7 Reasons Why Train Travel Is Better Than Flying On A Plane

I recently took my first Amtrak train to travel. Since I’ve lived in New York City for over a decade, this might strike readers as surprising. The Big Apple is an easy Amtrak train ride to dozens of great destinations, so I have no excuse for never hopping aboard — but in my defense, I spent the majority of my travel career exploring far-away places, like Maldives, Mexico and Europe. Now I love train travel, and I see 7 good benefits to hit the tracks over a flight.

I went with Amtrak for my first train travel journey. Amtrak serves over 500 destinations in 46 states with over 30 train routes through America and Canada. While some Amtrak journeys can take days and weeks, my New York City to Washington DC trip was on the shorter side — 3 hours — similar to a quick flight. If I had to choose between train travel and plane travel, I’d go with the former again and again.

New Skylight Penn Station

Before I reveal 7 reasons why I think Amtrak is better than flying, I should make it clear that I rode on Acela, an all-business class train. It’s more expensive than coach, but even I did take coach, it wouldn’t affect why I think Amtrak is better than taking a flight. The entire journey was seamless, and I found it much easier and better than flying.

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Also, traveling in business class doesn’t sway my reasoning for thinking train service is better because Acela Business Class doesn’t offer a huge difference in coach. Passengers save on travel time (30 minutes faster to DC than coach service), seats are a little bigger, and — well that’s it. Those are the perks.

Below, you’ll see why train travel in general could be better than flying. 

7 reasons why train travel is better than a flight

1. More space. 

Amtrak Acela quiet car

When I fly domestic, I book first class. One of the reasons why is because I travel with JetSetRuby, so it’s so more comfortable for me when I have additional space. Also, to be clear, I’m not rich by any means. I have a lot of airmiles saved that affords me to upgrade to first.

On a train, there’s a lot more elbow room in the seats, the central aisle is wider, the overhead bin has more room and there’s just more space in general than on a domestic flight. You notice it right away.

2. More sunlight/natural light — and amazing views.

Train travel has great views.

One of the best things about train travel is that the windows are larger. This may not be something you care about but consider this. On a flight, you’re at least 10,000 feet in the sky. For this reason, most flight crew will have the window shades closed because it’s just so bright. Sunlight is healthy, but it’s rare on a flight (the irony is crazy, since you’re in the sky).

On a train, you’re at sea level, so it’s OK to have natural sunlight on a train. In fact, the outdoors is celebrated since you’ll likely pass commanding landscape.

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It’s why the windows on trains are so large. Depending on where you are, the views are incredible. Even on a trip from NYC to Washington DC, where the views are not known to be majestic (versus going through mountains or rivers or lakes), you can still take in the countryside. 

However, on a flight, I do love the aerial views upon departure and landing. Nothing beats that, not even train travel — but of course, those views don’t last long. 

3. You save a lot more time by avoiding airports. 

Ticketed Waiting Area Penn Station

With air travel, you generally have to get to the airport an hour before your flight. That’s an hour lost. For train travel, you generally have to show up 20 to 30 minutes before departure. 

Also, train stations are usually located in convenient, central locations in a major city, whereas many airports will be located outside the city. So you save time (and money, if you’re taking an Uber).

4. You avoid all the hectic, stressful part of flying.

Standing room at Penn Station

From the moment your Uber pulls up to the crowded airport to the long check-in line at the counter, then the chaos of the security gate at TSA, air travel can be a pain. It can be stressful, especially when you’re waiting for your plane and the gate agent announces a delay. Worse is if your plane is on the tarmac, and the pilot announces a delay. 

None of this happens in train travel. Once you arrive at the train station, you look at the main board to see what track your train is on, then you board. Easy peasy. The boarding process doesn’t take half an hour, like a flight, and your train departs right on time.

Of course, trains are delayed too, some would say more than flight delays. But at least you’re not stuck on a tarmac for hours, or in a crowded airport. Train delays are also shorter than flight delays.

5. Train stations are f*cking beautiful!

Train stations are gorgeous. Since trains have been going around for nearly a century, train stations are historic with amazing architecture and design.

Union Station, Washington DC

6. You can face each other on a train.

You can sit with the whole family or friends if you go on a train journey. Many trains these days, like Amtrak Acela, offer four-top seats with a table where you can face fellow passengers.

You can sit with the whole family on Amtrak Acela.

7. Train travel is *cheaper* than air travel.

Train travel is cheaper than flying

Train travel is significantly cheaper than air travel. Sure, the farther the destination, the longer it will take, but for short journeys, like New York City to Boston or Washington DC, you’ll save hundreds of dollars. If your train travel plans unexpectedly change, here’s how to cancel an Amtrak ticket.

Those are 7 benefits of train travel. If you have any other reasons why you love train travel more than flying, let us know in the comments below.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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