If you really want to see America up-close, from rugged seashores to snow-capped mountains, Amtrak makes it possible. Now you don’t have to pay expensive boarding fees. Amtrak recently revised their pet policy, so you can now bring your pet on the train. Here’s what you need to know to travel with your small dog or cat.
Amtrak Pet Policy: How to Bring Your Dog or Cat
There are just a few rules and restrictions with the Amtrak pet policy to bring your dog or cat on Amtrak. And yes, your pet can stay with you the entire time.
And here’s the best thing: Amtrak can take you and your small pet almost anywhere. There’s plenty of FRESH air, and some peace of mind knowing the coach car has been deep cleaned and sanitized. Even those brachycephalic pups (boxers, pugs, with short noses) can rest easily for a multi-state journey.
Unlike air travel, on Amtrak there’s no need to worry about your pet being cold or pressurization issues. You won’t have to lug a pet carrier miles across an airport’s terminal desert. And not to stress over these concerns as you rocket through the sky, is PRICELESS.
Amtrak Pet Policy Details
Even though it might sound simple enough to put your dog in an approved carrier and board the train with you, there still are rules to follow. They range from the length of the trip and making the reservation, to proper papers and your dog’s temperament.
Amtrak Pet Restrictions
Most important, only small pets no more than 20 pounds are permitted. This includes the weight of the pet carrier, too. So your pet needs to be less than 20 pounds.
If this works for you and Fido or Fifi, then here is a list of what you can and cannot do with your pet on Amtrak.
- Train travel duration can be no more than a total of seven travel hours. This includes same-day transfer time if you’ve booked multiple segment trains.
- Only one pet per human is permitted.
- Pets are allowed only in Coach Class. Only on weekends in Acela Business Class.
- Pets are not allowed in Amtrak Sleeper cars, non-Acela Business Class, any Business Class or First Class or in food service cars.
- Pets cannot be booked with multi-ride tickets like a rail pass, on travel on dedicated Thruway Connection Services or with an unaccompanied minor.
- New: Pets cannot travel into Canada aboard Adirondack, Maple Leaf and the west coast Amtrak Cascades into Canada.
- Pets are not allowed to travel with you on the Auto Train, Keystone Service, Pennsylvanian, California’s San Joaquins, Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner.
Dedicated Coach Cars for Pets
Amtrak routes with a designated Coach car for pets include Amtrak Cascades, Carl Sandburg, Illinois Zephyr, Illini, Lincoln Service, Saluki, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, Hiawatha and Missouri River Runner.
Amtrak Approved Pet Carriers
- You provide the pet carrier. It may be hard or soft sided but has to be leak-proof and well ventilated.
- Maximum combined weight of pet and the carrier is 20 pounds. Know the weight of the carrier before you buy it.
- Carrier size: At maximum, pet carrier size can be 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high.
- Your pet must be able to sit and lie down comfortably, without touching the sides of the carrier.
- The pet carrier is considered one piece of carry-on baggage.
Before You Board the Train
One feature that makes rail travel with your pet easy the Amtrak check-in process. You need to arrive at the station only 30-minutes prior to departure. If you have luggage to check, arrive about 45-minutes early.
It’s also a good idea to take your dog to a nearby designated area for one last pee-pee before boarding the train.
- You will need to read and sign the Pet Release and Indemnification Agreement for each travel segment.
- Check in at staffed stations no later than 30 minutes before departure for time to complete the pet release paperwork.
- If boarding at unstaffed stations, the conductor will confirm pet eligibility and provide you with the document to sign.
While on Board the Train with Your Pet
- Your pet should remain inside the carrier when in stations and onboard trains.
- Since your pet must remain with you at all times and you can’t leave them alone, either bring your own beverages and snacks or maybe someone will go to the café car or dining car for you.
- Your pet carrier must be placed under your seat and not under the seat in front of you. Aboard Amtrak Cascades trains you may set your pet carrier on the floor in front of the seat next to you.
- In the event of a service disruption, Amtrak will try to find, but doesn’t guarantee, a pet-friendly hotel, if necessary.
How to Make an Amtrak Reservation for You and Your Pet
Since Amtrak allows only five pets per train, not counting service animals, it’s important to book early. You may book your reservation over the phone (1-800-USA-RAIL) or at a staffed station. The next beta version of Amtrak’s site has removed the pet booking option.
The pet charge is only $26 and if you happen to have Amtrak points, it’ll use up only 800.
Amtrak Routes that Permit Pets
Five Reasons to “Pawsitively” Try Amtrak With Your Pet
- Safety! Your pet is with you the entire journey, no ESA paperwork necessary. No fears that your best friend is down below anxious and shivering in a plane.
- High ride-enjoyability factor. With peace of mind that Fido is with you, sit back, social distance, and enjoy a drink and a snack.
- Compare cost: Air travel with a pet runs about $150. Amtrak pet fee is $26. That’s 2-6. This is about what you’d pay for a veggie burger and a beer in Chicago. For the same price as a bean patty and a PBR you get to travel almost anywhere with your furry family member. Can’t beat that.
- Potty breaks! Small dogs may not always need miles to roam, but a small bladder is a small bladder. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy stretching their legs walking Fido at the station or chatting with their car attendant?
- Time to relax. Yes, rail travel takes longer. Where’s the rush?
How to Travel across America on Amtrak with your pet
Remember Amtrak’s seven-hour restriction for continuous travel with a pet? So, if you want to go from say, Chicago to Los Angeles, you’re not entirely out of luck. Even though the Amtrak pet policy only allows for a seven-hour maximum route, there is a workaround. Here’s how to do it.
It’s complicated so stay with me here. Board the California Zephyr in Chicago at 2pm. Ride for about 3.5 hours until you cross the Mississippi River at Burlington, Iowa at 5:25pm. You’ll spend the night at a nearby hotel. Be sure to request a late check out at the hotel because you’ll board another California Zephyr the next day at 5:25pm.
Ride for another 6.5 hours to Omaha, Nebraska at 10:55pm where you’ll overnight again. In Omaha, you would need two hotel nights so plan on exploring Omaha for a day.
Re-board the next California Zephyr at 10:55pm (day 3) and ride overnight until 5am when your train arrives into Ft. Morgan, Colorado. And so on. Wash, rinse, repeat. Yes, this sounds like a royal pain but if you want to travel cross-country on Amtrak with your small dog or cat, this is the only way to do it. You’d also need to book each segment separately. This means a new ticket for each step and several phone calls to Amtrak to do all of this.
While the Amtrak pet policy isn’t conducive for a cross-country train trip, the main intention of this program is really for shorter distances. So if you only have to spend one night in a hotel and take only one more train, that’s not bad at all.
Forget Flying and Bring Your Pet on Amtrak
Airlines have changed their rules for bringing your pet into the cabin. New rules ban Emotional Support Dogs in the cabins of almost all airlines. Rather than have to stow your four-legged family member in cargo, bring your pet on the train with you. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and you’ll both love the ride.
More related posts on Cruise Maven
- Complete Guide to Plan Your Amtrak Trip
- Aboard Amtrak California Zephyr Across America
- How to Take Amtrak to Your Cruise Port