Take me home, country road, to the place I beloooooong. If you’re someone who has ever vowed to do a cross-country road trip or used the #wanderlust hashtag in earnest, this is a trip for you. One of the biggest obstacles to travel is money, money, money — travel can be hella expensive, especially if you’re looking to cover long journeys, and for a lot of people, it’s just not within reach. Well, you can now travel across America by train on the cheap, thanks to travel blogger Derek Low. Low has found a way for you to cross 3,397 miles and see 11 states, without breaking the bank.
You can head literally from coast to coast — all the way from California to New York, for just $213, according to his blog. Though the price varies a little bit depending on when you're trying to travel and where you'd like to stop along the way, it can still be done on a budget. According to Low's website, the typical journey will be between $200 and $400, depending on your travel dates and what cities you’d like to visit. The trick is to separate your trip into two main chunks, the first running from San Francisco to Chicago and the second running from Chicago to New York. With really affordable fares available on both legs, you can soon be doing a massive trip on the cheap. The California Zephyr line will get you the first part of the journey, then you transfer to the Lake Shore Limited line to get all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sure enough, when I tried to see how much it would cost to do the journey in April, I found tickets for as low as $139 on the California Zephyr from San Francisco to Chicago and then $88 on the ticket from Chicago to New York, for a grand total of $227 with just a quick search. If you do the journey without stopping, it’s about four days of travel. As Low points out, you could also buy Amtrak’s 15-day rail pass for $429, which lets you split your trip by eight different train rides. That means you can get off at different stops along with way and really soak up that Americana. Lam did the journey stopping at places like Salt Lake City, Denver, and Chicago.
Not only is it an incredible journey that allows you to see a ton of the country, Low also argues that traveling by train give you a different view of America than flying or even driving. “Travel by train gives you a glimpse into the soul of America,” he writes on his blog. “The experience rewards you with far more stories and experiences and sights than you could ever witness alone in a car, eyes fixed on the road, or on a five-hour flight across the country. If you want to see tourist America, rent a Cadillac, get on Route 66 and stop off at few cutesy diners and motels. If you want to see the real America in all its spectacular, crazy, kooky glory, get the train.” I'm sold.
If you love to travel but don't want to break the bank — or you just love the idea of taking your time and really soaking it all in — then this train journey looks pretty epic. And for $213, you'll have enough in your pocket to stock up snacks — cross-country snacks, in fact.