Poll: To Train or Not to Train…

See? There's really a moonbounce!
See? There's really a moonbounce!

Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that I live in the city that really pulls out the stops for the 4th of July, it’s the one holiday I regularly flee. I generally head up to the Albany area, where I went to college and lived for most of my 20s, to visit all the folks I miss up there. My friends Linc and Michele throw this big shindig – I’m talking moonbounce and fireworks – and everyone comes. Needless to say, it’s much more fun than sweating on the National Mall with what feels like half of America.

I’m having a bit of a dilemma about my travel planning this year, though. In the past, I’ve been able to fly from BWI for $150 or less… and for a while, it was only $75, round trip. Really. This year I am not finding anything less than $250, and only for flights at times I just can’t make. (And not just because I hate mornings; I’m talking planes that leave before Metro can get me to the airport.) Booking a flight at a reasonable hour is going to run me about $275, and, well, I’m suffering from sticker shock. The price isn’t quite a deal breaker, but – given what a pain in the ass it is to fly anymore – it’s got me thinking about other options.

There’s not a chance in hell that I’d drive, of course. I’ve been there, done that and won’t ever do it again – and not just because I loathe the idea of driving that far, but because a rental car and gas would actually cost more than a plane ticket. I am, however, starting to give some fairly serious consideration to taking the train. I floated the idea on Facebook the other day and got a lot of feedback* – for and against – but I’m still wavering, so I thought if I wrote out my pros and cons, maybe the answer would become more clear.

Pros

  • $100 cheaper than flying.
  • More convenient scheduling.
  • No naked scans, pat downs, or magnetometers.
  • Internet access. (Even if the train doesn’t have WiFi, there should be enough 3G service to keep me happy.)
  • No size limit on my toiletries. I can leave the three-ounce bottles and quart-sized bag at home.
  • Slightly more space to move around. Possibly the option of just moving to another seat if someone reclines their seat into my lap.
  • Lots of time to knit, read, write, play Angry Birds… whatever.

Cons

  • It takes a long time – about 7.5 hours counting the layover in NYC. This is long enough for me to possibly get fairly stir crazy. (By comparison, with getting to the airport and waiting factored in, flying would not likely take more than 3.5 hours.)
  • An hour each way in Penn Station, the dirtiest place in the Western world.

Ahem. Well, I do seem to have found more pros than cons, but take the poll anyway, please. I already made it.

* The one piece feedback I got on Facebook that I’m ignoring entirely is the option of taking the bus. It’s all the cramped quarters and no club car of the airplane and slower than the train. No good all around.

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13 thoughts on “Poll: To Train or Not to Train…

  1. sprite May 30, 2011 / 9:37 pm

    I have no particular opinion on the train vs. plain choice (although if you see the ghost of John Candy on either, please flee the premises immediately), but I will point out that there are people who love you who’d be happy to make sure you get to BWI for an early morning flight if that makes the solution any easier. We cannot necessarily promise witty conversation, but you wouldn’t be up for that anyway…

    • Sarah May 31, 2011 / 8:12 am

      Many thanks for the offer! I’ll keep you posted…

  2. Rudi May 30, 2011 / 10:08 pm

    Your poll is flawed: you have no option to fly the train!

    And to add to sprite’s offer: I am a master of the caffeinated beverages, and will provide them to our passenger.

    • Sarah May 31, 2011 / 8:13 am

      Mmmm… Coffee!

  3. Chris May 31, 2011 / 12:24 am

    It really comes down to this: is 8 hours of your personal time worth $100?

    On a slightly political note, if this is even a question for a trip of ~400 miles, does it really make sense to spend tens of billions on “hi-speed” rail to span the continent?

    • Sarah May 31, 2011 / 8:07 am

      It’s more like four hours of my time beyond the amount of time it would take to fly. And in that case, possibly. I am hoping the train would be less stressful, in which case – definitely!

      And on your “slightly political” note, it’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison, because I’m not looking at the high-speed train option, mostly because of timing. But overall, I think more investment in rail – having a legitimate option to car/plane travel (which it is not currently) – is a splendid idea. And with gas over $4 a gallon and 400-mile flights creeping up on $300, I’d bet I am not the only person who feels that way.

  4. Marlene May 31, 2011 / 7:23 am

    I love the train, I find it relaxing, and I like to watch the scenery. Yes, it takes a long time, but I’ve never had a hard time keeping myself occupied from Richmond to Albany.

    Penn Station is not the dirtiest place on the planet, (believe me!) and that hour will go by pretty quick if you can find a seat, which is pretty rare but… Also, if Deb’s in town and her schedule allows, she usually is willing to meet you there for a visit so that’s a bonus!

    • Sarah May 31, 2011 / 8:08 am

      Ah, it would be great to see Deb! I should factor in enough time for that!

  5. Mom May 31, 2011 / 7:27 am

    Another “con”. 7.5 hours in a vehicle of any kind will render you exhausted! It will make 2 whole days out of your 4 nothing but travel. Yich! And Sprite & Rudi’s offer has made the poll moot in any event. You are so blessed to have such wonderful friends 

    • Sarah May 31, 2011 / 8:11 am

      Well, I am probably going for more than four days, for starters, and will probably do at least the first leg in the evening, when I wouldn’t be doing much more than sitting on my couch anyway. (So, vacation time loss is not a huge issue.) And to be honest, I doubt it could possibly leave me more exhausted than even a short flight. Between the security theater, bag fees (hell, the general pay-more-to-get-less mentality of the airlines), and the rest of the rigmarole, everyone on airplanes is stressed and bitchy, and that wears me out. If nothing else, the train will offer new and different ways to wear on me.

      And you’re right. I am incredibly lucky to have such great friends.

  6. Shannon May 31, 2011 / 10:41 am

    I actually enjoyed the one time I trained it down to DC. Lots of reading time, which is like gold to me.

    The only downside is the “waste” of travel time but I wouldn’t consider it a waste if you are traveling while we are at work (like a Friday afternoon). If you came in on Friday, I’d have no problem going to get you. I can see the train station from my office!

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