Last year, my wife and I took Amtrak to Chicago using points and miles. Our hometown is on one of Amtrak's special routes, which used to allow for 1,000 point one-way redemptions to Chicago -- an incredible deal. Since then, the redemption rate has gone up to 1,500 points, still an incredible deal.
I really wanted to try something a bit different this year, and started to explore MegaBus. MegaBus directly competes with Amtrak in my city. They even leave directly from the same corner as the Amtrak station, and arrive at Chicago's Union Station. The trip takes an hour less than Amtrak, and they leave at more convenient times. Their fares come in at about half of what Amtrak is charging. They were also running a promotion giving away free tickets for my route, but the free tickets were only available on weekdays, so they wouldn't do any good for our weekend trip.
|A revenue ticket? Oh, the shame!|
$170 later, I had two round-trip Amtrak tickets in hand. The tickets are cheaper than driving, but still more than I wanted to spend. Amtrak's tickets go up in price as fare buckets are sold out, and rarely go back down, so purchasing late didn't really help matters. By the way, there's a great site called AmSnag that will show the lowest fares over a series of dates -- it was painful!
This evening, I went back out to Amtrak's site just to check the current fares. To my surprise, the fare had actually dropped by $20, and the friendly Amtrak phone agent explained that a large group had probably canceled and the fare buckets had reset. She said in her 6 years working as a phone agent, she had only seen this happen one other time. Apparently it's my lucky day!
|CTA Pass for $9 on Groupon -- Excellent!|
So, that sums it up. Admittedly, the price of transportation this year is a bit high, but I'm well on my way to opening new transfer opportunities from Amtrak Guest Rewards. In this case, I feel the extra Amtrak spend is well worth it.