Amtrak Train Travel Wishlist From Chicago

I had the interesting experience of traveling via Amtrak to Seattle from Chicago on the Empire Builder last June, and since then I can’t stop thinking about where else it could take me.

I have to be honest, when I finished my total roundtrip Amtrak journey I had a major love/hate relationship with train travel. After all, in two weeks I had spent 96 hours on the train. Do anything for 96 hours (in 48 hour straight intervals) and you may start to question your choices too.

But, now, several months later, I am looking back and appreciating that train trip for the views, interesting people we got to meet and talk to and the land we covered in just a few short days. We got to see parts of America that is rarely accessed and watch the sunsets and sunrises over some of the most beautiful places.

So, lately I’ve been thinking where else the train could take me. Besides the terrible discomfort of sleeping in the coach seats for two nights, I really enjoyed myself and think I could easily do it again (my boyfriend probably would not).

If you want to see some tips and tricks I have for riding the Empire Builder, check out this older post of mine. 

Here are some trips I would love to take via Amtrak:

  1. Chicago to Denver – California Zephyr

    Roundtrip Coach Price for Two in June 2018: $488 ($244 each).

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This trip takes 18 hours and 40 minutes from Chicago, IL to Denver, CO. Most of the trip takes you through Iowa and Nebraska, so I am not sure exactly how exciting it would be, but it’s definitely one I would love to try since the travel time is drastically shorter than that to Seattle.

It would be great to do this Amtrak trip as a multi-stop where you can get off and hop back on to head toward Utah, Nevada and finally California. But, if you’re looking for a shorter trip, Denver would probably be the ideal spot to stop.

If you want to find some great places to eat while visiting Denver, check out this list by Eater. Honestly, it’s all about the food and the views.

Cute Airbnb’s I would love in Denver:

The City Experience  

Modern Feel

Bungalow

2. Chicago to Boston – Lake Shore Limited

Roundtrip Coach Price for Two in June 2018: $364 ($182 each)

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This trip takes 21 hours and 48 minutes sweeping you past the Great Lakes, New York State and Massachusetts until the final destination in Boston. I followed a similar route when traveling to Maine and when you get into New York state the views are beautiful.

I would love to do this trip to check out Boston and all of its amazing history and culture. Plus, I mean, those accents.. who can resist them?

Yet another list by Eater to give you some of the best places to eat in Boston.

Cute Airbnb’s I would love in Boston:

Bright in Boston

Bohemian Bricks

Clean, Sleek, Modern

3. Chicago to Austin, TX – Texas Eagle

Roundtrip Coach Price for Two in June 2018: $448 ($224 each)

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This trip will take you 28 hours and 21 minutes. Not a short one, but it’s basically a straight trip down south, so you will get to experience the change in scenery as you go. This is a route that will take you all the way into Los Angeles, if you want to torture yourself through two days of travel, but otherwise is a great option to hit all the big Texas cities.

Austin is a city known for it’s food, so be sure to check out a lot of it if you decide to travel there. Here is, you guessed it, another article by Eater of Austin’s best spots to eat.

Cute Airbnb’s I would love in Austin:

Quirky Airstream Home

Tiny Home Dream

Modern Living Guesthouse


These are just a few trips I would love to take from Chicago using the Amtrak. I realize that this method of travel is not for everyone, but I think it’s something to try out at least once.

Where would you like the train to take you? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

Emily


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Planning A Trip on a College Budget: Tips + Tricks!

Expanding your horizons past your hometown or college campus may seem impossible right now, but, with the right amount of planning ahead, it could be more doable than you think.

First.. here’s a story:

I have a ridiculous ‘need’ to travel (more of a want, but in my heart it’s a need). My entire life i’ve gotten such a thrill out of trips, and even planning trips. I think it’s so important to immerse yourself in other cultures and see as much as you can in your life.

So far, I think I’m doing an okay job. I know I’ve seen more then some people have seen in their entire lives (which makes me incredibly sad).

I have a few trips stored away until I’m done with college: Europe, Asia and various islands. I don’t even want to think about planning those trips until I have the money to see what I want to see and do what I want to do FULLY. I’m not going to fly 13 hours to half-ass it.

But, while I was thinking up all these foreign trips, I realized that there was so much I still haven’t seen in my own country.. THE USA. Despite all the racist, homophobic and politically effed-up stuff happening in America in the moment, it’s a gorgeous country.. and I’ve only seen a very small chunk of it.

My boyfriend and I have decided to travel at the end of May, when school is out, and to make it achievable in terms of budget and planning.

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We are planning a road trip from Chicago –> Toronto –> Niagra Falls –> Upstate New York  –> Bar Harbor, Maine –> Portland, Maine –> Boston –> New York City –> Washington D.C.

That’s 8 locations in around 12-14 days. We at first thought this was insane and impossible to do with the amount of money we have..

Here’s how we planned and made it doable..


Tips + Tricks for Planning a Trip on a College Budget:

*Disclaimer: No trip is ever going to be THAT cheap. You have to spend a little money to have a nice time, this is just how to keep your costs down.

  • Be Realistic: Before even starting to plan, know how much money you can put toward the trip (all people involved). Save that money! If you have to, open a savings account at your bank. If you trust yourself, throw the money in jar and put it in your closet. Another thing you need to be realistic about, if you can’t afford a trip to the outback of Australia (unless you’re in Australia), don’t even make it an option. Don’t choose places that are unachievable; you’ll get there one day!
  • Planes, Trains or Automobiles: Transportation is one of the biggest parts about planning a trip.. I mean you do have to GET THERE after all..

 If you are planning to go to one central location, I would 100% recommend taking a plane; it’s mostly painless and gets you where you wanna go quickly. For airfare, I suggest checking TONS of sites and playing around with dates as much as you can to find the BEST deal (www.cheapoair.com has some good deals).

If you want to go to several locations, as long as they’re in your country, a road trip may be the best option. There are some real downsides to this option, unfortunately. If you are under the age of 25, renting a car is possible.. but ridiculously expensive. If you take that price plus the price of all the gas you’re going to use, it’s not a smart option. If you have a car or someone has a car you can use, use it. Be sure to plan for the gas you will use the whole trip. There is an awesome site for people planning a road trip.. roadtrippers.com allows you to completely map out your trip (and includes attractions and places to see along the way) and calculates your gas expenses depending on where you want to stop. I’ve been using it and it’s awesome.

– The train is also a perfectly good option. Amtrak hits a ton of major cities all over the  country. This is great if you have a fear of flying, and even if you don’t you can sometimes find better deals on train tickets versus plane tickets. Of course, there are some bad things about this option. It will take you WAAAAY longer to get where you’re going. Usually, the prices aren’t that much better than flying.. especially if you find a great flight.

  • Lodging: Hotels can be crazy expensive; I’m talking upwards of $200 a night in major cities. If you are on a college budget, this is a big no-no! But, that doesn’t mean you have no options of places to stay:

– AirBNB: I cannot hype up AirBNB enough. It’s an online site, and app, that allows you to book either a whole home or private room in people’s private residences (sounds creepy, but it’s a big thing now). You can find some insanely great prices. I, for example, found places for around $30 a night for my trip. Some of the places do require a minimum night stay (usually 2 nights, if they do).. which could be a problem for some people. Most of these places are really, really nice too! Check out their website: www.airbnb.com

– Hostels: I’m not totally sure about the quality or safety of these places, cause some of them can be kind of grimey, but, if you need a cheap place to stay these will definitely do.

– Camping: Nothing wrong with roughing it. If your location makes camping doable, go for it! There are tons of campsites that only charge like $20 a night (so cheap).

  • Other Costs: 

– Food isn’t free: There are cheap ways to do it. Eat in your hotel, bring snacks, find a place with free breakfast to stay at, but at the end of the day.. you’re going to have to eat. Food is a big part of some cities, so make sure to try it all out. Think out how much you want to allow yourself each day for food (realistically) and then add up the meals per day and how many days you’re there.

– Things to do: If you are a great tourist, like me, you probably want to do some interesting things the town/city has to offer. Allow yourself some extra cash for some stuff to do. You don’t have to go crazy, but some fun is needed.


Planning a trip can be tedious and hard, but if you give yourself enough time, anything is possible.

Start now!

-Emily