Amtrak is America’s public rail system, formed decades ago to keep passenger train traffic alive across the United States. In 2013, Amtrak carried more than 31.6 million passengers, the 10th time in 11 years that the rail service has set a new record.

Although an increasingly popular way to travel, rail service is often overlooked as a mode of transportation by some. Its convenience is sometimes not appreciated even though passengers typically are transported from city center to city center, with no need to deal with far-flung airports or traffic-choked highways.

Here’s how to enjoy some savings when booking an Amtrak trip.

Book Ahead

The airlines want you to book in advance and the same goes for Amtrak. Especially if you want to obtain a lower fare.

A good rule of thumb with Amtrak is to book at least 14 days in advance. Book online or over the phone, choose the adult passenger type and be prepared to shave at least 25 percent off of your ticket price.

Kids Can Save You Money

Amtrak is a family-friendly rail service providing discounts for children. If your kids are aged 2 to 15, they’ll be charged half the cost of your lowest adult fare.

For children under 2 they will ride free. Compare your total ticket costs to flying or driving and you may find that the savings beat your other choices.

Bring Your Own Food

Just try bringing your own food the next time you fly. The TSA won’t allow a single morsel to accompany you. You’ll have to buy food in the terminal or onboard.

With Amtrak, you can bring your own food. It isn’t uncommon for people to bring a small cooler with them and eat at their seats or in the dining area. And, for families that want meals or snacks, a dining car is available with most regional or longer distance trains.

Obtain Additional Discounts

Another way to save on Amtrak is to sign up for the service’s guest reward program. By joining this free program, you earn points that can be applied to free travel later on. If you ride the rails a lot, you may also be bumped up to a higher tier, earning more points faster.
Students are also offered discounts of 15 percent for most routes, when they join Amtrak’s Student Advantage program. The cost is just $20 per year, what can be recouped as soon as you pay for your very first round-trip ticket.

Amtrak Savings

If you are a social media maven, then you may have discovered Amtrak on Facebook and on Twitter. If so, follow their updates as they regularly announce special deals on these two sites and also run contests for free tickets.

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