Whether you want to book one of several cross-country trips on Amtrak trains or simply a short ride on the train from Orlando, Florida to Charleston, North Carolina, the process to buy an Amtrak train ticket is easy.
Generally, there are three different ways to purchase your ticket. This article covers all three ticketing options plus some insider tips I’ve learned over the years.
How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket
There are basically three ways to reserve and buy an Amtrak ticket. It all depends on your comfort level and patience. For me, I do a combination of the first two ways. Then I’m fairly knowledgeable and know what I should ask and confirm with the Amtrak reservation agent, by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.
Buy an Amtrak Ticket Online
Probably the easiest way is to buy your Amtrak ticket online, especially if you know exactly where your intended train stations are located.
Go to Amtrak.com. Then type in the two cities that you want to travel from and to, the date of travel and then press Find Trains.
What appears next is a list of several train schedules (routes) to choose, that will get you to your destination as quickly as possible. From here, you can then select the type of coach seat and ticket fare you’d like or choose a sleeping accommodation.
INSIDER TIP: Before you click Find Trains, click on the arrow below Traveler – Adult. Here you’ll find several discounted fares offered: Senior, Passenger with Disability, Companion (to assist), Rail Passengers Association, Military (Active) and Military (Veteran). Be sure to get any discount to which you are entitled.
There is also a space on the lower left corner of the booking box where you can enter a discount or promo code.
After you buy your Amtrak ticket online, you will receive an email containing your e-ticket. This will have a bar code on it. Save the email.
The person at the train station will scan the bar code when you check in. Once you board the train, the conductor will also ask to see the email with your e-ticket.
You can either print the ticket or save it on your phone and the conductor will scan it from the email.
Buy an Amtrak Ticket Over the Phone
This is my preferred way to buy my Amtrak tickets. Why? Because I usually have a couple of questions to ask the agent, plus I want to choose my sleeping compartment.
To book your train over the phone, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or 1-800-872-7245. Here’s where it gets fun..at least for me.
When the automated voice of “Julie” answers, you should reply, “Agent.” That’s it. Nothing else. The voice will ask two more questions. Only reply, “Agent” to each question. Nothing more.
There’s rarely any hold-time, so within a few seconds or maybe a minute, you’ll have a real, live person to help you plan your trip.
And if you happen to get what I like to call an “old timer” (that’s what long-time reservation agents call themselves, too) he or she will know all the ins and outs of booking an Amtrak trip.
Phone lines are open 24 hours, seven days a week and holidays, too.
Buy Your Ticket with Amtrak Guest Reward Points
First, you have to join Amtrak Guest Rewards points program. Either “earn” points from Amtrak trips, through Amtrak’s Guest Rewards shopping links or buy points when there’s a good bonus points reward program in progress.
If you look at this same photo above, you’ll see the option to select book with points. It’s right next to Find Trains.
Enter all the usual travel parameters and instead of the button for Dollars, tick the Points button. The next screen will tell you how many points you need for that route.
You can add sleeping accommodations, too.
Then you can compare and decide which to use; points or dollars. It’s also possible to purchase additional points online and then apply them to your new reservation.
Call the Amtrak Guest Rewards desk (or ask to be transferred if you call general reservations). Someone there can walk you through your purchase and new train reservation.
What you can’t do is buy an Amtrak ticket online using points if it’s more than one route. For example, Orlando to Washington to Chicago is two routes.
To use Amtrak Guest Reward Points, you’d have to buy each segment separately.
If this is too daunting, call Amtrak Guest Rewards at 1-800-307-5000 and speak with a real person who can then combine two routes to buy with points.
READ MORE: Across America aboard Amtrak California Zephyr
Book with Amtrak Vacations
The third way, and one I haven’t tried but know the company, is Amtrak Vacations. This is an independent travel agency that has a contract with the government to sell Amtrak.
Different from a “regular” travel agency, they only sell Amtrak and are truly experts in putting together package train deals.
If you have a complicated reservation with lots of stops along the way, it might help to contact them or at least to get their price.
READ NEXT: Guide to Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations
BONUS! Tips and Tricks to Book an Amtrak Ticket
I’ve been riding Amtrak since before it was Amtrak (1971). Along the way, I’ve gotten a little smarter and hope these train booking tips are helpful.
- Let’s say you decide to phone Amtrak to make your reservation. If for some reason you don’t feel confident in the person who answers, you can either: ask for a supervisor or politely hang up and call back. It’s worth it. This only happens when a new person is not properly trained for reservations.
- If you’re taking the train on particularly scenic routes and you have a sleeping compartment, ask the train reservation person to tell you your accommodation location. For example, on the California Zephyr going west from Chicago, you want your sleeping compartment on the side of the Colorado River, so be on the left side going westbound.
- If you are in coach and for example traveling north or south on the Coast Starlight or Amtrak Cascades from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR, ask the station agent to reserve your seat on the water side.
- On the Superliner (double-decker) train, Deluxe Bedroom E is smaller than the others and getting into the bathroom is a little tricky. See the diagram below. Bedroom E is the one at the end of the car. Also, you can sometimes hear the door to the next car open and close.
- You may not want roomette 1 or 2 on the upstair on a Superliner. Those two rooms, though convenient to the coffee maker station and stairs, are right next to or across from the upstairs bathroom. It might be possible to hear people during the night using the facility.
Buying an Amtrak ticket doesn’t have to be complicated. While there are several options to buy the ticket, it’s a short learning curve until you’re a pro. Enjoy the journey!
Want more Amtrak travel inspiration? Check out these articles!
- Complete Guide to Plan Amtrak Train Trips
- Train Report: Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle
- Best Tips and Advice for Amtrak Sleeping Car Passengers
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you so much for your kind words. Congratulations on your and your wife’s retirement! I think your Rail Pass adventure sounds great. Two nights here and there in each direction.
Just in case you’re not familiar, after you have your Rail Pass, you still need to make a coach seat reservation. Also, as of June 2021, Amtrak isn’t allowing people with a Rail Pass to upgrade to a sleeping accommodation. Be sure to review all the Terms and Conditions, too, in case you need to cancel or change reservations.
I would highly recommend that you speak with an Amtrak reservations agent and discuss your plans. I’m pretty sure that you can only reserve your coach seat no more than 14 days in advance. I’ve often thought about traveling on a Rail Pass for a new, fun experience.
Of course I’m sure you will probably take the Silver Meteor that is scheduled to arrive into Savannah at 7:20PM-ish. That’s not a bad ride at all from Miami. The train station in Savannah is a good 15 minute taxi ride to hotels, if I remember. But for D.C. or NYC, there are hotels right across the street. The more I look at the details, the more I want to go, too!
Have a wonderful post-retirement getaway! And thank you again for reading my article and taking the time to write your comment. It’s much appreciated.
Jorge Bustamante says
Good morning Sherry,
Thanks for the great blog. My wife and I retired last year and we’re considering our first train trip. I saw that Amtrak has a USA Rail Pass good for 10 boardings used within 30 days. Do you have any thoughts on using the Rail Pass? We thought we would be fun to go from Miami to Savannah snd stay a day or two then to DC or New York and do the same, then on to Vermont and so forth. One of the goals would be to do leaf watching. Any thoughts or ideas would be welcome.
Thanks again for the great work. Jorge
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you so much for your kind words! I’ll try to answer your questions as best as possible. First, there used to be a site that if you plugged in a date range, it would scrape rates from Amtrak’s site and list up to a month’s worth of fares. Not discount or anything, but at least you could choose your travel date based on the lowest fare. The site, Amsnag, has disappeared during the pandemic. You are so right about the sudden fare increase for May 2022. However, (and I know you want a bedroom but just for reference…) on the second Tuesday of May, a roomette is only $563 compared to April’s mid-week $803. But despite what some people say, Amtrak says on their site that rates are subject to high and low season rates. I guess high season in 2022 kicks in on May 1. But keep checking and maybe you’ll catch the lowest bucket rate of the three pricing tiers.
Thank you again for reading my articles and taking the time to write. It’s much appreciated.
Hello Sherry — Your website is excellent; thank you very much for all the detailed info and tips. We are contemplating a trip next Summer on the Zephyr, Chicago to Emeryville. Two questions, and apologies if you have already addressed them elsewhere — First, is there any way to do a “flexible date” search on Amtrak fares? The day-by-day process on amtrak.com can be tedious. Secondly, I have been searching out at the very end of the reservation calendar, which now goes out to May of 2022. There appears to be a very steep price increase on Bedroom fares between April and May. April runs $1200–$1500 (2 pax), but as of May 1 they increase to $2400– $2600, regardless of day-of-week and percent already reserved. Is this kind of sharp seasonal price increase typical? Do you think prices will come back down when the calendar opens up into Sept or Oct of 2022? Thanks again. Mark
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you for your question. For your trip to Connecticut from Orlando, there are two trains; Silver Meteor and Silver Star. Both go into New York Penn Station. From there, you will have to connect to another train to Hartford, not Stanford. However, due to coronavirus, some trains are operating on a limited schedule. That said, you can have a private sleeper on both Florida trains, First Class. There is one bedroom on each sleeping car that can accommodate a wheelchair. Each train also has a lift available from the platform to onboard the train.
With your private bedroom, of course I would recommend bringing Clorox or Lysol wipes and wipe down all surfaces that you might touch. Yes, everything will be cleaned before you arrive, but for my own peace of mind, I always wipe everything anyway. You will also have your meals delivered to your bedroom.
My suggestion would be to phone Amtrak (1-800-USA-RAIL) and make your reservation over the phone. You should also add to your booking that you would like wheelchair assistance on the platform in Orlando, New York Penn upon arrival, and then for boarding to Hartford. I do not know about leaving the train in Hartford if there is a station attendant right now. But whomever you speak with at Amtrak will be able to help.
I don’t know the pricing as I’m not a ticket seller, but keep in mind that like most things, the price increases as availability decreases.
I hope you have a wonderful train ride, though a bit unusual due to the virus. Thank you again for your question and reading my article.
Helaina Zades says
I would like information about taking the train from Orlando Fl to either Stanford Ct or Hartford CT.
Is there a sleeping car?
Are there first class tickets? Price of tickets
My husband is recovering from a stroke. We have travel wheelchair. I need to get back home to CT.. We are worried about COVid.
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you so much for reading my articles! Much appreciated. I have not had a chance to try VIA Rail across Canada. But if I did, I would start Vancouver to Toronto and then change trains to go all the way to the Atlantic and Halifax. The train runs only three days a week and it’s even more expensive than Amtrak! It’s on my to-do list, though. If you decide to go, please drop me a line when you return. Happy travels!
cindy vanwormer says
I’ve read everything I can from your website. So helpful if I may say. I’m curious if you’ve traveled on Canadian Rail and if so what route and your thoughts. Thank you