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Great Family Rail Travel Vacation Ideas for Summer. There is no limit to the possibilities for stress-free family fun when part of your holiday includes boarding a train. The potential for relaxation and quality family time make traveling by rail ideal.ScotRail Kids Ride Free Family Adventures
Whether it’s Amtrak to Boston or ViaRail to Montreal, ScotRail to the Highlands,  Eurail to the Black Forest or RailItalia to Tuscany, the value of extra family time makes all the difference. Board the train and you are automatically on a roll.

Here’s the scoop. Because I know moms, dads, and grandparents are making plans for summer, I feel compelled to suggest a rail adventure. The number of cool places to go by train is endless and the obvious benefit no one needs to struggle with highway traffic, slowdowns caused by road construction or unscheduled bathroom stops. My family has had the opportunity to enjoy hundreds of rail hours together sometimes with the advantage of a sleeper car and other times enjoy a coach compartment. We have had picnics on the train and dined on linen table clothes. Each journey was unique and all stress free. 

I think you are never too young for train travel and never too old either. Most rail companies offer terrific savings on tickets for all ages making it very easy for three generations to travel together without annoying each other. From tykes traveling for free on ScotRail to 50% off for children on Amtrak, ViaRail and RailItaia, the savings are real. Add to that extra partnership saving afforded to BritRail ticket holders.
I have selected five rail vacation examples for review based on my own experience. As the examples indicate the idea is simple just decide on a destination, unpack the car and go there by train. 

Amtrak Chicago Bound - Luxury on the move. If Chicago sounds like the right destination Amtrak Family Vacations has the ticket or perhaps I should say tickets. It is now easy to combine rail travel with a Chicago CityPASS giving you a pre-planned way to enjoy time together. And if your destination requires a sleepover on the train, get happy because the Amtrak’s family bedroom spans the entire width of the Superliner sleeping car and has two picture windows. During the day the space has a sofa and two reclining seats. By night the seating converts to beds and the two upper berths fold down from above. Bonus points:  Amtrak Kids Depot offers online games, activities and downloads covering a variety of topics like trains, geography, the environment, memory-building, problem-solving and much more. Details:

Amtrak National Park Adventures – Enjoy rails and trails. How about boarding the train knowing your next stop is a Yosemite, Glacier National Park or maybe the Grand Canyon. Amtrak has the connections to make any of those happen plus another dozen locations. The Trails & Rails programs are as diverse as the volunteer rangers presenting them. On any given route hear the stories of the area or have an opportunity to closely examine artifacts that relate to the route. On some programs you may find musical offerings, or rangers dressed in living history costumes or historical attire. Bonus points: The National Park Service's Trails and Rails Program provides passengers with free podcasts created to enhance the trip along on the Sunset Limited (New Orleans - Los Angeles) and Texas Eagle trains (Chicago - San Antonio - Los Angeles). Wait for it! From June to August, guest artists will be performing accordion music, flute, fiddle music, and storytelling on the Empire Builder. Details: Family Travel Adventures in Britain

ScotRail Earth-friendly and family-friendly. Scotrail has a reputation for providing green travel with eco-friendly trains and free WIFI along with extra savings for families. On ScotRail children not yet five years of age always travel for free with an adult companion. And the benefits for families continue with their popular “Kids Go Free” program which allows up to two children aged between five and 15 years of age to travel free with each adult who purchases a Kids Go Free ticket. So it is possible to enjoy Edinburgh and Glasgow in one holiday. Maybe spend a day enjoying living history at Sterling Castle. Head to the Highlands for hiking and stargazing or perhaps join a witch tour at St. Andrews. Bonus points: ScotRail’s onboard experience is enhanced by a terrific assortment of entertaining items for young children including crosswords, mazes, coloring pages, brain teasers, word searches, matching games, and connect-the-dots. Wait for it! The Kids Go Free tickets also provide a free child admission to many attractions in Scotland including Edinburgh Dungeon, Aberdeen’s Satrosphere, Snow Factor at Xscape in Glasgow, the Loch Ness Centre, Dundee’s Science Centre, Deep Sea World in Queensferry and many more. Details: Call ScotRail 08457 55 00 33 or

Eurail Global Pass options for fun. If Europe with the kids is on your radar screen add Eurail to make it easy. Many trains have enclosed spaces with seats and tables perfect for travel with tykes who need to move about or families who wish to dine during transit. Night trains offer even more efficient ways to expand vacation time. Family Rail Adventures in Switzerland.For example: Choose Germany’s Black Forest with the hot springs of Baden-Baden and storybook like Hohenzollern Castle. Add to your plan Stuttgart for time at the elegant yet family friendly Mercedes Benz Museum and the awesome Porsche Museum. Board the train for Lucerne, Switzerland and a few days hiking in the Alps with Eco Adventures and an awesome lake cruise (included with your rail pass). Then on to Paris for a music festival or a city family adventure with Isabelle Southgate an extraordinary family tour guide. Bonus points: The advantage of tickets on the Eurail system means there are many additional ways to travel including boats, funiculars, and trams, just show your ticket and you are on a roll. Details:   

RailItalia - Trenitalia connects families with history.  Family train travel through Italy is easy and who doesn’t appreciate easy? No airport hassles, no baggage restrictions or extra cost for bags, plus rail coach seats are family friendly with more leg room and even tables for coloring books, board games, or computers. For example: it is easy to combine the excitement of Rome and its dramatic Ancient City with a trip Pompeii and Herculaneum. Add time in Vivaldi’s Venice or maybe hiking in the hills of Tuscany, all easily connected by your family’s rail passes. Bonus points: On Trenitalia, Italy's national railway, children younger than 15 years of age travelling with at least one adult, in groups of two to five persons may travel for free. Details:

ViaRail - Montréal & Halifax - A tale of two cities. Just imagine one family rail vacation train connecting with two awesome cities. Montréal is definitely the Paris of North America and a divine spot to be with kids. Its cosmopolitan atmosphere shaped by its multicultural history makes it a destination with plenty to be discovered and enjoyed including a walk around Vieux-Montreal, and time at Montreal Botanical Gardens with more than 30 thematic gardens. Add to the urban experience an overnight rail journey along the St. Lawrence River to Halifax with historic Halifax Citadel, Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and not-to-be-missed living history at Fort St. Anne. Bonus points: VIA Rail offers daily departures (except Tuesdays) on the Ocean between Montréal & Halifax. Book in Sleeper Touring class (when available) and enjoy exclusive access to the Park Car and a unique Maritime learning experience available for passengers. Details:

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Copyright updated 2017. 

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