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With a rail network that covers most major US cities, train travel is an increasingly viable option during the pandemic for those who wish to avoid flying or multi-day road trips.
Long-distance rail journeys require a significant time commitment, but if schedules allow, Amtrak’s Roomette — a private two-person sleeper cabins with basic amenities — is an intriguing choice that allows for a reassuring degree of personal space. Roomettes are totally private from the rest of the train and come with seats, two bunks, and basic bathroom facilities. Unless you plan to spend a lot of time roaming the corridors, you’ll barely come into contact with anyone outside your group. And if traveling solo, know that Amtrak won’t sell space in your Roomette to random customers.
Additionally, medical experts agree that train travel is relatively safe, especially if you opt for private cabin accommodations and take the proper precautions. And with the airline industry still somewhat inconsistent in its cleaning practices, Amtrak stands out for promises of enhanced hygiene and safety protocols regarding COVID-19, and requiring passengers in coach and public spaces to wear a face mask at all times.
Of course, without a vaccine, there is no firm guarantee with regard to safety and travel. It’s crucial to follow guidelines from organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and practice safety measures including wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining social distance. Additionally, consider your own level of risk, individual state quarantine restrictions, and whether you’re traveling from or to a hotspot, so as not to increase the rate of infection.
With all that in mind, and given the fact that I always wanted to experience a long domestic train journey, I booked an Amtrak Viewliner Roomette on the Crescent Route when I needed to travel from New Orleans to New York. Sure, the travel time was around 30 hours, but I was still wary of full flights and didn’t want to worry about the stress of driving. Plus, I was excited by the prospect of sitting in my cabin and watching the world go by as I read, ate, and slept. After all, I had just been cooped up at home for five months.
The guaranteed social distance did come at a premium with a starting price of $478. Two people sharing a Roomette would find greater value splitting the cost at $239 per person, compared to $139 each for a one-way ticket on the same route. Roomettes also include meals and dedicated attendant service.
This form of travel might not appeal to people in a hurry, but if you like unrushed travel with time to sit back, read a good book and switch off for a while, it’s close to perfect. Split the cost with a partner or friend and you’ll find even stronger value.