Until recently, I’d taken Amtrak twice in my life and hated it immensely. What was the point of taking a train when I could drive twice as fast and not have to make a million pitstops between Point A and Point B? The tickets were always expensive and the woman at the tiny station in Winona, MN was not helpful either time I tried to purchase my fare.
However, I’m a girl on a budget, and Amtrak was half the cost of flying to Montreal. Sure, travel time nearly tripled, but strangely enough the 10 (nearly 11) hour train ride sounded oddly… dare I say it? Pleasant? I suckered Aja into coming with me, figuring if we could road trip it down to Florida from D.C. and not kill each other, a train ride would be a piece of cake.
As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm.
For $147 roundtrip, you can take the train from New York City to Montreal — an absolute bargain. Those headed to Canada are placed in cars with ample leg room, which you’ll need for the lengthy trip. However, you’re free to get up and walk around, and there’s a dining car that sells snacks should you feel so inclined. (Word to the wise, load up before you even get on the train. Your apartment, or even Penn Station, will have better options.) On some trips (alas, ours was not one of them) even have an observation car with massive windows that allow you a better look at the passing scenery.
And if you’re looking for scenery, you’ll get your fill on this route. The 69 Adirondack (68 on the return trip) is actually one of the 10 most scenic train routes in the world, and having experienced it, I’m not surprised. With sweeping views of the Hudson Valley and Lake Champlain, there’s more than enough eye candy to go around.
Amtrak is not for the faint of heart. Don’t take the train if you don’t have 11 hours to kill. If you’re willing to factor in a day of stress-free travel on either end of your trip, this is a great option. Personally, I had a lovely time. The wi-fi is fussy, so I eventually just gave up and pulled out a book. Do you know how nice it is to be able to read uninterrupted for hours? For fun? It’s magical, let me tell you. I watched a movie I’d had in my queue, and took advantage of my recently acquired Spotify Premium account. I had plenty of time to just sit back, relax, and clear my head. And isn’t that what vacation’s all about?
Some general tips:
– As I mentioned, it’s best to bring your own snacks on board with you.
– Pee as early on in the trip as possible. The bathrooms can get really nasty the longer you wait.
– Along those lines, make sure to lock the bathroom door. I saw at least five people get walked in on because they didn’t latch the door properly.
– Also, make sure you wear shoes in there. I saw a few brave souls who went in barefoot and I’m afraid they’ve now developed some kind of disease.
– When queuing up in New York, there are two lines. Make sure you are in the one for those whose final destination is Montreal. You’ll be put in cars with more leg room and wider seats.
– There is only one line in Canada, so be sure to get to the station early if you want those bigger seats.
– It’s pretty likely that the wi-fi on board won’t work. Make sure to bring something to keep you busy for 11 hours. Books and movies are great ways to kill time. I passed through a car where a group of friends was playing a boisterous game of Cards Against Humanity. Get creative.
– Keep your ticket readily available when the train stops at the US/Canadian border. There was an incident on the way into Canada that required us pulling our passports out multiple times. Best to always have it handy.
– Have a pen on you for filling out those customs forms.