Recent events have shown that American Express hates the laughter of children even more than the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. But you know who doesn’t hate children? Amtrak, that’s who.
On most trains and on most days, up to two children may travel at the half-price fare with each passenger paying the full adult fare. If a third child will be traveling in the party, reservations must be made for that child as an “Adult” and the full adult fare will be charged.
But what’s even better is that since Amtrak points are redeemed at a fixed value vs. the fare, the 50% off deal applies to award bookings too. So that means your points are effectively worth 5.8 cents each when buying tickets for your kids. As an example, let’s take a look at Charlottesville to Washington, DC on April 8. A regular adult value fare is $35:
…while a reward redemption is 1,208 points:
An adult with two kids pushes the total to $70, or 2,415 points (and only 4,175 points if you want to upgrade to business class):
Now you could argue that in fact you’re still getting 2.9 cents of value because you have to base your calculation on the discounted fare, not the full price fare. You could also argue that the 2.9 cent value itself is overstated since it’s used on the value fare, not the cheaper saver fare.
But the point is, if you’ve got multiple children the discounts can make this a cost-effective way to move a bunch of people from point A to point B. Plus there’s the fact that kids love trains. We haven’t been on Amtrak yet but we’ve taken the kids on our city’s commuter rail as well as the streetcar, both of which they love. We also took them to Union Station during our trip to Washington, DC last fall and of course they all loved riding the DC metro.
I know Charlottesville to DC is a short trip, but heck–I can do Charlotte, NC to DC for one adult and two children for only 5,934 points. Starwood is a transfer partner of Amtrak, and I’m pretty sure there’s no other way for 5,934 Starwood points (or 17,802 Marriott points if you prefer) to convey three people that distance, unless maybe you’re hitchhiking and Gary Leff or Matt or whoever drives by and you’re able to work out a deal. So if you have kids under the age of 12, adding some train travel to your trip might be worth looking into.