9 common mistakes Amtrak riders make, according to travel experts

A crowded dining car on an amtrak train
You may be making mistakes on Amtrak. Shutterstock
  • Travel experts say Amtrak riders could be making some simple mistakes.
  • There are credit cards that should be used for bookings, and riders should consider scenic routes.
  • Some passengers aren’t bringing snacks and drinks.
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Some people book Amtrak rides with the wrong credit cards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve card sticking out of a waller
Use certain credit cards when booking. David Slotnick/Business Insider
Martin Soto, a blogger who runs Travel Explorator and frequently takes Amtrak trains in the Midwest, said people should only be booking travel with specific travel cards

“If you buy a ticket with a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (my favorite), you automatically qualify for travel insurance,” he said. “So if your train gets postponed or canceled for certain reasons, you can qualify.”

Some people never consider purchasing a room for overnight rides or long-distance travel.
A room aboard the amtrak train with two seats facing each other
The Amtrak room. Frank Olito/Insider
A roomette on an Amtrak train has two beds, a private toilet, and can cost up to $US1,000 ($AU1,362). If you can afford it, Tracy Schatz, the president of Elite Travel Journeys, said this should be your go-to instead of a coach seat, especially for long-distance travel.

“My advice would be to avoid the mistake of thinking you are going to sleep well while sitting in a regular seat on an overnight train,” Schatz said.

Some customers book long-distance trains without considering taking a scenic route.
Views of the landscape from an amtrak viewliner
The scenic routes are always the better option. Shutterstock
“If you’re traveling a long distance and don’t have a strict travel schedule, another big mistake you can make is not getting a ticket on an Amtrak scenic route,” Soto said. “These specific trains go through various states and pass through beautiful outdoor landscapes. It’s worth looking into whether any of these passes through your destination.”
Customers sometimes book trains that arrive at stations that are closed, which can hinder further travel.
The ticket counter at an amtrak station
Make sure the station is open when you arrive. Shutterstock
Arriving at a train station that is open is very different than arriving at one that is closed. There won’t be any food options or any Amtrak professionals to ask for help or guidance.

“I talked to one person who took an Amtrak Vacation and part of their package had them dropped off at the train station at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Schatz said. “Unfortunately, that train station didn’t open until 10 that evening and this gentleman had no transportation option to get him anywhere else.”

People don’t consider checking their bags.
A bag in front of an amtrak train
Consider checking your bags. Shutterstock
When traveling by train, it can get difficult lugging your suitcases through stations, platforms, and train cars, especially when you have too many. Soto recommends checking your bags because the first two suitcases are free and the next two are $US20 ($AU27) each.

“Depending on your ticket, you might not always have a lot of space in your area, so sometimes it’s worth checking the bags in and then just picking them up after,” Soto said.

Some passengers don’t think about where they’re going to sit before they board.
A man walking down the aisle of a crowded amtrak car
Choose your seats early. Mark Makela/Getty Images
Some people enjoy the quiet car on Amtrak trains, while others like the scenic car where the windows are larger. Soto recommends making that decision early because if you decide to move mid-trip to the desired car, there most likely will not be any seats. 
Some people mistakenly believe they’re not allowed to bring snacks and drinks on an Amtrak train.
My meal on an amtrak train
Bring snacks. Frank Olito/Insider
While some people think you can only eat food that is for sale in the dining car or snack car, Soto said that isn’t true. He recommends that people bring snacks and drinks on their train rides. 

“The food on the train certainly isn’t cheap, so it might be worth bringing small snacks to eat to keep hunger at bay,” he said.

Some people think choosing a train over a plane would mean no delays.
The exterior of an Amtrak long-distance train on the tracks
There can still be delays. Shutterstock
Delays do happen on Amtrak, and they can be just as painful as an airport delay. Some parts of the country are known for Amtrak delays, like Michigan where trains are late in the state 75% of the time

“People should take into consideration that you might not always get to your destination on time,” Soto said. “If you’re running on a very tight schedule, it might be best to plan your own method of transportation where you’re in control of how early you can leave to avoid any possible circumstances.”

When booking and bringing a pet aboard an Amtrak train, people don’t always read the fine print.
A dog sitting in a backpack on a woman's back
Read the pet policy carefully. Shutterstock
Although it’s easier to travel with a pet on Amtrak than a plane, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier. Candy Pilar Godoy, who runs the pet travel blog Boogie the Pug and rides Amtrak frequently, said people don’t read the pet policy carefully enough.

“Amtrak is pet-friendly, but only on certain routes, and there are plenty of rules to follow,” Pilar Godoy said.

For instance, pets must be under 20 pounds (9kg) and are only allowed on trips under seven hours.