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amtrak student discount

Ride the Rails on a Budget: How to Score an Amtrak Student Discount

Amtrak is America’s national passenger rail service, offering travel to over 500 destinations across the continental United States. As part of Amtrak’s commitment to providing affordable transportation, they offer a student discount program that provides significant savings for students ages 17–24 on many Amtrak routes.

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The Amtrak Student Discount allows eligible students to receive 15% off the lowest available rail fare on most trains. This can add up to huge savings for students traveling home for the holidays, going on spring break trips, or visiting friends across the country. With Amtrak’s far-reaching rail network, the student discount makes train travel affordable and accessible for millions of students every year.

Eligibility

The Amtrak student discount is available for college students enrolled in an accredited university, college, or high school. You must be between the ages of 17 and 24 to qualify for the student discount.

To get the discount, you’ll need to show valid student identification from your school. This can include a student ID card, transcript, class schedule, tuition bill, or enrollment verification letter. Your ID must be current and show the school name and your photo.

You don’t necessarily have to be traveling for educational purposes to use the student discount. As long as you meet the age and enrollment requirements, you can get discounted student rates for personal travel too.

Part-time students are also eligible, as long as they are actively enrolled in an accredited academic program. Online students can also qualify.

The student discount is valid for travel in coach class aboard most Amtrak trains. Certain blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

How to Get the Student Discount

To get the Amtrak student discount, you’ll need to provide proof that you are currently enrolled in school. There are a couple of different ways to obtain and show your student ID:

Apply Online

You can get an electronic student discount ID by registering through the Student Advantage program on Amtrak’s website. Follow the steps to create a profile and upload a copy of your current student schedule, transcript, or tuition bill. This will generate a digital student ID that you can save to your phone or print out.

At the Station

You can also get your student discount ID in person when you arrive at the Amtrak station. Bring your original student ID card, transcript, or class schedule to show the ticket agent when you go to purchase tickets. They will verify your documentation and issue you a paper student discount card on the spot.

In either case, you’ll need to show valid proof that you are enrolled as a student. Once issued, the student ID will be valid for a full year before needing renewal. Keep in mind that you’ll need to show your student ID card each time you purchase discounted tickets.

Amtrak fares

Discount Amount

Amtrak offers a 15% discount on the lowest available rail fare to students. This can result in significant savings, especially on longer trips.

For example, a one-way ticket from New York to Chicago normally costs around $100. With the 15% student discount, the fare would be reduced to $85.

On a more expensive route like New York to Los Angeles, which normally costs around $350, the 15% discount would lower the fare to around $300.

The student discount applies to the base rail fare only. Fees, accommodations, upgrades, or add-ons are not discounted. However, even just 15% off the basic ticket price can add up to major savings for student travelers.

Discount Restrictions

The Amtrak student discount comes with some restrictions that are important to be aware of before booking:

  • Blackout Dates – Certain busy travel periods are blacked out, and the student discount cannot be used. These include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Blackouts vary by route but generally fall during major holidays when demand is very high.

  • No Refunds – Student-discounted tickets are non-refundable. If you need to cancel your trip, the ticket value will be held as an e-voucher to apply to future travel instead. Make sure your travel plans are locked in before booking a student fare.

  • Limited Changes – Changes to student discounted tickets are allowed, but will incur a change fee. You can change the date or time of travel by paying a $15–20 fee per ticket, depending on the route. Upgrading to a different fare class is not allowed, though.

  • ID Required – You’ll need to show a valid student ID when traveling on a student-discounted ticket. This is required both during booking and upon checking in for each segment of the trip. Don’t forget your student ID!

  • Space is Limited – Only a certain number of seats are available per train at the student fare. It’s advised to book early once your travel plans are set for the best availability.

Understanding these restrictions is key to ensuring your student-discounted Amtrak travel goes smoothly! Allow some flexibility when possible, and book early for the best experience.

Booking Tips

To get the best fares and ensure you can travel at your preferred date and time, follow these booking tips:

  • Book early. Amtrak tickets tend to get more expensive closer to the travel date. Booking as far in advance as possible will increase your chance of getting a cheap fare.

  • Be flexible. If your schedule allows, look at traveling on less popular days/times. Midweek travel and early morning or late-night trains tend to have lower fares. Fridays, Sundays, and holidays are generally the busiest (and most expensive).

  • Avoid peak periods. If you’re planning a longer-distance trip, try to avoid peak summer vacation periods or busy holiday travel times around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s when possible. Prices are higher, and trains fill up faster during peak travel.

  • Use the Amtrak app. The app makes it easy to search for fares and set up fare alerts for your preferred travel dates and times. This way, you’ll be notified if discount seats open up.

  • Consider a rail pass. If you’re planning several trips in a short period of time, an Amtrak multi-ride rail pass may be cheaper than buying individual tickets. These allow for unlimited travel within a set period.

  • Be ready to book. When you find a discount fare option that works for your itinerary, book it right away before it’s gone! Amtrak flash sales and seat sales only last for a short window.

Booking early, being flexible on dates and times, and using tools like fare alerts will all help you secure the lowest fares on Amtrak.

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Most Popular Destinations for Student Travelers

College students take advantage of Amtrak’s student discount to explore destinations across the United States by train. Here are some of the most popular routes among student travelers:

  • Washington DC – New York/Boston: The Northeast Corridor is a top choice, with frequent Amtrak service between Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. Students can easily visit major cities on the East Coast and see historic sites, museums, sporting events, and more.

  • Chicago – Milwaukee/Madison: For Midwestern students, the Hiawatha line from Chicago to Milwaukee and Madison in Wisconsin offers an easy weekend trip or spring break getaway. Outdoor activities, music festivals, and college towns make this a popular train route.

  • California Zephyr: The California Zephyr runs from Chicago to San Francisco, offering incredible views as it crosses the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada. Students jump aboard to see places like Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno and the Bay Area.

  • Seattle/Portland – California: The Coast Starlight route connects major cities along the West Coast like Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland and LA. Students use it for scenic trips down the Pacific Coast.

  • Chicago – New Orleans: The City of New Orleans train takes students from Chicago south through Memphis to iconic New Orleans. It’s a classic route to experience jazz music, creole cuisine, and the Big Easy.

With stops at colleges across the country, Amtrak offers students an affordable way to travel and explore new destinations by rail.

Luggage Policies

Amtrak has generous baggage allowances for most routes. In general, each passenger can bring:

  • 2 personal items up to 25 lbs each
  • 2 carry-on bags up to 50 lbs each
  • 2 checked bags up to 50 lbs each

Some trains, like the Amtrak Auto Train, allow more baggage. Be sure to check your specific train’s baggage rules when booking.

Carry-on baggage must fit in overhead racks or under your seat. For checked bags, Amtrak offers baggage service at staffed stations. You can check bags up to 1 hour before departure and claim them at your destination station.

There are no extra fees for the first 2 checked bags on most routes. Additional bags may incur oversize or excess baggage fees of around $20–$25 per bag. Bicycles can be checked for $20.

Amtrak also offers Amtrak Express, a package shipping service for luggage and larger items. Rates start around $20 for the first 30 pounds and vary by route. Express items can be shipped to an Amtrak-staffed station for pickup.

To travel light, Amtrak allows 2 personal items per passenger onboard. Consider packing essentials in a small bag or backpack to use as a personal item. Checking non-essentials can also minimize luggage hassles during travel.

Onboard Amenities

Amtrak aims to make long train journeys as comfortable as possible by offering a variety of amenities and services onboard.

WiFi

Complimentary WiFi is available on most Amtrak trains. The AmtrakConnect network provides basic internet access suitable for email, web browsing, and light streaming. Upgrades to higher-speed WiFi are available for purchase in some cases. The quality and availability of WiFi do vary by route, so be sure to manage expectations.

Dining

Most long-distance trains have a dining car where hot meals are cooked onboard and available for purchase. Menu options usually include a mix of breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees along with snacks, desserts and beverages. Certain routes with higher demand require meal reservations. The dining car provides an opportunity to enjoy a meal while watching the scenery go by.

Lounge Access

On select routes, sleeping car passengers have access to a dedicated passenger lounge. Lounges offer large windows, comfortable seating, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, and sometimes small snacks or light refreshments. It’s a chance to relax in a quieter space than standard coaches.

The overall onboard experience can vary greatly depending on the type of train and route. But amenities like WiFi, dining, and lounge access aim to make even lengthy train trips more enjoyable.

Conclusion

Riding Amtrak can be an affordable option for students looking to travel by train in the United States. By taking advantage of the Student Discount, students can save 15% on the lowest available rail fare on most Amtrak trains.

To be eligible for the discount, travelers need to present a valid student ID from an accredited university, college, or high school at the time of purchase and onboard the train. The discount applies to adults aged 17-24, as well as mature students aged 25+ with valid student identification.

Some key things to remember are that the Student Discount cannot be combined with other discounts like senior fares or AAA. Tickets need to be purchased at least 3 days in advance for the discount to apply. Blackout dates around peak travel periods may also restrict the use of the discount on certain busy routes.

With some advance planning, students can take advantage of the discount to save money on train travel across much of Amtrak’s nationwide network. Going by train allows students to relax, study, or socialize with friends instead of focusing on driving or flying. With the Student Discount, train travel can be an affordable and enjoyable transportation option.

 

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Driven by wanderlust and a passion for tech, Sandra is the creative force behind Alertify. Love for exploration and discovery is what sparked the idea for Alertify, a product that likely combines Sandra’s technological expertise with the desire to simplify or enhance travel experiences in some way.