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Photo: Ian Dewar Photography (Shutterstock)

Spring has officially started, and if that makes you want to get out and explore, you’re not alone. But with gas prices continuing to soar, a road trip may not be the most cost-effective way of doing that right now.

But from now through Tuesday, March 29th, you can snag a USA Rail Pass from Amtrak—which gets you 30 days of train travel—for $399. Here’s what to know.

How Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass works

So what do you get for $399 (other than $100 off the usual price)? The USA Rail Pass is good for 10 train rides (officially known as “segments”) over a 30-day period, allowing you to travel between more than 500 Amtrak destinations. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Travel segments

First, any time you board and disembark a train (or Amtrak shuttle or bus), it counts as a “segment”—including connections. So, if you want to go from New York City to Springfield, Illinois, for example, you’ll have to switch trains in Chicago, making it a two-segment trip.

Expiration date

You have to use your USA Rail Pass within 120 days of purchasing it. This means that the latest you can embark on your railway journey is 90 days after you buy it. The pass’s 30-day period begins the day you take your first trip.

Ticketing

The USA Rail Pass is not, itself, a ticket. You can’t just hop on a train and flash the pass at the conductor: You have to have a ticket and reservation for each train you board. Not only that, but you’re also expected to confirm each leg of your trip (the train and the date) on the Amtrak website or app, or with an agent before you travel. While friends and family are permitted to travel together, each person must have their own USA Rail Pass and book separate reservations.

The rail pass only includes regular coach-class seats. If you want to treat yourself to an upgrade to business class or a sleeping car, you’ll have to pay for that separately. Another sneaky part: You’re only allowed to book Saver and Value fares with the rail pass—even if a segment only offers Flexible Fares.

Other restrictions

If you’re planning on traveling back-and-forth between two cities, keep in mind that’ll only work twice: The USA Rail Pass can only be used for two roundtrip journeys (four one-way trips) between the same two stations—along with all the intermediate destinations on the route.

There are also some restrictions on routes. The USA Rail Pass is not valid on the following Amtrak services:

  • Acela
  • Auto Train
  • Maple Leaf (Canadian stations only)
  • Thruway Bus Series 7000-7999

You can find the rest of the fine print here. 



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