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Frequently Asked Questions

1. About us

How long has Vacations By Rail been in business?

Todd Powell, inspired by his adoration for rail travel, and Cole Dannewitz, desiring to make it easier for travelers to experience the world by train, founded Vacations By Rail in 2004. The company celebrates its 20th anniversary of bringing railway dreams to life in 2024.

Who owns Vacations By Rail?

Vacations By Rail grew under the guidance of co-founders Todd Powell and Cole Dannewitz from its opening in 2004 until Great Rail Journeys acquired the company in 2019. Great Rail Journeys is based out of York, United Kingdom, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary of exceptional rail travel offerings in 2023. Regarding the acquisition, Todd Powell said, "The combination of our two companies represents a significant opportunity to grow our footprint in the rail vacation sector domestically and internationally, as well as accelerate into new markets." This new phase means only exciting things are to come for our travelers.

Why book a trip with Vacations By Rail?

When booking with Vacations By Rail, travelers can rest assured that their journey is in capable hands. Our knowledge of the world's trains extends far past being able to locate the routes on a map and instead explores the nuances of various regions, rail experiences, and vacation types. We pair first-hand rail travel experience with information acquired via customer feedback and in-depth product knowledge to create distinctive and memorable tour options. Travelers have access to our extensive catalog of full-spectrum rail vacations that partner with local trains, heritage railways, and some of the world's most iconic railways, including the Rocky Mountaineer, Belmond's Venice Simplon-Orient Express, and the Glacier Express. And we are here to help every step of the way as the bridge between the allure of train travel and the know-how it takes to craft a successful trip properly. Let us handle the details while you bask in this world's great cities and sights.

What do Rail Specialists do?

During your research and booking process, your best source of information is Vacation By Rail's Rail Specialists. These individuals are equal parts advisors and educators, ready and willing to assist customers with every aspect of the experience. You can enlist their help in researching vacations that meet your budgetary requirements, desired location, and trip length. They have the answers you need during the planning process and are happy to help when you are ready to reserve a spot on your chosen rail vacation. 

How can I get a brochure?

Every year, we fine-tune our itineraries, considering necessary changes and customer feedback from years prior. The most popular of these offerings are compiled in our annual brochure: an invaluable information source for your rail vacation planning. Fill out the form found at this link to request a brochure by mail. The Vacations By Rail: Global Rail Adventures brochure is mailed at no cost to you to the address you provide. Please note that processing and shipping take between two and three weeks.

If you cannot wait to peruse our collection of best-selling tours to find your next adventure, we also offer an electronic copy that you may download here: Rail Vacation Brochures.

2. General Information About Rail Tours

Where do Vacations By Rail tours go?

Our thoughtfully composed rail tours venture throughout the United States' most scenic regions, including New England, the Deep South, and the colorful deserts of the Southwest. Enjoy the country's spectacular national parks and the East and West coastlines, or venture further north to Alaska to see some of America's last remaining wild landscapes.

But the adventures do not stop at the U.S. border; instead, Vacations By Rail takes travelers around the globe to destinations wrapped in natural beauty or filled with centuries of fantastic architecture and history. We offer journeys throughout Canada, diving into great cities and exploring the vast and impressive peaks of the Canadian Rockies. In Europe, you can taste your way through culinary epicenters like Italy, France, or Spain or embark on scenic adventures through the Swiss Alps, Ireland, or the Scottish Highlights. Our catalog also includes tours that extend beyond your wildest dreams, bringing destinations throughout Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, and beyond to life before your very eyes. 

Why travel by train?

Intimate looks at small towns and influential cities pair with unrestricted views of the wilderness, making railway travel one of the best ways to experience the world. For well over 100 years, trains have been charming their passengers with rarely-seen glimpses of landscapes where roads often cannot travel. Furthermore, setting out by train means you can skip the long security lines and strict "3-ounce" policies that airlines instate. Sit down, get comfortable (with more legroom than travelers typically find on airplanes!), and enjoy well-connected routes that can take you from coast to coast in the United States or Canada or throughout Europe's romantic cities.

Continue reading here for more information about the benefits of rail travel.

When is the best time to go on a rail vacation?

There is no quick and easy answer regarding the best time to take a rail vacation, as personal preferences weigh heavily on every travel decision. Consider your desired destination and how the seasons affect its weather and the crowds.

  • The peak travel season extends from late May through August, aligning with summer in the northern hemisphere. Traveling during this time means there is more to do outside, from hiking in national parks to cruises on beautiful waterways, walking tours of cities, and castle ruin explorations in places like Ireland and Scotland.
  • Choosing to vacation during the shoulder seasons - March to May and late August/early September through late October - is a viable option for travelers that hope to skip the extremes of summer and winter and savor the unique appeals only that time of year brings.
  • Much of our winter travel offerings are devoted to cold-weather locations like the Swiss Alps, the Canadian Rockies, and Alaska, which are majestic under a layer of snow. Seasonal activities, including skiing and dogsledding, open your eyes to new experiences. And, of course, traveling near the arctic circle during this time of the year brings the chance to see the Aurora Borealis.

Contact a Rail Specialist at 1-877-929-7245 for assistance choosing a departure date that best meets your travel goals.

Can children join your train tours?

Children are welcome to join nearly any Vacations By Rail travel experience; however, our escorted rail packages are not composed with young travelers in mind. Many tours feature overnight train travel or long train journeys. Other itineraries include extensive motorcoach transportation between cities or national parks. Throughout the tours, the sightseeing and excursion options may not pique the interest of kids, and there will be minimal opportunities to interact with other children during the trip.

Our independent tour options, which allow for more flexibility and individualization, are often better suited for families traveling with Vacations By Rail. Contact a Rail Specialist at 1-877-929-7245 for assistance picking a suitable escorted or independent tour package and information regarding children's pricing.

Is there an age limit for Vacations By Rail Tours?

Absolutely not! The main point to consider is not your age but your ability to enjoy the experience. While many of the trains we utilize are wheelchair-accessible and mobility friendly, this may not be the case for all trains. You must manage and tote your baggage at certain points throughout the trip. Extensive periods of sitting or standing may be required during travel or sightseeing. Consider also that some of the itineraries are packed with excitement, leaving little downtime for relaxation. If you have read through your tour's inclusions and our policies and think you can manage, we would love to have you.

How many travelers are allowed on each escorted rail vacation?

While our guest count varies between vacation packages, our escorted tours generally accommodate between 25 and 44 travelers. Sticking to this count ensures that each guest has a fulfilling travel experience punctuated by excellent camaraderie and excursions that are difficult for larger groups. Joining a small group tour provides an even more intimate environment with a maximum of 25 travelers.

Are dogs and pets allowed on Vacations By Rail’s tours?

Because we cannot ensure that all trains, hotels, and excursions are pet-friendly, we do not allow dogs or cats to join our rail vacations. The exception to this rule is licensed service animals. Contact a Rail Specialist using our website or by calling 1-877-929-7245 for more information.

How are rail vacations for solo travelers?

Vacations By Rail's train tours are equally suitable for groups and single travelers, and single-occupancy pricing is available for all of our tours. The experience you have during your solo adventure is dictated by the type of tour you choose. Escorted journeys foster a sense of belonging to a group. Traveling through the country by train surrounds you with companions and new friends. If the mood strikes, there is always someone to talk to, share experiences alongside, and dine with. Your Tour Manager is there to answer any questions you may have or give you pointers regarding your travel experience. On the other hand, booking an independent tour package as a solo traveler means you can travel near and far, savoring memorable travel experiences in your own company.

What does the tour cost include?

When you book a tour with Vacations By Rail, all the logistics are handled for you. We compose itineraries that connect wonderful locations throughout the world. Enjoy included rail travel on long-distance and scenic trains and select transfers when appropriate. If your itinerary features stretches on the road, deluxe motorcoaches ensure each mile is comfortable. Our travel planners select hotels in fantastic locations and arrange for enriching experiences, ranging from city tours and guided visits to points of interest to thrilling excursions that exemplify the world's beauty. Select journeys provide group meals or tasting opportunities. Each tour package specifies precisely what type of tour it is and what is included, so there are no surprises or hidden extra costs.

3. Choosing a Tour

What are the main differences between Independent and Escorted Tours?

Our Independent Tours are perfect for those travelers who prefer to vacation alone or solely with their spouse or friends. There is no Tour Manager orchestrating daily events nor any fellow travelers to consider. Independent Tours feature all the thoughtful planning and coordination that one would expect from a Vacations By Rail travel experience without a strict timeline to follow. There is more flexibility in these vacations, and travelers can modify some itineraries slightly by extending a stay in a destination or adding pre- or post-trip nights to the package.

Escorted Tours are fantastic for travelers who crave the enriching environment a group setting can provide and the luxury of discovering a new locale without making many decisions. These structured trips begin with meeting your Tour Manager and fellow travelers at a train station, airport, or hotel. Excitement builds as the journey begins and you enjoy conversations with new-found friends during travel, group excursions that unveil the wonders of your new locales, and opportunities to dine together over regional cuisine. If any downtime is built into your itinerary, your Tour Manager is an invaluable source of information.

Continue reading about the perks of both Independent and Escorted Tours.

How are small group tours different from other packages?

An intimate environment and an exclusive guest list are just some perks travelers can enjoy when selecting a small group tour from Vacations By Rail. These trips are designed with all of the most desirable features of our Escorted Tours in mind, yet accommodate only around 25 travelers. These packages can accomplish things that larger escorted tours cannot, thanks to the unparalleled access a limited group size brings. 

What upgrades are available on rail tours?

Whether you prefer an independent or escorted rail vacation, there are several ways to enhance your journey and transform it into a first-class experience. The most popular upgrade travelers choose to make comes in their rail accommodations. Upgrading to a Roomette or a Bedroom on Amtrak, a private Cabin on VIA Rail, GoldLeaf Class on the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, or SilverLeaf Plus on the Rocky Mountaineer in the United States is a simple way to increase your privacy and comfort during your rail journey. Select tours come with further upgrade options, including booking more luxurious hotels, changing from shared to private touring experiences, and private transfers where applicable. Our Rail Specialists can help you discover the upgrades available for your chosen rail tour. Prices vary and will be disclosed at your inquiry or as soon as available. Continue reading to learn more ways to fill your vacation with luxury.

How do I find out if there is availability for my chosen vacation package?

There are two easy ways to inquire about the remaining availability of any rail vacation package. First and foremost, contact one of our Rail Specialists by calling 1-877-929-7245 from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturdays. By giving the tour name and the year you hope to go, our Rail Specialists can assist you in selecting the departure date with availability to suit your needs.

Alternatively, you can check if space is available on your chosen escorted tour on our website. Click on any tour's yellow View Dates and Pricing button to discover the options. Most tours feature several departure dates; if space is available, a yellow Book Online or View Options button shows on the right side of the screen. Your chosen dates may also indicate that you must call to book due to the booking window closing or limited spaces remaining. If a date or tour is sold out, there will be no option to book. You may then call the number above to see what options are available.

Is there a waitlist for sold-out escorted tours?

Yes! You may be added to our waitlist if you have found your ideal rail vacation package and discover it is sold out for your selected departure date. Contact us at 1-877-929-7245 with the name of your chosen tour and the preferred departure date. We will then gather all the relevant traveler information for all guests in your party to complete your waitlist reservation. We will contact you if enough spaces open up for your travel party. 

4. Uncustomary Tours

What is a Rail and Cruise Vacation?

Rail and cruise vacations are your chance to combine two classic travel methods in one exhilarating experience. These vacation packages are composed with the journey in mind rather than the destination and are an exhibition of the world's most gorgeous sites. Travelers set out on land, connecting world-class cities aboard local and scenic railways, and take to the water - whether that be the ocean or a river. Hallmarks of these journeys include luxurious accommodations, excursions that delve into local customs and culture, and a slower pace of travel that allows travelers to soak in the ambiance of the region through which they are traveling.

Where do the cruises go?

Vacations By Rail offers an array of rail and cruise vacations throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Joining a U.S. rail and cruise vacation offers the chance to travel on Amtrak's long-distance trains or the famous Alaska Railroad and to cruise the waters of Alaska's Inside Passage. Canadian rail and cruise vacations may offer time in the beautiful Canadian Rockies before taking to Alaska's Inside Passage or exploring Eastern Canada and the St. Lawrence River. Europe's river cruise tours present classic cities and spectacular ports of call while navigating rivers like the Danube, Seine, Rhine, or Rhone. 

How is a River Cruise Vacation different from an Ocean Cruise?

European River Cruises offer all the allures of traveling by water without the hundreds of fellow travelers and long days without land in sight. These vacations enjoy a more intimate scale than their ocean-faring cousins, accommodating 175 passengers or less in most cases. Vacations By Rail partners with luxurious river cruise lines, such as Amadeus, whose gorgeous ships are less than ten years old - many of which are five years old or less. The narrow vessels are ideal for meandering down Europe's serpentine waterways, unveiling new destinations daily. In each port of call, enthralling shore excursions allow you to soak in the ambiance of your chosen waterway one magnificent stop at a time.

When considering why European River Cruises are the ideal way to explore, you must also think about the onboard offerings. Savor exquisite multi-course meals on the ship, as well as snacks and desserts, and appetizers. Free-flowing drinks are available throughout the day, with wine and beer at dinner. And all of this is included in the price - no surprises.

What are Rail and Drive Tours?

Our Rail and Drive Tours are another option for travelers seeking an unconventional vacation experience. These independent trips combine the best elements of the classic road trip with travel on local and long-distance railways to create one memorable package. Typically, the bulk of the journey takes place by train, taking travelers across the country or through specific regions. The rail portion of the vacation may occur all at once or be split within the itinerary. Overnight accommodations are provided either on the train or in hotels as needed along the course before arriving at the focal point of the tour. It is there that you pick up your rental car and take the reins to your voyage.

While each day on the ground brings a suggested itinerary, including your destination for the evening with hotel accommodations, you are free to get from place to place however you see fit. Each rental car has GPS and unlimited mileage, so you can go wherever the spirit of adventure takes you. Return your rental car at the end of the driving portion of the trip and continue to your final destination or head home as laid out by your itinerary.

Do we have to book our rental cars for Rail and Drive Vacations?

No, as part of the package inclusions for each Rail and Drive Tour, travelers are provided with a well-equipped rental car for use during a specific period. Vacations By Rail takes care of all the orchestrating; all you have to do is pick up your vehicle at the specified location, enjoy the drive, and then return it at the appropriate time. 

Are vehicle upgrades available?

Most Rail and Drive Vacation packages provide a full-size rental car as a standard, allowing guests to travel comfortably for the duration of their trip's driving portion. Upgrades may be available if you prefer a larger or more luxurious vehicle. For the most options, contact a Rail Specialist at  1-877-929-7245 at your earliest convenience to discuss the upgrades available for your chosen tour package.

5. Payment and Money Matters

Are all tour prices shown in USD?

Yes, all the pricing on the Vacations By Rail website and those provided by our agents are in U.S. dollars. 

Is pricing available for single travelers?

Single occupancy pricing is available on all of our tours. To price your preferred vacation, press the yellow Views Dates & Pricing button on your selected tour or call us at 1-877-929-7245 to get a quote from a Rail Specialist. 

What discounts are available?

Vacations By Rail offers various promotions throughout the year that reduce the per-person costs for select tours. Visit our specials page to peruse our most current discounts and promotions.

Can trips be paid for in installments?

Once you have made your reservation and paid your deposit, you will receive a confirmation that includes your final payment date (90 days before travel). You may make intermediate payments on your account any time between booking and this final date by calling 1-877-929-7245 or through our website's payment portal. You must provide your last name and reservation number, regardless of your chosen option.

While you are welcome to make payments when you like, Vacations By Rail recommends paying in full at the time of booking or as soon as possible after. Tours may be subject to pricing changes passed onto customers; however, once you have paid in full, your price is locked.

Is there an online payment option?

In addition to making payments by phone, passengers are welcome to utilize our online payment portal. This service is available during and outside of business hours, allowing you to make payments when convenient.

Can I pay by check?

Absolutely. All checks should be payable to Vacations By Rail and mailed to 309 West Washington Street, Suite 1100, Chicago, IL 60606. While personal checks are accepted, money orders and cashier's checks are preferred. Any last-minute bookings made within 21 days of travel should mail their payment using USPS's Priority Mail Express Shipping with tracking. 

Does Vacations By Rail accept credit cards?

You may use any major credit card to make a payment on your account, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Debit card payments are also accepted, though some banks impose a daily limit. Please contact your bank or debit card provider to inform them of the amount of your purchase to ensure your payment is accepted.

Are gratuities included?

In general, our tour prices do not include gratuities for baggage handling, maid service, services of a personal nature, meals or drinks not included as part of the tour, the Tour Manager, drivers, step-on-guides, and extras not specified on your itinerary. While tipping is not required, it is encouraged when our travelers encounter excellent service. 

Are the rail vacation package prices guaranteed?

Occasionally our tour packages will be subject to price changes that we must pass along to our travelers. The sooner your balance is paid in full, the sooner your purchase price is locked in and guaranteed.

What are Vacations By Rail’s payment terms?

Full payment is due by your provided final payment day or 90 days prior to travel. You may make these payments all at once or intermittently between the booking and final payment dates using any of the above methods. Should you fail to pay your invoice in full by the final payment date, your reservation and all services accompanying it are subject to cancellation. Furthermore, all monies collected to that point will be forfeited. 

6. Tour Delays, Cancellations, Etc.

Do the itineraries ever change?

We make every effort to keep the itinerary as it is published on our website and provided to you in your travel documents. Sometimes, supplier schedules, tour availability, and factors beyond our control necessitate alterations to the final itinerary; however, all of this information will be available to you ahead of your travels. Vacations By Rail has the sole discretion to substitute services of similar quality for any service stated in the itinerary.

What happens in the case of a trip delay?

Because our vacation packages utilize train travel and other forms of transportation that are subject to delays and service disruptions, trip delays occasionally occur. These instances are out of our control. As such, Vacations By Rail is not responsible in whole or in part for any delays, delayed departures or arrivals, missed carrier connections, or losses of purchased services resulting from delays or disruptions. The tour will press forth with the proposed itinerary once service resumes. We strongly encourage you to purchase travel insurance to protect your travel investment and ensure you are compensated for any trip delays or disruptions. Our Rail Specialists can arrange trip insurance quotes for you before you submit your final payment, or you may obtain travel insurance independently.

What is Vacations By Rail’s cancellation policy?

Once you have booked your rail vacation, paid your $500 (or $750) deposit, and received confirmation of your booking, your deposit is non-refundable. Should you select to cancel your reservation after this time, we require written notice sent via certified mail, overnight courier, or e-mail to a Rail Specialist. A confirmation of receipt from us is necessary to ensure your cancellation is processed. The following cancellation and supplier fees apply:

  • 89 - 61 days prior to departure: 25% of the package price plus supplier fees
  • 60 - 46 days prior to departure: 50% of the package price plus supplier fees
  • 45 - day of departure: 100% non-refundable

No-shows and those travelers that cancel their reservations after travel begins forfeit 100% of the package price and supplier fees paid. Cancellations may also be subject to additional supplier cancellation fees and forfeiture of deposits as required by any third-party services or privately owned trains featured on your vacation. Should a flight, train, or other delay prevent you from joining your tour, you may join the tour late; however, you will not receive a full or partial refund nor a credit toward a future vacation to compensate for your lost day(s).

To read our complete cancellation policy, please see the Terms and Conditions on the Vacations By Rail website or contact a Rail Specialist at 1-877-929-7245 for more information.

Am I allowed to make changes to my vacation package?

Once full payment has been received for your tour package, Vacations By Rail does not allow date changes or name changes. Both instances will be considered a cancellation and rebooking and are subject to any fees associated with the process. A fee of $50 per person, plus any supplier fees and relevant price increases, is applied to all other changes made after full payment is received. Supplier fees may sometimes be up to 100% of the services provided.

7. Before You Go

When will I receive my final documents?

Your finalized travel documents will be prepared by Vacations By Rail and sent to you or your travel agent two weeks before your tour's departure date. 

What information will I get from Vacations By Rail before my trip?

In your final travel documents, you will receive all the relevant information about your chosen tour and a copy of the finalized itinerary. Travelers embarking on an escorted tour will receive the necessary meeting details for the first day of travel. If any changes have been made to your daily activities, they are reflected on the new itinerary. Any further documentation you may need for travel is also included in the enclosures. Look over all the documentation carefully to ensure all your details and chosen upgrades appear as you have booked them. Please let our Rail Specialists know immediately if something is amiss. 

Do I need a passport?

If you are not a citizen of the country - or countries - featured on your rail vacation, it is essential to travel with your passport. An invalid or expired passport will exclude you from entering nations outside your home country. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the necessary documentation before crossing the border on your international tour and understand the requirements of the country you are visiting. For example, some nations require your passport to be valid for at least six months after your visit or will not allow visitors with criminal records.

If you need a passport, or if yours needs to be renewed, click here to be redirected to the U.S. State Department website for all your application needs. Please allow a minimum of 6 months between the time of your application submission and your tour departure date to ensure you receive your passport in time. Passports may take up to 12 weeks to process and ship, and you must submit your passport information to Vacations By Rail no less than 90 days before your tour.

What visa requirements are Vacations By Rail travelers subject to?

Travelers are responsible for verifying the visa requirements for connection points and destinations included on their rail vacations. 

What currency will I need?

The type of currency you need for your vacation depends on your destination. Venturing north into Canada may still provide some opportunities to use the U.S. dollar, but most places require Canadian dollars. While there are exceptions, many countries throughout Europe now use the Euro. Travel in places that do not use the Euro or other parts of the world brings other currency needs. Please refer to the chart below for more information.

Country

Currency

Country

Currency

Austria

Euro

Monaco

Euro

Australia

Australian Dollar

Mongolia

Tögrög

Belarus

Belarusian Rouble

Morocco*

Moroccan Dirham

Belgium

Euro

Namibia

Namibian dollar

Bhutan

Bhutanese ngultrum

Nepal

Nepalese rupee

Botswana

Pula

Netherlands

Euro

Burma

Burmese kyat

New Zealand     

New Zealand Dollar     

Cambodia

Cambodian Riel

Norway

Norwegian Krone

Canada

Canadian Dollar

Peru

Nuevo Sol

China

Chinese Renminbi

Poland

Zloty

Croatia

Kuna and Croatian Dinar     

Romania

Romanian Leu

Czech Republic     

Czech Koruna

Russia

Russian Rouble

Denmark

Danish Krone

Singapore

Singapore Dollar

Ecuador

US Dollar

Slovakia

Euro

Estonia

Euro

Slovenia

Euro

Finland

Euro

South Africa

South African Rand

France

Euro

Spain

Euro

Germany

Euro

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan rupee

Greece

Euro

Sweden

Swedish Krona

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Dollar

Switzerland

Swiss Franc

Hungary

Forint

Tanzania

Tanzanian shilling

Ireland

Euro

Thailand

Thai Baht

Italy

Euro

Turkey

Turkish Lira

India*

Indian Rupee

Ukraine

Ukrainian Hryvnia

Japan

Japanese Yen

USA

US Dollar

Latvia

Euro

Vietnam

Vietnamese Dong

Luxembourg

Euro

Zambia

Zambian kwacha

Malaysia

Malaysian ringgit

 

 

Should I exchange money ahead of time?

If you choose to exchange your money in the United States before heading out on vacation, do so at your home bank rather than an independent agency. Using your bank means fewer transaction fees and a much better exchange rate. There will be some loss in conversion, but it too is less. If you are okay with waiting until you reach your destination, use the ATMs at the airport or train station rather than the kiosks, as they are known to have high mark-ups and transaction fees. Ask your bank about their policy regarding withdrawal limits and foreign ATM usage ahead of your journey to ensure you can get what you need.

Another option many travelers do not consider is using a credit card. Many credit card companies offer zero foreign transaction fees for American travelers, meaning there are no extra charges to deal with in exchanging your money. Furthermore, this negates the need to calculate the proper amount of paper money you need and keep track of it.

8. Packing

Are there specific baggage guidelines?

Baggage guidelines vary by tour and are subject to the restrictions of the trains and or cruise ships featured on the itinerary. In general, we recommend sticking to smaller suitcases for tours that do not include luggage transfer between stations or hotels. Bags with dimensions of 24"x 15" x 9" and a maximum weight of no more than 34 pounds are easier to transport on your own without the help of porters. For ease of transport, consider rolling bags with four 360-degree wheels.

If you are joining an escorted tour, refer to your chosen rail vacation's online itinerary or provided travel documentation to see if baggage handling is included and what requirements are outlined. Remember, baggage handling is not available for our independent itineraries, but your train may have specific luggage guidelines.

Is there a dress code?

Most trains, restaurants, excursions, and tours included on Vacations By Rail's trips do not have specific dress codes. Travelers are encouraged to dress in casual clothing that is comfortable for extended wear yet is appropriate for the places on the day's itinerary. Each day brings a new adventure, which may mean sitting or standing for extended periods or walking in the elements. If your vacation includes transit on a luxury train or a river cruise ship, there may be further wardrobe requirements, including formal wear for gala dinners. Any specific wardrobe requirements will be outlined in your travel documentation. 

What should I pack?

Think casual and comfortable when considering your wardrobe choices for your rail vacation. Choose versatile pieces in neutral colors that are easy to mix, match, and layer, allowing you to make many ensembles from fewer clothing items. Pack outer layers like sweaters, cardigans, and waterproof jackets no matter the season. Remember, less is more, and as long as you can dress your chosen pieces up or down as needed, you can get by with fewer items in your suitcase.

In addition to clothing, you will need a couple of pairs of comfortable walking shoes that are compatible with the climate you visit. Think snow boots or waterproof hiking boots for winter trips in snowy locales and supportive walking sandals in the summer. Consider onboard entertainment items and all suitable chargers. All medication you need for your journey, sunglasses, an umbrella, a hat, sunscreen, and a bag to carry during excursions are other essentials to put on your packing list.

For more inspiration, peruse these helpful articles:

9. Booking

When do I need to book?

The best time to book your next trip with Vacations By Rail is now. Each of our tours has a maximum group size to ensure our guests have a memorable expedition, and many tours fill quickly. Furthermore, our rail vacations feature a set number of departures each travel season, and once they sell out, no more will be added. There are no discounts for last-minute bookings or benefits to waiting. To reserve your spot, please provide all the required traveler information and pay your non-refundable deposit of $500 ($750 for packages including travel on Rocky Mountaineer). 

Should I purchase trip insurance?

Vacations by Rail partners with a variety of third-party travel insurance providers. Coverages and policies vary, as do prices, allowing travelers to secure the package that best aligns with their needs. Insurance policies may cover illnesses, travel delays, lost luggage, severe weather resulting in vacation cancellation, and emergency medical situations. Some also offer cancel-for-any-reason service, so when the unexpected happens, you are covered. For more information about how travel insurance can protect your vacation investment, continue reading
here or contact a Rail Specialist at 1-877-929-7245 for a quote. You can book travel insurance any time before your balance is paid in full; however, secure your policy within two weeks of making your vacation reservation to ensure the greatest scope of coverage.

What happens after I book?

Once you have made your initial deposit, we can begin confirming the services. You will receive an email invoice detailing your payment at that time.

Once services have been confirmed, you will receive an additional email guaranteeing your departure. At this point, you can feel free to purchase your airfare.

10. What to Expect During Travel

Will Vacations By Rail arrange flights ahead of and after the tours?

Travelers are responsible for arranging their arrival and departure flights for domestic and international tours. You will be required to provide your arrival flight information, including the airline you are traveling, your departure city and time, your flight number, and your arrival date, time, and city, for all escorted tours.

If you are embarking on a U.S. vacation and wish to utilize Amtrak for your travels rather than a flight, our Rail Specialists can coordinate connecting rail service to and from your nearest Amtrak station.

When should I arrange for my flight or train arrival?

Your provided tour documents will indicate the date, time, and location where your journey officially begins. If your rail vacation starts with a train ride or a flight, as included in the itinerary, ensure your arrival allows plenty of time for check-in and boarding. Account for any delays that may occur in your travel.

Our escorted tours have a designated meeting point for the travel group and Tour Manager (indicated in your final travel documents), and you may be required to check in with the group before your flight or train departure time. Consider booking pre-night arrangements to ensure you arrive in time for your tour's commencement. Our Rail Specialists can help you arrange all the hotel accommodations, sightseeing, and transfers needed for pre-trip extensions. Call us at 1-877-929-7245 to discover what options are available for your vacation.

Where do I meet my group on an escorted tour?

The final documents provided to you or your travel agent indicate an exact time and location for meeting your group and Tour Manager. There will be a quick briefing on the first day to present the adventures to come and answer any questions you or your fellow travelers have.

Are airport transfers included or available?

Airport transfers are available on select escorted and independent tours. Please refer to your itinerary or call a Rail Specialist to determine if your rail vacation applies. When the service is available but is not included in your tour, we may be able to arrange a private airport transfer at an additional cost. Our Rail Specialists are also happy to help you upgrade from group to private transfers on escorted vacations where it is available.

Is baggage handling included in my tour?

The availability of baggage handling depends on what type of tour you have booked. Many of our escorted vacations include baggage handling as a courtesy to ensure your luggage sees its way between destinations and hotels without a hitch. Sometimes, even when it is included, you may be required to manage your own bags. Please ensure that you can carry your luggage independently for these instances. Our independent rail vacations do not offer baggage handling services.

What are the motorcoaches used during travel like?

On our escorted tours where group travel by road is required, Vacations By Rail utilizes deluxe motorcoaches. These spacious tour buses generally accommodate under 60 passengers, though sometimes smaller buses are needed in areas with vehicle length and height restrictions. Travelers enjoy comfortable seating with heating and air conditioning. Each route is thoughtfully coordinated to include rest stops every 1 1/2 to 2 hours and position travelers in a location where there are options to purchase meals on their own when group meals are not included during the day's travels.

What are the excursions like?

Excursions are your chance to dive into the unique cultural, historical, and social aspects of your itinerary's destinations while on our independent and escorted tours. These immersive experiences come in many shapes and sizes and can include guided city tours or visits to points of interest. Urban-focused trips may include visits to famous buildings, castles, museums, or parks. Natural park vacations look to nature for inspiration and offer excursions that explore their incredible lakes and landscapes or drive along scenic passages throughout the park. Traveling to places like the Swiss Alps or the Colorado Rockies can bring rides on scenic railways and climbs to soaring summits. Regardless of your destination, Vacation By Rail's expertise makes it easy to explore.

The activity level required for excursions varies between tours. Refer to your chosen tour's page on our website for a breakdown of the included excursions, or contact a Rail Specialist, to ensure the itinerary is a good fit for you. Also, consider whether it is important for you to have a guide along for excursions. Our independent tour excursions, while a local expert may guide them, do not feature the services of a Tour Manager. On the other hand, a Tour Manager and your fellow travelers will join all the excursions with you on an escorted tour.

Do we have to join excursions?

You are welcome to join as many or as few excursions as you would prefer on your chosen itinerary. The exception to this comes with those excursions that are used as transportation between trip destinations. Refer to your itinerary, or consult your Tour Manager on an escorted tour, to see how excursions are being utilized before making your decision whether or not to participate. Keep in mind that just because you decide to forgo the experience does not mean that its cost will be deducted from your package price or that Vacations By Rail will refund you at the end of the tour. Escorted tour travelers may get their Tour Manager's recommendations for independent sightseeing options in lieu of excursions if needed. 

What hotels do we stay at in each location?

Each tour page on our website includes the details for hotel accommodations for your tour. In some instances, upgrades to superior or deluxe accommodations may be available. Should you choose this option, you will be provided with the names of the substituted accommodations. Your final travel documentation will reflect your selected hotels and their locations.

What is the difference between moderate, superior, and deluxe hotels?

The differences in the different hotel types come down to their amenities, accommodations, and star rating. While there is some variation based on the tour package and destination, in general the hotels utilized by Vacations By Rail can be categorized as:

  • Moderate - Establishments with a 3 1/2 to 4-star rating that provide quality service and comfortable accommodations.
  • Superior - Hotels with a 4 to 4 1/2-star rating and upscale accommodations to provide exceptional relaxation.
  • Deluxe - These hotels feature a 4 1/2 to 5-star rating and provide guests with a high-end experience filled with luxury and convenience.

Is there an additional fee for specific bedding requests at the hotels?

Upgrading or changing your hotel accommodations to include specific bedding arrangements, such as a king bed rather than two queens, may be subject to additional fees. This information is available through our online booking platform on each tour and by contacting a Rail Specialist.

11. On the Train

Are there outlets onboard the train so I can charge my personal electronics?

Most intercity and long-distance trains that Vacations By Rail utilizes have outlets available, though they will be limited. Heritage trains or scenic routes may not provide outlets at all. We recommend charging your devices at the hotel and/or carrying a portable power bank if an outlet is unavailable.

Is smoking allowed on the train?

Smoking is not permitted onboard most trains.

Will I have Internet access and mobile phone reception during my train journey?

Part of the romance of train travel is disconnecting. Internet access is unavailable on many trains, and cell phone reception is not guaranteed or reliable, especially in the mountains or traversing rural expanses.

Are train accommodation upgrades available?

Travelers who wish for a more private or luxurious experience while traveling by train may upgrade their accommodations at an additional cost. Upgrades may be available on Amtrak, VIA Rail, Rocky Mountaineer, and select scenic routes. Contact a Rail Specialist to see which trains on your chosen itinerary qualify.

What accommodation options are available on Amtrak’s overnight trains?

  • Coach: Wide, reclining seats allow each guest to travel comfortably in Coach. Each comfortable seat includes a fold-down tray, an individual reading light, and a personal outlet for charging electronics. Shared toilets are located in each car.
  • Roomettes: The smallest of the Sleeper Car options, Roomettes provide upper and lower berth sleeping accommodations for two adults. These quaint rooms have locking doors, a pull-down table, a sizable private window, individual climate controls, and electrical outlets. Roomette guests share shower and restroom facilities with other passengers in their car.
  • Bedrooms: Enjoy more spacious private accommodations by upgrading to a Bedroom. These rooms are more spacious than Roomettes and feature upper and lower berth beds and a comfortable armchair for lounging. Furthermore, each Bedroom includes an en suite bathroom featuring a sink, vanity, enclosed toilet, and shower. Guests may request two adjoining Bedrooms to create a Bedroom Suite ideal for a group of four travelers.

Read more information about your options while traveling Amtrak.

What accommodation options are available on VIA Rail’s Canadian?

  • Berth: Semi-private Berths include two couch-style seats facing one another by day and convert to upper and lower bunks at night. Each Berth includes pillows, sheets, blankets, and a heavy privacy curtain. There is a small storage area for personal effects that you do not want in the luggage compartment. Guests of this class have access to public restroom and shower facilities in the car and enjoy included meals in the Dining Car. Please note that Berths do not have electrical outlets.
  • Cabins for One: Sleeper Plus Cabins for One feature more privacy and floor space in a compact package. These cabins feature a sofa chair, which is removed at night and replaced with a comfortable single bed adorned with fresh sheets, pillows, and blankets. There is a small storage space in the cabin and a private toilet, sink, and mirror. Because lower-level beds extend over the toilets at night, guests of these cabins have easy access to the car's restroom and shower facilities. Other amenities include interior locking doors, a fan, drinking water, towels, a private window with blinds, and an outlet.
  • Cabins for Two: With two sofa-style chairs by day and upper and lower berth beds at night, Cabins for Two are ideal for a pair traveling together. Private water closets are in each Cabin for Two, as are sinks with mirrors and razor outlets. Other amenities passengers enjoy include large picture windows with blinds, individualized climate controls, baggage storage, shower towels, toiletries, drinking water, interior locking doors, and comfortable bedding. Shared shower facilities are located in each car.
  • Prestige Class: The ultimate in railway luxury awaits when you choose Prestige Class on the Canadian. This new service class includes all the amenities of a high-end hotel in a tidy private cabin. Look out the oversized picture window from a leather L-shaped modular sofa by day, and sink into the comfort of quality linens in your pull-down full-sized Murphy bed at night. Each Prestige cabin includes a full en suite bathroom with a shower and plenty of outlets for your electronics. Other in-room amenities include a flat-screen T.V. with a video selection, a fully stocked mini-bar, and the services of an around-the-clock concierge. Guests also enjoy complimentary appetizers before meals and all-you-care-to-enjoy drinks and snacks.

Continue reading about the Canadian's accommodation choices.

What accommodations are available on VIA Rail’s Ocean?

  • Cabins for Two: With two sofa-style chairs by day and upper and lower berth beds at night, Cabins for Two are ideal for a pair traveling together. Private water closets are in each Cabin for Two, as are sinks with mirrors and razor outlets. Other amenities passengers enjoy include large picture windows with blinds, individualized climate controls, baggage storage, shower towels, toiletries, drinking water, interior locking doors, and comfortable bedding. Shared shower facilities are located in each car.

What accommodation options are available on VIA Rail’s Corridor Service?

  • Economy: Passengers are seated with two seats on either side of the aisle in Economy. Each oversized chair provides ample leg room and reclines for comfort. Fold-down trays, seat-back storage pouches for reading material, outlets, and large windows are other amenities passengers enjoy. Each Economy car shared restroom facilities. Please note that onboard meals are not included for Economy travelers and can be purchased separately throughout the journey.
  • Business: Business Class travelers can enjoy the privileges of the Business Lounge at stations along the route before boarding the train and have more space, thanks to a two-by-one seating arrangement, in the Business Class carriage. The plush leather seats recline and have plenty of legroom. Small side tables and fold-down tray tables pair with electrical outlets, and oversized windows with curtains are just some amenities. The refreshments may be the most significant difference between Economy and Business seating. A hot meal and drink service, including beer, wine, spirits, and soft drinks, are included in the price of a ticket.

What accommodation options are available on Rocky Mountaineer in Canada?

Rocky Mountaineer offers three district routes in Western Canada, each wrapped in stunning views of forests and mountains. Regardless of the route you choose, there are two distinct service levels from which to choose:

  • SilverLeaf: Seated in plush, reclining leather seats, guests are treated to picturesque scenes from a single-level domed-glass coach. Attendants serve delicious hot breakfasts and lunches at your seat, and complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks are available throughout the journey. Between SilverLeaf cars is a vestibule with opening windows allowing travelers to take unobstructed pictures of the passing beauty.
  • GoldLeaf: Each GoldLeaf Car features two levels of luxury. The upper level includes reclining, rotating seats surrounded by full-length windows that extend onto the ceiling. Guests who wish to connect with nature more intimately can step out onto the private open-air vestibule on the lower level of the car. Also on the lower level, guests savor incredible, chef-prepared meals in the GoldLeaf Dining Car. The menu is more extensive in GoldLeaf and also features complimentary snacks and drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, throughout the journey.

Learn more about what sets these service levels apart.

Is GoldLeaf service available on Rocky Mountaineer in the United States?

While there is no option for GolfLeaf Service on the Rocky Mountaineer's Rockies to the Red Rocks route through Colorado and Utah, passengers can choose from two fantastic levels of service, both of which provide a spectacular perspective on the changing surroundings.

  • SilverLeaf: Seated in plush, reclining leather seats, guests are treated to picturesque scenes from a single-level domed-glass coach. Attendants serve delicious hot breakfasts and lunches at your seat, and complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks are available throughout the journey. Between SilverLeaf cars is a vestibule with opening windows allowing travelers to take unobstructed pictures of the passing beauty.
  • SilverLeaf Plus: In addition to all of the amenities of SilverLeaf, SilverLeaf Plus guests can watch the impressive Southwestern scenery unfold from a fully renovated lounge with an open-air viewing platform. Another perk comes at mealtimes, during which SilverLeaf Plus travelers enjoy an additional course with their meals.

Discover more information about the Rocky Mountaineer's maiden voyage in the United States and your choices while riding.

12. Accessibility & Special Accommodations

What if I have special accommodation, mobility, dietary, or general assistance needs?

If you have special requests or requirements regarding sleeping accommodations, meals, accessibility, or assistance, you are responsible for notifying Vacations By Rail at the time of booking or shortly thereafter. The sooner we are aware of your needs, the better the chance we will be able to accommodate your requests; however, there is no guarantee.

Should you fail to provide this information, VBR reserves the right to cancel your booking if your particular needs or disabilities are not suitable for the vacation, pose a threat to the health and safety of other participants or staff, or if you are not traveling with a companion who provides the assistance you require. Please review our tour activity level guidelines to ensure your health and mobility correlate with the tour's activity level before booking, as VBR does not provide personal services, such as pushing a wheelchair, assisting with walking, assembling mobility equipment, or aiding in getting on and off coaches, trains, cruise ships, or other vehicles. Furthermore, not all sightseeing opportunities, excursions, trains, hotels, and lodges used on our tours are ADA-compliant. Cancellations by Vacations By Rail due to failure to provide notification of your requirements are not subject to refunds and may incur cancellation fees. Contact a Rail Specialist at 1-877-929-7245 for more information regarding specific requests.