Since my article Low Vision Train Trekking, I’ve logged a lot of Amtrak miles and have some new tips to share. First of all, you can now purchase e-tickets online, print them out and jump right onto the train. This way you avoid standing in line at the ticket booth or stopping at the Quik-Trak kiosk when you’re running late. Amtrak also sends you a receipt via email, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of those ticket stubs at the end of a trip. Less paper equals less to lose! The important information on the e-ticket, such as train number and departure time, is displayed in large enough font that even I can read it if I strain a little bit. For comfort, I still rewrite it using a black sharpie.
And the disability discount (15%) is now available for online ticket purchases. I use my new-found extra time packing for the trip instead of (im)patiently waiting on hold for the first available agent, with my credit card ready underneath my CCTV. If you’ve got another adult passenger traveling with you, they get the benefit of the disability discount as well. It’s nice that our traveling partners can save a little bit on the train ticket – a bonus for driving us to that train station and helping us navigate those tricky steps.
When I first navigated Penn Station in New York City this spring, my favorite traveling partner/daughter had to calm me down when I couldn’t figure out what you’re supposed to do to simply get on the right train. Too many signs, lights, and people scurrying by left me overwhelmed. Knowing I had many summer trips coming up through this very station, I walked around to familiarize myself with the sequence of track numbers. Now that I understand the system, I’m an old pro. Knowing where the bathrooms are located is handy, as well as how to get outside for a breath of “fresh” air and satisfy my big city people watching fix.
Amtrak has a Red Cap service for assisting those with special needs. They can walk you right down onto the train. I used this until I was comfortable with going it alone. Now I just go to their desk near the waiting area and ask for my train’s track number since I can’t read the big sign. This has come in handy when I had quick connections and knowing how to get to the right train by myself was quicker than waiting for the Red Cap service if they were busy.
As there is an app for everything, Amtrak has an app that allows me to check the train status from my iPhone. It’s nice to know ahead of time if I’ll be able to make a connection. I haven’t missed one yet on my many trips through Penn station to get to my clinical trial appointments in Philadelphia. There’s nothing like a train ride to reflect and think ahead, for life doesn’t stand still while you’re snacking on train food. Do you know Americans drink way too much coffee? Just a traveling observation I thought I’d pass on.