This Little-Known Amtrak Hack Will Transform How You Travel

Flying certainly gets you where you're going quickly, but if you want to savor the views along the way, booking a train trip is always a good choice. Amtrak remains a top travel option in the U.S., with the company reporting more than 500 destinations currently served. Amtrak has been helping passengers explore the country by rail since 1971 and has continued to grow and expand its routes and passenger experience options ever since. That trend continues into 2024 with train travel updates, innovations, improvements, and expansions worth billions of U.S. dollars, just recently announced by the company. While these changes are exciting, it might just be the frequently overlooked services that have been around for longer that could make all the difference in your experience the next time you step on board.

One of Amtrak's lesser-known programs that can enhance the convenience of your train trip is their Red Cap baggage-handling service. It's a program that's designed specifically with customer care and ease of mobility in mind, and there's absolutely no cost to enjoy this added travel feature. In fact, the only hack here is that you have to know the program exists to reap the helpful benefits the next time you travel.

A handling service that makes a huge difference

Using Red Cap services is an Amtrak hack that feels too good to be true, but isn't. It's simply the company's complimentary baggage-handling program that's there when you'd like help getting your belongings on or off the train. As long as you have an Amtrak ticket in hand, you can get where you're going without the added stress of hauling luggage through narrow train corridors.

This is a useful service whether you travel Amtrak regularly or you're setting out on your first adventure. It's easy to mistakenly assume that the service is part of an exclusive Amtrak guest rewards program, but that's not the case. Red Cap services are available to every ticketed passenger who asks for assistance.

You don't even need a reservation to make the most of the service. All you need are a few moments to check whether your station has a Red Cap service center on-site. After that, it's as simple as showing up early and flagging down an agent. You won't have to worry about missing them because they're refreshingly easy to spot in their bright red shirts and hats. Present your ticket and they'll be more than happy to handle your luggage and help you find your place on the train. This isn't technically considered a VIP service, but the option to get onboard quickly and not have to carry your luggage will have you feeling like a priority passenger in no time.

Enjoy above-and-beyond service options

Red Cap services don't just transform how you travel at the point of departure. Agents are also on hand at your participating arrival station to help you get your luggage off the train too. If you mention this to the agent who helps you board the train, they can often notify an agent at your next destination, giving them a heads up that you're on your way and could use help upon arrival.

If you don't immediately see a Red Cap agent at your station, be sure to look for the Red Cap service desk found at each participating location. This is an important stop to note, especially if you're looking to utilize any of the Red Cap services beyond luggage assistance. That's right, the program is also set up to assist passengers with disabilities as they navigate the train station. Agents are available to help groups of passengers traveling together to get on board successfully, and they can operate motorized vehicles and ramps upon request too.

While there's no cost associated with using this helpful service, it's always good to reward an agent who provides impeccable assistance. In general, it's good form to tip anywhere from $10 to $20 per person. Ultimately, it's a small price to pay for something that makes your travel experience so much easier.