Train travel is far more common in other countries than it is in the U.S. and there are many reasons that travelers like to travel by train. Not the least of which is the old-fashioned charm of traveling at near ground level where you can enjoy the scenery as it goes by. See some of the world’s most scenic train rides.
Of course, travel by train is still travel after all and travel is unpredictable. it comes with its own share of risks and rewards. The need to protect yourself from cancellations, delays, and baggage loss remain important whether you’re traveling by train or by airplane for example.
We’ll explain how to protect yourself when you travel by train in a minute, but first, let’s go over the benefits of traveling by train that have so many people enthusiastic about train travel.
Benefits of Traveling by Train
Train travel has long been less appreciated in the U.S. for a few reasons – not the least of which is that the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist at the same level it does in other countries. Train travel fans will tell you there are many benefits of traveling by train, including:
It’s a cost-effective alternative to airline fares particularly considering the ever-increasing airline fees and the distance you’re traveling. Plus, many rail operators give discounts to children, students, seniors, military personnel and others.
The ticket prices for train travel are far more stable. Anyone who’s suffered through trying to find the cheapest airline ticket knows that it’s a crazy game, but train fares tend to remain stable (with some adjustments for holidays or peak times) day after day on any particular route and buying ahead doesn’t win you a cheaper ticket.
It’s a more flexible way to travel. Except on long-haul or infrequently traveled routes, a train ticket lets a traveler catch the train that works into their schedule instead of the other way around. Most short trips don’t require prior reservations and you don’t have to pay change fees to go at a different time. Plus, there is no need to arrive hours early, wait in long security lines, ration your shampoo, etc.
Train travel comes with a much larger baggage allowance – often two carry-ons and up to four checked bags each (the first two of which are free). While there are weight limits, you won’t get your bags on an airplane that cheaply.
Train travel is also more energy-efficient per passenger mile than cars or planes, making them one of the most eco-friendly modes of transportation after walking and cycling.
Here’s how to protect your travel investment when you’re taking a train trip.
1. Choose the right type of travel insurance plan
While travel insurance is typically divided into two types of plans: package plans and travel medical plans, there’s another type of plan that’s often useful for train travelers – an annual plan. Here’s how to decide:
If you have defined start and end dates to your trip, and want coverage for trip cancellations, you’ll want a package plan to cover your trip.
If you have defined start and end dates, but don’t want or need coverage for trip cancellation, you can go the much cheaper route and choose a travel medical plan.
If you’re starting your trip but don’t have a defined return date and need travel medical coverage, you can go with a long-term travel medical plan and renew as you go.
If you’ll be gone at least a year and need travel medical coverage, take a look at the annual travel insurance plans. Note, these can be renewed at the end of the term to extend the coverage longer, if you need it.
Now that you know which type of plan you need, you can choose the coverage options.
2. Cover your pre-paid and non-refundable expenses
Protecting your wallet from the loss associated with potential trip cancellations means covering your pre-paid non-refundable trip expenses from potential losses. If you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason, then you’ll be able to get that money back.
Depending on your trip plans, you may not have a lot of pre-paid expenses when you’re traveling by train. Plus, you may purchase your return or continuing travel tickets while enroute, so you won’t cover those from trip cancellation.
When you want protection for potential trip cancellations, add up your known pre-paid trip costs. This may be a round -trip train ticket plus transportation to the station plus your non-refundable lodging when you arrive – anything you will pay for in advance and know you won’t be able to get your money back if you have to cancel.
Use our compare quotes tool and type in your travel dates, those pre-paid trip costs, your age and other details and get quotes from many travel insurance companies.
3. If traveling outside your health care network, get medical coverage
Whether you’re traveling by train, car, airplane or ship the concern that you might have to pay for emergency medical treatment if you are injured or become ill remains the same.
If your health insurance plan doesn’t extend coverage to where you’re going – and most health insurance plans limit their liability to within a geographic range – then you’ll be paying for your medical care with your credit card. Medical care if expensive everywhere and even out-of-network costs can be very high if say the entire family gets sick or in a car accident.
Check with your health insurance plan to determine if you’ll have coverage and to what level. If you’re traveling to an area where you’ll be paying out-of-network costs, the small investment in coverage for emergency medical and dental expenses is often worth it. If you’re buying a travel plan with trip cancellation coverage, then some travel medical is nearly always included so you’ll just need to pay attention to the plan limits and make sure you have enough. See How Much Travel Medical and Evacuation is Enough for clues.
4. Travel delays occur with train trips too – can you afford a long delay?
If the train is delayed from leaving for some reason – weather, natural disaster, etc. – then you’ll likely get your money back. The actual amount you get and how you go about getting it varies from company to company, but of course the costs relative to your travel delay aren’t isolated to your transportation expenses any more than they are if you’d traveled by airline instead.
If you’re delayed in arriving at the train’s departure due to:
a traffic accident
a stolen passport
a natural disaster
… and other reasons, then you’ll be able to make a claim for unexpected expenses like lodging and alternative transportation on your travel insurance plan.
If you’re buying a package plan to cover potential trip cancellations, you’ll have some travel delay coverage with your plan. If you’re buying a travel medical plan, or an annual plan, you may have less or no coverage for travel delays, so be sure to think about the potential for delays, examine your wallet, and review the coverage.
5. Lose a passport and you’re left at the border
Border crossings are controlled with train travel just like they are with airline travel. The form of identification you carry must be valid if you are to cross the border and, in many cases, it can’t be too close to expiring. Original, valid identification is required and passengers are responsible for verifying that their identification is accurate and correct.
Lost passports are a concern not only prior to a trip, but during the trip as well. If your passport is lost or stolen on your trip, you could be in a bad situation and the train could very well leave without you. In that case, a travel insurance plan can help out with travel assistance services to help you replace your passport and find lodgings.
6. It’s still necessary to protect your baggage on train trips
When you travel by train, your bags are still at some risk of loss and/or delay. If you check your bags they could be routed onto the wrong train although the risk is far less than it is with the airlines. The risk of baggage loss, however, is the same and it’s important to remember that train operators limit their liability when it comes to carry-on and checked bags just like the airlines do.
Baggage coverage with your travel insurance plan extends beyond the transportation portion of your trip too and goes with you wherever you travel. If your bags are stolen anywhere along your trip, then you can make a claim on your travel insurance plan and receive reimbursement up to the plan limits.