Let the train take the strain

Image by Geoff MarshallImage by amtrak1.jpg High gas prices, long security lines at the airport -- isn't long distance travel just a complete pain nowdays? Well ... maybe not. Maybe on some destinations, there is an alternative which is much greener too -- you can let the train take the strain.

TheDigitel's videographer Geoff Marshall took a mini-break to D.C. at the weekend, so we told him to pack his portable video camera and document his trip to see just how viable is it to take the train.

If you wanted to go up to New York for a weekend in December to do some major holiday shopping (unless you get a deal) it would cost you several hundred dollars in air fares.

Not to mention the fact that you would have to get to the airport a couple of hours in advance, be stripped practically naked by the TSA, and then have all the hassle at the other end of waiting for your baggage again.

Airplane seats are also small, cramped, and typically you get that infamous 'Chicken or Pasta' choice for food -- if you get anything at all nowadays.

Well bear in mind their is an alternative -- you can get the train.

Heading north out of Charleston, there are daily services that take up the east coast, to D.C., New York and Boston. Heading south, you can just drop in on Savannah, or go all the way down the line to Miami.

I took a quick a weekend trip up to Washington D.C. to meet up with some friends, be a tourist and generally take in the sights, and I never even considered flying up.

The trip takes nine hours, but if you get the evening service then you get to sleep overnight in a nice wide seat, with plenty of legroom. It's much more comfortable than being cramped up on a plane.

You don't have to get their two hours earlier either. I rolled up at the station literally ten minutes before the train was due ... no lines, no interrogation over whether you've packed your own bag, no security checks.

I get sat next to Dwayne on the way up, he was only going one stop to Florence where his family is, but he often comes down to visit Charleston where he has a lot of friends.

Now I thought that I knew a lot about a legroom when travelling as I'm 6 foot 3 inches. Dwayne should have been a basketball star, he's 6' 10" and "loves" the train because the seats are as wide as first class on a plane, and there is LOADS of legroom -- no knees under your chin here.

There's also a power outlet in most carriages, that's something else you don't get on the plane, allowing you to charge your phone or plug in your laptop.

Often people have told me that they'd considered getting the train, but they they hear that it 'always runs late,' well not in this case. My train, due to arrive at 7:46 a.m. actually got to Washington D.C. a half an hour early. On the return home to Charleston, it was ten minutes early too!

As with the airlines, you should always books your ticket in advance for the best fair deals. Visit www.amtrak.com.

For ultimate comfort (and, if you book early enough still cheaper than flying) then you get a get a cabin to yourself to sleep in.

And whilst driving may just be a little cheaper (at the moment) with gas, it's a totally tireless experience. No driving, no road-trip stress, no wondering if you've taken the wrong turn.

Travel times by train from Charleston: D.C. 9 hours. NY, 13 hours, Boston 15 hours.

By car:: D.C. 8:12, $70; NY 12:12, $100; Boston 15:53, $129. (According to Google, and cost in gas is for each way at 30 mpg and at $4 per gallon)

By plane: Was around $250 to all three major northern destinations (D.C., New York, Boston). By train, all fares were at least $100 cheaper when booking for the same time period.

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