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Amtrak’s Empire Builder
The route: Empire Builder travels between Chicago and Seattle/ Portland, a 46-hour trip. I boarded in Minneapolis and went as far as East Glacier National Park, about 21 hours. The East Glacier station is open only seasonally, but the Essex and West Glacier stations are open year-round.
Sleeping car: Recommended. Although it costs more than a regular seat, it helps you sleep and has perks — your own private roomette or compartment, free meals, cabin service, wine tasting and more. Book far ahead for best selection. Besides the roomette, you also can choose a family cabin or a larger sleeping cabin.
Cost: Book up to 11 months in advance. Right now, round-trip fare for two people from Chicago to West Glacier in July 2013, including a roomette that sleeps two (upper and lower bunk), is $1,184 if you use your AAA card. (www.amtrak.com, 800-872-7245 )
Information: Download the timetable for the Empire Builder at www.amtrak.com/ccurl/348/668/Empire-Builder-Schedule-050712,0.pdf.
I made my own arrangements, but there are package tours. Examples:
Amtrak Vacations: “Northern Border and Pacific Northwest” — eight days and includes Empire Builder from Chicago to Glacier National Park, with three days at the park, then train to Seattle. Includes lodging, tours and more. From $2,299 per person. (www.amtrakvacations.com, 800-268-7252)
Vacations by Rail: “Empire Builder with Glacier National Park” — seven days, one way on the Empire Builder from Chicago to Glacier, then on to Seattle. From $1,845 per person with roomette. (www.vacationsbyrail.com, 877-929-7245)
Let me state my bias up front: Smoking should not be allowed in a hotel room. Ever. Unfortunately, at the time you stayed in your hotel, Florida state law permitted smoking. But a look at the Days Inn site also showed that the room type you booked also said your room would be “nonsmoking,” which led you to conclude you wouldn’t have to inhale trace amounts of carcinogens as you slept.
It’s mid-May. Memorial Day and the end of the school year are in sight. Suddenly, you’re thinking about a summer vacation. A little advance planning — and some insider tips — can save you a lot of money. Whether you’re booking airfare, a car rental or a hotel room, there are questions you should ask first.
Among the swords, the wrenching letters home and the haunting photographs in the Museum of the Confederacy’s new exhibit on Gettysburg, few artifacts embody the ferocious battle more than the eight battle flags recovered from the bloodied fields where Pickett’s Charge was fought.