Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hotel Reservations: Avoiding The Inconvenience of 21st Century Communication

     April 2011, I was attending an alumni gathering in Washington DC for my college alma mater.  I made my reservation at a Marriott hotel in Arlington, VA across the way from downtown Washington.  It was a trip I knew I was going to enjoy.  The event was being held at the National Press Club.  One of my classmates was hosting the event.  I was excited about seeing him for the first time after twelve long years.  I made my reservation directly through the hotel’s reservation agent.  I gave my credit card number, and I was given the reservation code.  I wrote it down, and then waited for the confirmation via email.  I was all set to go.  Lastly, I made my train reservation.  Washington was a “go”. 

    Before I knew it, my traveling day came.  In the morning, I took a commuter train from my home town to Newark Penn Station.  My train was right on time.  The train trip down was marvelous.  I arrived at Washington Union Station right on schedule.  I got off the train, and headed for the Metro subway station.  I went downstairs, bought my fare card, and boarded the subway.  A short time later, I arrived at the Crystal City station.  I was booked at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, directly upstairs.  I went upstairs to the counter.  There my worst nightmare began to unfold.  I told the agent at the counter my name and that I had one-night reservation.  I gave him my reservation number.  He said he didn’t have anything under my name, or in any of the other Marriott hotels in the area.  He then asked for my confirmation printout.  Unfortunately, my confirmation email never came through.  I had the confirmation number.  That’s all I needed, right?? The man thought I was joking.  He asked if I was sure that I was booked there.  He added that he had nothing saying that I was staying there.  The runaround started.

    The front desk agent brought me to the concierge desk.  He asked her if I could use her computer to look for the confirmation email.  I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked my email.  I even checked my junk mailbox.  I found nothing.  Next I was asked to go to the guest relations phone on the other side of the lobby to speak with a representative.  I was absolutely livid.  I told the guest relations representative the very same story.  I was booked for one night for $139.00.  She asked for every single bit of information...reservation number, Marriott rewards account number, anything to search under my name.  Same as the agent at the counter, she came up with nothing.  My afternoon was getting worse and worse even before it could get exciting. 

    I was past 3PM, and I was already furious.  I could just smell the icing on the cake.  I was once again transferred to a Marriott reservations agent.  I gave her my story, the same story I told the front desk agent and to the guest relations representative.  Just as before, same result, she came up with nothing.  The agent started confusing me with the convention that was being held at the hotel.  I can’t describe how upset I was at that moment.  No way was I turning around and heading back to the train station.  I paid $139.00 for one night, and there was nothing available?? I was charged $299.00 plus tax for a room at the Crystal City Marriott, just so they could give me someplace to stay.  I argued my case with the agent on the phone.  She said it was their “best rate.”.  YEAH, RIGHT!!

    Upset as ever, I left the Crystal Gateway Marriott lobby.  I headed back through the underground tunnel to the Crystal City Marriott.  When I approached the check-in counter, I was exceptionally upset.  The agent was asking why I looked so troubled.  I told her about the problem.  She said that they were going to give me 500 Marriott points for the unsatisfactory experience.  I wasn’t satisfied at all.  I took my room card and headed upstairs.  When I entered my room, I immediately called Marriott.  I was experiencing the worst guest service meltdown in all human memory.  All of my stays with Marriott were absolutely wonderful, until then.  The agent on the phone told me that the $139.00 was being refunded back to my credit card, but the $299.00 won’t be charged to my card until I checked out.  They said it would be refunded back to my credit card within ten days.  While in such a horrible mood, I got changed and headed back downstairs to the subway.  I attended my alumni gathering downtown, and had a good time.  While I was there, my classmate asked why I looked so ruffled in the feathers.  Like, I had to tell him?

    The next morning, it was time to wash up, pack up, and have breakfast downstairs.  After that, I went upstairs to grab my suitcase.  At check-out, I said how greatly disgusted I was over the nonsense I was put through.  There was absolutely no excuse for what happened.  No one gave me any information on why my reservation was lost in the abyss.  I headed back to the subway, on my way back to Union Station.  I still had some investigating to do.  While on the train, I called Marriott again to have another talk with them.  This time, I was told something totally different.  I was given a piece of information which the reservations agent at the Crystal Gateway Marriott never told me.  The lady asked if I made a reservation for April 2nd.  How in the world was that?  When I made my reservation, I told the hotel agent I was staying there on April 7th.  The agent told me that a reservation was made for April 2nd.  She said that I was a no-show.  Why didn’t the hotel call to find out why I had not arrived?  They had my phone number attached to the reservation.  Their inattentiveness was unacceptable. 

    The hotel made another mistake.  I was told that calling the hotel directly was for “same week” reservations.  The hotel agent with whom I booked my reservation never advised me of that.  I was completely misinformed, and booked for a night I was not staying there.  There was point-blank no common sense on the hotel’s part.  Without that email message which they claim they had sent me, an email which never came through, how was I supposed to know that there was a an error on their end?  Remember the part when I was told that within ten days the $299.00 charge was going to be refunded back to my credit card?  I called the credit card company and asked the representative to check on it.  I was told me that no such transaction had taken place.  Once again, Marriott took me for a ride.  I had never been taken advantage of at such a level.  Unfortunately, I had to get my money back via dispute paperwork.  Do you want to know how to deal with this situation in the future?  Here’s how I will be dealing with it.  I imperatively suggest that you do the same. 

    You have to protect yourself when booking a hotel room.  Even if you’re staying for just one night, you must protect yourself.  No one deserves to go through the craziness I dealt two years ago.  On Marriott’s web site, I filled out the comment page.  Two days later, the Crystal Gateway Marriott’s manager got in touch with me.  I spoke with him about my situation.  He gave me his email address and phone number.  He directed me to make my next reservation through him.  He said that he will personally supervise my reservation and assist me during my next stay.

    Here is the big hint you’ve been waiting for.  Even if the agent says that they’ll be emailing you the confirmation, ask them to send you the confirmation via regular mail also.  Take Disney for example.  Disney sends paper confirmation letters to its guests as a form of courtesy.  It is best to have back-up.  Email is great, but it doesn’t replace the vitality of having paper proof.  When you receive that letter in the mail, double-check it to make sure everything is correct.  The very second you notice a problem, immediately call hotel reservations to get the matter resolved.  It sure beats being at the mercy of your email.  I know we are in the 21st century, but 20th century communication still works best.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Like Father, Like Son: A Shared Train Adventure To Williamsburg

    Fathers and sons make the very best relationship in any family.  A father teaches his son how to play football, how to fix a car, and even how to build and run a model railroad.  Did you know that fathers and sons also share one other thing in common?  Fathers also enjoy the same things that their sons are into.  My dad and I have been into trains since I was an infant.  We’ve also been into amusement parks for a long time. In the April of 2008, I was having a hard time with my teaching job in Jersey City.  I was really struggling during that year.  To get me away from all of the stress, my dad and I agreed to go on a train trip, a trip which we still talk about to this very day.  That was the year we took the train to Williamsburg, VA, to visit Busch Gardens.

    Spring break had finally come.  The countdown finally hit “zero”.  Two weeks to traveling, I made the train reservations and bought the park tickets.  My dad made the hotel reservations.  I couldn’t have been happier to get out of the classroom for two days just to enjoy some fun time with my dad.  We took the train out of Newark Penn Station.  Since it was going to be a seven hour train ride down, I booked us in the business class car.  It was really awesome having the menu in the front pouch of our seats.  Even more interesting was that there was another family in the same car going to Busch Gardens.  When we pulled into Washington DC’s Union Station, we both watched the changing of the engine.  I had my digital camera in my hand, snapping away.  Watching them taking away the AEM-7 electric engine, and watching the powerful P-42 Genesis diesel couple up to our train was quite incredible.  I used to take pictures of the engine change in New Haven, CT when I used to travel to and from Kingston, RI.  Once the new crew was on board, we pulled out headed south to Virginia. 

    My dad remembers his days of taking the train to Washington DC, when he attended the University of Maryland in College Park.  Neither one of us have ever traveled by train south of Washington DC.  As we crossed over the Potomac River into Virginia, we had just three and a half more hours to go.  Speeding along the banks of the Potomac River, we passed a variety of freight trains, including the famous Tropicana juice train.  A northbound juice train passed us, and shortly later we stopped to let a southbound juice train pass on our left.  After pulling out of Alexandria, we continued on to Woodbridge, Quantico, and Fredericksburg.  Another three northbound freights passed us.  The trip couldn’t have been more exciting.

    With just an hour left in the trip, the train made a scheduled stop at Richmond’s Staple Mills station.  Just after leaving Staple Mills, we encountered an unexpected delay.  A CSX maintenance of way crew was doing track work, briefly holding us up.  During the wait, we bonded with everyone in our car.  It was fun talking to everyone and hearing about where they were headed.  We arrived in Williamsburg close to schedule.  Our hotel was less than ten minutes from the Williamsburg station.  It was seven o’clock, and we were still wide awake.  No train ride has ever tired us out.   

    The next morning, we took a short taxi cab ride to the Busch Gardens-Europe front gate.  What a day we had!  We tackled just about every single ride, including the roller coasters.  We rode on all five coasters; The Griffon, Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, The Big Bad Wolf, and the Loch Ness Monster.  In between rides we even took a ride on the park’s train.  Now, that was a beautiful ride!  It was such a fun ride, we rode on it twice. We capped off our visit to Busch Gardens-Europe with the 3D ride, Curse of DarKcastle.      

    When our day was over, we headed back to the hotel.  After having a light dinner in the hotel’s sports restaurant, we headed back to the room.  We were yawning like no tomorrow.  Our train ride back to Newark was the next morning.  In the morning, a taxi cab took us to the Williamsburg station.  Our train was right on time, and we made good time on our way back north.  When we arrived in Washington DC, we watched the yard crew change the engine.  We watched the P-42 Genesis diesel get uncoupled, and watched it pull away.  Minutes later, we watched the beautiful Bombardier HHP-8 electric engine couple up to our train.  We watched one the yard workers fasten the jumper cables connecting the engine to the train.  Before we knew it, we were back on board with a new crew.  We left Washington Union Station, continuing our trip back to Newark.  We made great time on the way home.  Fathers and sons sure know how to have a good time together.

    Going to Busch Gardens-Europe by train was one incredible idea I shared with my dad.  My dad coming along for that trip was an experience I will never forget.  For Father’s Day, you know what I’m getting him for a present?  That was one incredible trip we went on.  I cannot wait to take the train with my dad again.  He had a great time traveling with me, too.  I guess why they say “Like Father, Like Son.”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hitting The Road: Amtrak Is Your Key To A Home Run-Caliber Experience

    Are there any Mets and Yankees fans out there?  The 2014 season is just around the corner. Traveling to baseball stadiums outside the NY area is a fun and memorable experience. There's no better experience than mingling with the fans of the opposing team. As long as trash talk is avoided, it's all good. Seeing the Mets or Yankees against any of their arch-rivals, taking the train is the best way to get there in style. Here are some key pointers and directions in making that road game experience the utmost memorable.

    The Mets and Yankees play one hundred and sixty-two games during the regular season. For Mets and Yankees fans, the games that really matter are the storied rivalries which have defined seasons of years past.  The Mets have two east coast rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals. The “Nats” are determined to be this year's National League Champions, and possibly more! The Mets and Nationals have had some interesting match-ups in recent years. The Nationals play in Nationals Park.  Getting to Nationals Park from the NY area by train is very easy.  All that has to be done is take an Amtrak train to Washington’s Union Station. Fans should want to arrive at New York or Newark Penn Station at least half hour to forty minutes prior to their train’s departure.  The ride on Amtrak's Northeast Regional Service to Washington DC is three hours.  If taking the Acela Express, the ride is two hours and forty minutes.

    Amtrak's reservations can be any easier.  Simply, it is a "walk in the park".  Fans can easily go to, and book the trains of their choice.  Amtrak's Northeast Regional Service features Business and Coach class. Business class costs approximately thirty dollars each direction per passenger.  Also in Business Class, passengers are allowed one complimentary non-alcoholic beverage from the cafe car when they present their ticket.  Coach Class includes a quiet car.  If fans wish to travel in the quiet car, they must keep their voices down.  Further, cell phones must be set to "vibrate" or turned off.  Amtrak's Acela Express features First Class and Business Class.  First Class features a menu with hot items.  Fans can view their ticket options on, or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). 

  Obtaining train tickets on Amtrak is gotten even easier than before.  The newest ticketing service available is the e-ticket.  Fans can have their tickets emailed to them.  Once printed out, they are used both going and returning.  On the ticket printout, there is a QR code.  A crew member hand scans the QR code on the printout.  Fans can still pick up their tickets at the ticket window, from a Quick Trak kiosk, or via the mail.  Fans must book their trip more than ten days ahead of time for their tickets to be mailed.  If using the Quik Trak kiosk, fans must insert the credit card they used to purchase their tickets.  The credit card acts as the fan's proof of ID.  As said before, it is a "walk in the park".    
    Upon arrival at Union Station, it's a quick walk downstairs to the Metro subway. Union Station is on the Metro's red line.  Fans are to ride the red line to Gallery Place-Chinatown, where they will change trains to the green line.  Next, fans need to take a green line train toward Branch Avenue.  The Navy Yard Metro station is less than a quarter of a mile walk to Nationals Park.  Most important, fans must book their return train at a reasonable time after the game. It’s vital to have ample time to ride the Metro back to Union Station, including the transfer at Gallery Place-Chinatown.  There’s nothing better than escaping with a sweet victory.

    For the Mets, there's no bigger rivalry than the Philadelphia Phillies.  Taking the train to watch the Mets in Philadelphia is fairly simple.  Just as they were going to Washington DC, fans need to take Amtrak's Northeast Regional service or Acela Express to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The ride time to Philadelphia from New York is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.  The Acela Express covers the route in fifty minutes. After arriving at 30th Street Station, the SEPTA subway is located outside the station building. Once aboard the Market/Frankford Line, fans will take the SEPTA subway to 15th Street.  At 15th Street, it's a quick transfer to the Broad Street Line.  The Broad Street Line train takes fans south to Pattison. The sports and entertainment complex, including Citizens Bank Park, is within walking distance.  At the game’s conclusion, fans must give themselves ample time to return to 30th Street Station.  Further, they must make sure that they're booked on a train departing at a decent hour.  It's best to avoid rushing back from the stadium.  As always, it’s great to head home with a big win in the bag.

    The Yankees have two storied rivals of their own.  Their rivals are the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox.  Traveling from New York or New Jersey to Baltimore is very easy.  Yankees fans can travel to Baltimore’s Penn Station in style on board Amtrak's Acela Express or a Northeast Regional train.  The train ride is two and a half hours.  Upon arrival at Baltimore’s Penn Station, fans are to proceed upstairs to the MTA light rail train.  If missing the train at Penn Station, the other is to walk three blocks to Mount Royal Station. Mount Royal is on the main line. The light rail ride to Camden Yards is ten minutes.  As always, fans should book their return train at a decent hour, giving themselves enough time to return to Penn Station.  It’s always great to feel relaxed and refreshed before the journey home.  Even better, it sure feels great stealing a win from the home team.
    The second and last of the Yankees' rivals cannot be missed.  The Yankees and the Red Sox are the oldest rivalry in professional baseball.  Traveling to Boston is a fun trip.  Just like traveling to Washington, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, fans should always give themselves a reasonable amount of time to get to New York or Newark Penn Station.  If traveling on a Northeast Regional train, the trip to Boston South Station is approximately four hours and forty-five minutes.  The trip to Boston on the Acela Express four hours and ten minutes. The scenery on the trip up to Boston is absolutely spectacular. From seeing the New York skyline from the Hellgate Bridge, to the miles of shoreline in Connecticut, to the Massachusetts countryside, it is a ride not to be passed up. Upon arrival at Boston South Station, will then board a MBTA commuter train. The train ride to Yawkey is approximately ten minutes.  The Yawkey station is located on Brookline Avenue, within walking distance of Fenway Park.  Again, fans must be sure that are booked on a train at a decent time following the game. The more relaxed, the more they’ll be looking forward to their ride home from hostile territory. Stealing a win from the Red Sox on their home field always puts that feeling of victory deep inside. When bragging rights are on the line, taking the train is the right way to go home with them.

    Baseball has always been America’s past time. Riding the rails has been part of our culture for almost the same length of time. With the 2014 Major League Baseball season upon us, it’s always great to know what a tremendous convenience the train is.  It's even more of a convenience when fans want to get out of hostile territory without any trash talk exchanged. This coming season if Yankee and Mets fans want to attend games at their team's rivals’ ball parks, they can count on Amtrak.  The local mass transit systems in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Boston are available and at the ready to get fans to the games without the hassle. Taking the train makes every professional sports road trip worth the while. If someone asks what RBI stands for, they can just say “Railroad...Brilliant Idea”.

Setting Sail By Rail: Your Train And Ship Await!

    Have you ever driven or flown to your cruise vacation before?  The highways and airports are a mess.  Driving and flying are sometimes not ideal ways of traveling to your cruise departure port.  Cruises are supposed to be fun! From the many activities on board ship, to all the exciting shore excursions, it’s the perfect reason to get away from the stresses of home.  Do yourself a favor.  Don’t wait for the air fares to go down or to be asked to take your shoes off the security checkpoint.  It’s  not fair waiting for that slow poke in your lane to move over.  It’s train time! Let’s set sail!
    Having been a cruise line agent in the New York area for five and a half years, a cruiser for over ten years, and an avid train traveler for more than twenty-five years, I have ample traveling advice to share with you.  When going to any Amtrak station, be sure to arrive approximately half hour before your train’s departure time.  For long distance trains, arrive at the station approximately one hour before your train’s departure.  It’s important to allow yourself time to check in your luggage and locate your departure track.  When the train finally arrives, it’s time for your railroad and cruise adventure to begin.
    The first port on the list is New York City.  New York City has two cruise terminals; the Manhattan terminal, and the Brooklyn Red Hook Terminal.  If you’re traveling into New York City by train, getting to either terminal is very easy.  New York Penn Station is not far from the Manhattan terminal.  When you arrive at New York Penn Station, take the C or E subway north to 50th Street.  At 50th Street, walk four blocks west to the Manhattan cruise terminal.  Passengers can take the A subway south to Jay Street-Borough Hall, and take a short taxi ride to the Brooklyn cruise terminal.  It is a very modern looking building with a spacious interior.  If your cruise is departing from New York, make sure you give yourself enough time in between your arrival and boarding your ship.  New York City’s traffic can be unpredictable. 

    In New Jersey lies the beautiful port city of Bayonne.  Bayonne is home to the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal.  Getting to the Cape Liberty terminal by train is simple.  The station closest to Bayonne is Newark Penn Station.  When you arrive at Newark, it's a quick twenty minute cab ride to the port.  If you wish to use mass transit, take the PATH train east to Exchange Place, in the waterfront area of Jersey City.  New Jersey Transit Light Rail station is one hundred feet from the PATH station.  The light rail train will take you south to 34th Street in Bayonne.  It’s a three minute taxi ride to the cruise terminal.  The terminal is formerly a military ocean terminal.  Be sure to have your traveling documents in hand before entering the terminal building.
    The next terminal on the list is Baltimore’s cruise terminal.  Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela Express serve Baltimore on a daily basis.  Baltimore’s Penn Station is a fifteen minute cab ride to the cruise terminal.  The terminal is very modern looking.  Make sure that whichever train you take gets you to Baltimore with plenty of time to spare.  The earlier you arrive at the terminal, the more relaxing the check-in process will be. 
    Further south is Port Canaveral.  Port Canaveral is home to Disney Cruise Line.  It is also home to the Kennedy Space Center.  Amtrak’s Silver Star and Silver Meteor both serve the city of Orlando.  Be sure that you have transportation arrangements made to take you to the cruise terminal.  If you choose to rent a car, be sure to locate a rental car facility in the Orlando area.  All cruise terminals have parking facilities for passengers.  On disembarkation day, it’s best that you try to leave the ship early, to give yourself enough time for your ride back to the Orlando station.

    The two busiest cruise ports on the east coast are Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  These two ports handle millions of cruise passengers on a yearly basis.  Traveling to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami by train is extremely easy.  The Silver Star and Silver Meteor arrive late in the day.  Amtrak’s Fort Lauderdale station is a short ten minute ride from the Port Everglades cruise terminal area.  The Miami station is on the north side of town and fifteen minutes from the Port of Miami.  Whichever of the two cities you're sailing from, you want to stay overnight at a hotel nearest to the cruise terminal area.  Further, its best to rest up from your long journey.  The next morning, you’re all set to check in for your ship relaxed and refreshed. 

    The third Florida port served by Amtrak is Tampa.  Tampa is also served by the Silver Meteor and Silver Star.  The Tampa cruise terminal is approximately ten minutes from the Tampa Union Station.  Whether in Tampa, Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale, it’s recommended that you stay overnight near the cruise terminal.  On the morning of disembarkation, be sure to be registered for the express walk-off in order to meet up with your train on time. 

    Taking the train to your cruise is the way to enjoy any cruise vacation from the east coast.  Got your bags packed? Swimsuit, check! Sun tan lotion, check! Shades, check! Passports, don’t forget them! Engineer hat?? Yes, I’m serious!  Your cruise awaits you track-side!  Get off thet highway and off that airport security line.  It’s time to start enjoying cruising the way it was meant to be...railroad style.  All aboard and Bon Voyage!


Rails And Thrills: Amtrak Holds The Hot Ticket To Northeastern Amusement Parks

    Millions have been to Busch Gardens-Europe in Williamsburg, VA.  It’s the best amusement park anyone has ever visited.  Everyone loves Six Flags parks! Millions of people visited Six Flags parks, and they are a lot of fun.  There’s nothing more fun than heading to the amusement park for a day of thrills.  There is one idea every amusement park fan should consider.  There is no better way to travel to a family entertainment location than by train.  You don’t have to look far.  Amtrak has the ticket to enjoy them all.

    There are many family entertainment places on the east coast conveniently served by Amtrak.  There are three cities in the northeast which are well associated with thrills and family fun.  Springfield, MA is home to Six Flags New England/Hurricane Harbor.  Washington DC is home to Six Flags America/Hurricane Harbor.  Further south of Washington DC is the historic town of Williamsburg, VA.  Williamsburg is home to Busch Gardens-Europe, Water Country USA, and Colonial Williamsburg.  There is so much to choose from.  The fun is a phone call and an internet click away.

    The train ride to Springfield, Washington DC, and Williamsburg is very relaxing.  If amusement park fans want to get away from the stress of dealing with highway traffic, the train is key to all the fun.  Making a train reservation with Amtrak is very easy.  It's a quick call or a simple mouse click; 1-800-872-7245 or  Springfield and Williamsburg are served by Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service.  Washington DC is served by both Northeast Regional and Amtrak’s Acela Express.  The difference between the two services is simple.  Amtrak’s Acela Express features both business and first class.  The Northeast Regional trains feature coach class including a quiet car, and business class.  In the quiet car, passengers must keep their voices down and keep cell phones off or on vibrate.  In business class, every passenger is allowed one free non-alcoholic beverage with his/her business class ticket stub.  First class is bit more ritzy, with a variety of hot entrees on the menu.

    Once a reservation is made, the rest is extremely simple.  Here is a helpful tip.  Passengers should arrive at the station approximately half hour to forty-five minutes prior to their train’s departure.  Passengers should give themselves enough time in case they need to wait in line at the ticket window, in case it is a busy traveling day.  Whether the reservation is made on line or via phone, the tickets can be obtained at the ticket window. They can also be printed out via email.  The e-ticket is the newest service on board Amtrak's trains. A crew member scans the QR code on the ticket printout.  Also, tickets can also picked up at one of Amtrak’s Quik Trak machines.  They're available at all major stations.

     During the journey north to Springfield, or on the southbound journey to Washington DC and Williamsburg, the train passes scenery that is nothing shy of incredible and picturesque.  Heading northbound to Springfield, the train crosses over the massive Hell Gate Bridge connecting Queens to the Bronx.  Later the train crosses over the Bronx, Hyannis, Saugatuck, and Housatonic Rivers.  In New Haven, the train will change engines from electric to diesel.  On the way again, the train then passes through the beautiful New England countryside.  The New England area is gorgeous during the spring and summer.  Passengers are encouraged to keep their cameras in hand.

    Traveling south to Washington DC and Williamsburg, the scenery is just as amazing.  Traveling southbound, the train will cross over some famous rivers.  The train will cross over the Raritan, Delaware, and Schuykill Rivers.  In Maryland, the train crosses over the Susquehanna, Bush, and Gunpowder Rivers.  When traveling to Williamsburg, the train will stop for a crew and engine change.  Upon departure from Washington, DC, the train will cross over the Potomac River.  The train will cross over onto the CSX main line.  Heading south, the train will follow the Potomac River to where it will drop out of sight as it flows toward the Chesapeake Bay.  Later, the train will follow the James River near downtown Richmond.  Forty-five minutes after Richmond, the train stops at Williamsburg.  Busch Gardens-Europe and area hotels are a short cab ride away.

    Upon arrival in Springfield, Washington DC, or in Williamsburg, visitors may wonder how to reach the entertainment areas.  In Springfield, the taxi cab ride to Six Flags New England is ten minutes at the most.  In Williamsburg, the cab ride to any of the three entertainment areas is also ten minutes.  In Washington DC, Six Flags America is easily reached by the Metro subway.  Washington DC’s Union Station is located on the Metro’s red line.  Visitors need to take the red line west to Metro Center.  There, visitors will switch to the blue line.  On the blue line, it's a quick ride east to Largo Town Center.  At Largo Town Center, a Metro bus takes visitors directly to the park entrance.  The Metro handles millions of visitors every day, taking them anywhere they wish to go at any time. 

    The spring and summer seasons at Six Flags America, Six Flags New England, and in Williamsburg, VA are a ton of fun.  If any of these family entertainment locations are on the summer travel list, the train holds the the ticket to all the excitement. Whether going to Six Flags America or Six Flags New England, or staying in Williamsburg to experience Busch Gardens-Europe and its neighboring attractions, visitors are happy they chose the train to get them there.  Spring and summer are not the seasons to be sitting in the car pondering the never-ending traffic tie-ups.  Spring and summer are the seasons to enjoy the clicking of wheels on rails.  Roller coaster enthusiasts and thrill ride seekers should put pull out the guide map to their favorite amusement parks.  Further, they should also put on their engineer hats.  Amtrak will most definitely get them to the front of the line.  It’s most definitely a thrilling ride to remember.

Decking The Rails: Why The National Christmas Tree Should Be On Every American's Wish List

    Tis the season to be jolly, and tis the season to ride the rails.  If anyone is planning on visiting the nation’s capital during the holiday season, there is one place to visit.  Many have seen it on TV.  Washington DC’s National Christmas tree is a sight no one should miss out on.  The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City is one thing.  It’s gorgeous and lit up and sparkling in the night.  Celebrating Christmas in Washington DC is whole other story.  It’s time to head to Washington DC and let the Christmas spirit take to the rails.

    Going to Washington DC by train is very easy.  Making an Amtrak reservation even easier than that.  Going to or calling 1-800-872-7245 are all it takes.  Patrons have the choice of traveling on the Acela or a Northeast Regional train.  Whichever is more desirable, the decision is a toss of a coin.  Amtrak’s Acela Express includes First Class and Business.  Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains include Business class and a Quiet Car.  In the Quiet car, passengers must remember to keep their conversations short and cell phones off or on vibrate.  Since the Quiet Car is part of Coach Class, there is no additional charge.

    Once your reservations are made, tickets can be obtained in one of four ways.  They can be mailed home if purchase more than than ten days prior to your traveling. They can also be picked up at the ticket window at any major Amtrak terminal, at a Quik Trak kiosk, or via email.  The e-ticket is brand new on board Amtrak's trains. A crew member scans the QR code on the printout.

    Washington DC’s Union Station is a gorgeous building.  Everywhere in the terminal, the halls are decked out in garland, wreaths, and all it’s holiday splendor. Getting to the National Christmas tree is very simple.  It’s a quick ride on Washington’s Metro subway.  The National Christmas tree is located very near the Ellipse, outside the White House, bordering the National Mall.  A number of Metro stations are located in the area. The Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Metro Center, McPherson Square, and Farragut West are located within walking distance of the National Christmas tree.  The stations follow each other.  Union Station is on the red line.  Passengers can ride the red line to Metro Center. The White House is ten minutes away on foot.  If taking a stroll on the National Mall, enjoying the winter air, or visiting the museums are on the to-do list, the Smithsonian station is the station of choice.  In Washington DC, the best fare card option is purchasing a one-day pass. The cost is $14.00 per pass. It is active from the time of issue to the hour of departure. 

    The National Christmas tree is nothing like the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City.  It has its very own flavor.  It’s decorated with vertical light strands, and the biggest ornaments anyone can  imagine.  Every year, the tree looks different. The tree looks absolutely glamorous.  Visitors are strongly encouraged to bring their cameras.  It’s a moment which families will treasure forever.  During the off-season, the tree is still there, sitting behind a black iron fence.  It’s just as beautiful without its lights and ornaments.  It’s definitely a memorable site to visit.  The feeling of being an American can’t be any better. 

    When the day draws to a close, it’s time to head back to Union Station.  While waiting to board the train, visitors can take the time to do some shopping in Union Station’s mall.  Some of the biggest merchant names are featured.  Visitors are encouraged to look around and load up on any gifts they cannot seem to find at home.  

    Taking the train is the greatest means of transportation on the eastern seaboard.  During the Christmas season, visiting the National Christmas tree is the best reason to ride the rails.  Trains and Christmas have that special connection in our lives.  Seeing the snow on the ground and the ice on the rivers adds to that cozy railroad winter atmosphere.  Gentlemen of all ages may remember on Christmas Day, seeing under the tree, seeing a new locomotive or railcar they asked Santa for.  It might even be that new train set they wished for.  A train doesn’t just travel around a Christmas tree.  A train can also take people to a tree.  During the Christmas season, a train brings bring families and the American spirit together. The train is not just a favorite form of transportation, but a carrier of good tidings to all.