland, Oregon, and it's a lovely place: stop by.
Active military and reservists get 20% off the fare on the San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner trains within California through May 22. Use code V834 and bring your military ID with you when you board the train.
Codes 'Til the End of '07
Brought to you by the fine folks at American Girl Place, the nationwide V185 10% discount is still in effect. It works on any train in the US except the Acela Express and trains to Canada. Just book online, and you'll save a few bucks any time between now and December 13.
Within the Northeast Corridor, you can find an even better discount. Code V688 (now only by phone, not online) should still get you a 20% discount off any ticket on a standard reserved Regional train (no Acelas) on routes from Massachusetts as far south as Washington, DC. This code also works for travel through Dec. 13.
In America's heartland, riders on the Heartland Flyer from Dallas to Oklahoma (and any points in between) get 20% off by using code V851. That one lasts through December 7.
Finally, on the West Coast, H636 is the code for the Pacific Surfliner trains from San Diego to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles and for the San Joaquin trains in central California. You'll get 20% off the regular fare through Dec. 13 with this code, which is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Car Free project.
Companion Codes for Friends and Family
A bunch of codes running through December can lower prices for pairs or groups traveling together.
There's a slew of codes all of which promise 50% off a companion ticket (that's 25% off each of two tickets) in the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Portland, ME down to Newport News, Virginia, with branches out to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Albany, NY. V372, V383, V679, V714 and V761 all supposedly work for travel until December 13, so if one doesn't work, try a different one of the bunch.
Texans and Oklahomans can have a little more fun with H711, which gives you a free companion ticket on the Heartland Flyer train from the Dallas metroplex up into Oklahoma through Dec. 13. That beats the above V851 code on savings.
In the Midwest, V539 will give you and a friend half-off the second ticket on trains #311, 313, 314 and 316 entirely within Missouri, through Dec. 13. Missourians, your tax dollars are going to pay for these trains, so we're showing you the discounts.
Check back in January for more great 2008 Amtrak discounts.
Do you think there's something about a train that's magic? Tell us on our Message Boards today.