What Is Amtrak's Baggage Policy?

For those of us used to traveling by plane, especially on budget airlines, Amtrak's baggage policy can seem incredibly generous. Amtrak passengers can take two personal items, two carry-on bags, and two checked bags onboard for free. If you're traveling with a lot of luggage, it may well work out cheaper (and more scenic) to take the train rather than fly.

There are weight limits for your carry-on luggage and some items, like firearms, are prohibited in your carry-on but permitted in your checked luggage. There is also the possibility to take unusual items onboard certain trains, including bikes, surfboards and vehicles. Yes, Amtrak runs Auto Trains!

Before you travel, it's essential you check the Amtrak site, the rules of your ticket and your particular train. You can't turn up two minutes before departure with a collection of bows and arrows and expect to merrily hop on board with all the other passengers.

Carry-on luggage rules

As we said, you can take two carry-on bags onto the train with Amtrak. Each bag can weigh up to 50 lbs. and can have dimensions of 28 x 22 x 14 inches. On the Pacific Surfliner, you'll need to carry slightly smaller bags: up to 28 x 22 x 11 inches each. Bear in mind that you will need to lift your bags over your head to fit them in the overhead bins, so if you can't do this, consider checking them. There are also designated baggage areas on trains and you'll be able to keep small items under your seat.

In addition to your two carry-on bags, you can also take two personal items onto the train. Items permitted include pillows, blankets, computer cases and medical devices and must weigh under 25 lb. each. Remember to keep your eye on your luggage while you're onboard the train. If you're heading to the bathroom or the restaurant car, always take your valuables with you.

Checked baggage rules

You also have the option to check your luggage. And we're going to repeat, this is free! However, do be aware that some trains aren't equipped to carry checked baggage, so make sure to check before you travel. You can take two items weighing up to 50 lb. each and smaller than 75 linear inches (length + width + height). You can also check two additional bags for $20 each. One great advantage of checking your bags is that you don't need to keep watch over them while you're on the train. However, Amtrak does not permit passengers to put valuable items, like jewelry or an ID, in their checked luggage.

You'll need to arrive at the station a little earlier than usual if you're planning to check your luggage: at least 45 minutes before your train's scheduled departure time. Your bag will also need a tag with your name and address on the outside.

Special services

Amtrak doesn't just carry suitcases! First, if you're traveling with an infant under the age of 2, you can bring an infant item like a stroller or a diaper bag onboard in addition to your carry-on items. Bicycles with a weight of up to 50 lb. can be checked, and on some trains, they can even be taken onboard. Lots of sporting equipment is allowed, so if you're heading to the ski slopes of Colorado or the surf beaches of the Pacific, hop on board (pun intended.) Musical instruments weighing up to 50 lb. can usually be taken as carry-on luggage, so you'll be able to croon to a captive audience as you chug across the States (not advised.)

Finally, there are the Auto Trains. These trains don't have space for checked luggage, but you can leave as much as you want in your car. Be aware that you won't be able to access it during the journey, though. You are also entitled to the regular two carry-on bags and personal items.