How much does it cost to travel across America by train?

It’s many people‘s dream to go on a cross country road trip. To see all the sites that the USA has to offer could be an expensive and time consuming trip if you plan on driving all the way but you might be surprised at how much cheaper it could be if you take a train.

So, How much does it cost to travel across America by train? It costs $499 for the cheapest rail to take you from one coast to the other via an Amtrak Train. However, more expensive trips are priced at $3,499-$6,649 which include more destinations, amenities and stops.

There are a lot of reasons why taking a train to travel across America is a great option. Read on to find out what kinds of trips are available, how much it’ll cost you, and how to make the most of your next vacation.

How You Can Travel Cross Country

Trains are a great way to travel that often aren’t as well acknowledged as they should be. After all, you see commercials every day for car rentals or cheap airline flights, but you never really see train rides advertised and as a result most people don’t even know that there are some pretty good options out there if you choose to travel this way. One such option is going on a cross country trip from one side of the country to another.

amtrak superliner
David Wilson

Why Trains Are a Good Option

Going on a cross-country road trip can be pretty expensive and stressful if you plan on driving. First of all, there’s the fact that you would probably have to be behind the wheel the entire time. Driving across your city is one thing, but driving thousands of miles would probably take a lot out of you. Then there’s the cost of gas, paying for room and board, and being out of luck if something happens to your car.

On the other hand, taking a flight would be prohibitively expensive and it would severely limit your options as to where you can go because you can’t just keep hopping on planes every day to visit a different city.

That’s why trains are a better option. They can bring you the convenience of a flight with the larger variety of options that you couldn’t get otherwise. There are trains that go on specific routes that will take you cross country and stop at each of the best destinations that you would want to visit, all that with the perk of having everything scheduled for you so that you can relax on the way and enjoy unlimited fun once you get there.

What Kinds of Cross Country Trains Are There

There are no shortages of options when it comes to trips across the United States. Amtrak is one service that provides a cross country line that stops in many exciting destinations. You could go for a single Pass, or you could go for a guided tour that will help you make the most out of your trip. Here are a few options.

  • USA Rail Pass. This is the cheapest option to get from one coast to another. This pass will let you jump on and off wherever you desire at a fixed price of $499, over a period of 30 days. You will have 10 segments, meaning you can board and disembark 10 times throughout the trip.
  • The All American. This is a 15 day trip with 6 destinations, taking you through Chicago, IL, New York City, NY, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, back to Chicago, IL. Priced at $6,649 it includes a sightseeing tour of New Orleans and the Rocky Mountain National Park, 8 nights of accommodations, and 2 meals.
  • Coast to Coast Across the USA. This trip is 16 days and covers 7 destinations from New York City, NY, Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, Williams, AZ, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ, Los Angeles, CA, and San Francisco, CA and is priced at $3,499. It features sightseeing tours, 12 nights accommodations and coach accommodations aboard the Grand Canyon Railway.
  • Great American Majestic Landscapes. It’s a 12 day, 6 destination trip that includes a voyage from New York City, NY, Chicago, IL, Denver, CO, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, San Francisco, CA, Napa Valley, CA, to San Francisco, CA. It will cost $2,399 and includes sightseeing tours, as well as a Chicago CityPASS, which gives you access to destinations like Shedd Aquarium or the Museum of Science and Industry.

No matter which tour or pass you choose, and no matter which destination you’re looking to visit, there are plenty of options that can get you from one corner of the map to the other. These tours all vary in prices, but the adventures and memories will be surely worth it.

pacific parlour
Jonathan Lee

Why It Costs This Much

The reason these tours cost as much as they do is because of everything that is included within them. This means amenities like room and board, as well as meals which will be taken care of while you are on your trip.

This also includes guided tours of each destination and some trips even give you passes or discounts, like the Chicago city pass which will let you visit popular destinations that you might have gone to regardless.

So while on the surface the cost might seem a lot, if you look at what you’re getting traveling America by train may be a much cheaper option compared to you doing everything yourself.

When you factor in the cost of hotels every night, paying for each meal individually, paying for each individual destination or attraction, and of course the cost of getting yourself there with gas money or plane tickets, you might find that these numbers rack up and you’ll probably end up paying more and having to do a lot more work than if you just get a single tour that will take care of it all for you.

Ways to Save

You might get a little sticker shock from looking at the price of a long and detailed tour or cross-country trip, but when you break down the cost, there are a lot of savings involved.

Let’s say you wanted to drive from San Francisco to New York. This is approximately 46 hours of driving, at 2908 miles. Also considering the fact that the trip will be a round trip, you could be looking at $500 for just gas. Now you will also need to include the cost of two or three nights in a hotel or motel, which could add a few hundred dollars to your total and that’s if you don’t feel like stopping anywhere.

So as you can see, the total cost of a trip across the United States can get pretty pricey, but now when you look back at the prices of a train ride that will probably cover your night stay, as well as saving you the trouble of actually having to drive yourself you can see how taking a train is probably the better and more cost efficient option overall. You could end up saving a lot more money than you thought if you go this route.

How Far the Trip Is

The distance from one end of the United States to another, San Francisco to New York, is approximately 2902 miles. Of course if you were taking a train or even a car there will be a considerably longer amount depending on where you stop since it’s unlikely you’ll be going in a straight line the entire time without any detours.

The actual distance you will cross on your voyage depends on the locations you start and how far apart they are from each other. For example some trips will take you from San Francisco down to Los Angeles and up to the Grand Canyon which could add a considerable amount to your trip.

amtrak engine
Jonathan Lee Photo

How Long Will it Take

The amount of time is similar. While you could go from one end of the map to another in close to 48 hours, that’s without stopping and without seeing anything on your way.

This is the reason most of the tours and trips take multiple days like the 16 day coast to coast across the US trip from Amtrak. This time is meant to account for enough time for you to stop and see the sights in each destination like New York or DC and ensures that you won’t be rushing or missing anything along the way.

When planning a cross country trip it’s a good idea to take a look at your itinerary to see how long it will actually take you when you consider everything you want to do.

Planning Your Trip

Going cross country on a train is a big adventure, so you’ll want to make sure that you bring everything you need to ensure that you make the most of your trip and avoid paying unnecessary costs that will add to your total.

What to Bring

It is important to remember the essentials when preparing for a trip across the US so that you don’t have to spend extra money later. This can include things like toiletries and phone chargers and of course, a laptop or a book for entertainment on the ride.

Included in certain tours are meals like breakfast and dinner with the cost included in your tour. It’s a good idea to check what amenities are included and be prepared so that you can cover whatever isn’t, like extra meals or a motel and hotel but when the train is stopped and the night is not covered on your tour. When you book a train ride, it will include details exactly on what is and is not part of the cost so that you can be prepared ahead of time to travel.

What are Destinations to Stop At

There is no shortage of great destinations that you can see when you travel across America by train. San Francisco includes the Golden Gate Bridge and sloping streets, if you head down to Los Angeles you will be able to visit Hollywood and then head to the majestic vistas of the Grand Canyon. Chicago is a huge diverse city with places like Willis tower and the millennium Park. You could conclude your trip in New York City and visit Times Square, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty.

These are just a few of the main attractions that you can see while you take a train ride across the United States. Most tours have designated days where they stop at major cities which can give you time to see the sights and explore to your heart’s content before moving onto the next destination. Some of the services will even give you guided tours that will walk you around the city and ensure that you don’t miss the best stuff.

amtrak trains

Ideal Places to Begin and End

Services like Amtrak have over 500 stations across the country so that you can start your trip convenient for you from anywhere. However it might be a good idea to visit one side of the country like San Francisco or New York and officially start your cross country tour from there.

This is to ensure that you don’t miss anything and that the places will have tours accessible that you can begin from those locations. So you could start from Oklahoma City, travel to San Francisco and then take a San Francisco to New York cross-country tour before heading back to Oklahoma City.

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s a lifelong dream for many people to go cross country on a trip and most people don’t even know that there are options to go via train. This way you could potentially save a lot of money and enjoy popular destinations across the map. Cheaper options exist where you get on and off where you please, or you could spring for more expensive tours that will cover your whole journey, and will likely even save you money that you would spend doing it all yourself.

So the next time you decide to take a trip, or if you’ve been wondering how to have that dream vacation, a train ride across the United States might be exactly what you’re looking for.


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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