The pass gives travelers the ability to ride up to 10 travel segments across the country, no matter how long or short it is.
For a limited time until Jan. 20, the pass is being sold for $299, down from its regular price of $499.
According to Amtrak’s website, travelers with the pass receive 10 rides (a.k.a segments) in coach on the wide majority of Amtrak routes across the country.
A segment can be as long as Chicago to Los Angeles or as short as Washington D.C. to New York City.
Trip changes can be made prior to the scheduled departure time of a segment. Rebookings must be made either within the 120-day validity period or within 30 days of your first used segment.
No blackout date or time of day restrictions.
The pass is fully refundable by calling Amtrak, as long as you’re still in the 120-day validity period and no travel has occurred yet.
What’s the catch?
Those travelling with the USA Rail Pass must travel in Coach class and are not eligible to upgrade to a higher fare class (business, first, or sleeper).
The pass cannot be used on the Amtrak Acela, Auto Train, Maple Leaf, or Thruway Bus Series 7000-7999.
The travel must occur within 120 days of purchasing the pass and travelers will need to travel all 10 segments within 30 days once you go on your first segment.
Travel is limited to two round-trip rides, or four one-way rides, through a given station.
Segment reservations must be made ahead of time to receive your tickets.
Any unused segments will expire after thirty (30) days from date of first travel.
A pass cannot be shared amongst multiple people.
How to use the pass
According to Amtrak, once you purchase the pass, you’ll be able to start booking each segment of your trip directly from your purchase confirmation, by going to ‘Modify Trip’ on Amtrak.com or by looking up your reservation in the Amtrak app.
When heading to the security checkpoint at any airport, your biggest concern is making it through as quickly and easily as possible. Even if you just packed the basics, there’s sometimes a worry that your bag will be pulled for further inspection—which could keep you from making your flight on time. These concerns are normally unwarranted, but travelers do get stopped by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers even when they truly believe they haven’t packed any security no-no’s. Eager to avoid that situation? Read on to discover five surprising items TSA may flag you for at airport security.
1 Snow globes
The holiday season means seeing family, and more often than not, carrying gifts to give them. But if you’re planning to deliver a snow globe to a loved one, be warned that it might not get through security. “If a wrapped gift looks suspicious on an x-ray machine, the only person unwrapping your perfectly wrapped gift will be the TSA screening agent,” she says.
2 Exercise weights
If you’re looking to stay fit—and don’t mind schlepping a heavier bag—you might toss some exercise weights into your carry-on. Doing so can be problematic, however, according to Rebecca Deitsch, founder of the travel blog Day Trip Queen.
“While TSA doesn’t technically forbid weights in your carry-on luggage, they do forbid sports equipment that could be used as a bludgeon,” Deitsch says. “Their example is a baseball bat, but other items can be removed at the discretion of the TSA agent.”
3 Peanut butter
Food is always a questionable addition to your carry-on or personal item, and some foods seem to fall into a gray area. For instance, peanut butter is considered a liquid.
“Last summer, TSA confiscated a jar of peanut butter I was bringing to a family member who lives abroad,” Eric Segalstad, vice president of Gondwana Ecotours, tells Best Life. “I was traveling without checked luggage and didn’t foresee that JIF Extra Crunchy was considered liquid. Now I know!”
4 Christmas crackers
When you think of Christmas “crackers,” your mind might go to some festive food, but these crackers are actually cardboard cylinders that are pulled open to find a small gift inside. They’re often used as table decorations, and while they’re more popular in the U.K. and Canada than in the U.S., you’ve likely seen them during the holiday season. If you’re in charge of supplying them, though, they’re not getting past TSA
According to TSA, these novelties aren’t permitted in your carry-on luggage or your checked bags. And don’t pack bang snaps—those small fireworks that make a snapping noise when thrown against hard surfaces—either.
5 Small metal tools
It’s common sense that any weapon shouldn’t be brought to the airport (unless you’ve followed instructions to transport it properly), but TSA has a wider definition of what can actually be used as a weapon—similar to those two-pound weights. Deitsch recommends looking out for “small metal tools of any type.”
“If you are flying with your guitar and you have extra tuning keys, wire clippers, or any little metal objects, it’s best to put these in your checked luggage, even if they seem inoffensive,” she says. “This is especially true if you are entering a foreign country and there is a language barrier.”
Corkscrews are a bit tricky, as they’re not allowed if they have a blade, per TSA, but if they don’t have a blade, they’re safe to take through security. Swiss Army Knives will be confiscated as well, as the agency says that only “plastic or round bladed butter knives” can come through a checkpoint. When putting them in your checked bag, make sure that they’re “sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors,” per TSA’s requirements.
If you have concerns about what you’re packing, TSA makes it pretty easy to search for items on its website. For items that you can’t find listed, take a picture or send a question to AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger, the agency says.
With the holidays rapidly approaching—along with long airport security lines—enrolling in TSA Pre-Check can save travelers time and headaches this holiday season. Staples TSA Pre-Check enrollment process offers an easy “lifehack” for travelers.
Here’s how Staples made your next trip through airport security a breeze.
What is TSA Pre-Check?
No one likes waiting in long security lines at the airport. It can be a hassle to take off shoes and layers and rummage through bags. That’s where TSA Pre-Check comes in.
TSA Pre-Check offers an accelerated security process for travelers. The option allows travelers to keep their “shoes, jacket and belt on… laptop in its case; 3-1-1 compliant liquids in your bag; and enjoy a better overall travel experience,” according to the Staples website.
For frequent travelers, those flying with kids or anyone who simply wants a stress-free travel experience, TSA Pre-Check can be a lifesaver for both domestic and international travel.
How can I enroll in TSA Pre-Check at Staples?
Typically, enrolling in TSA Pre-Check requires travelers to go to designated locations like the airport. But as Mackenzie says, “If you’re looking to get TSA and you’re like ‘I don’t want to go to the airport,’ all you have to do is sign up on Staples the night before and go to your local Staples.”
On the TSA Pre-Check enrollment process, Mackenzie says “they took our fingerprints, took a mug shot, we confirmed our address, typed in our social security number, and we were out of there” with the entire process taking around “three minutes.”
According to Staples website, it really is that simple. All travelers need is to follow these easy steps:
Head to the government website to begin the enrollment process
Once on the government website, look for a “located inside Staples” option to confirm you are enrolling at the store that is closest and works best for you
With those three easy steps, you’re ready to head to Staples for a process that takes less than five minutes. Talk about our new favorite travel hack.
What are the benefits of TSA Pre-Check?
TSA Pre-Check costs $78 dollars to enroll in. However, the upgraded security screening lasts five years! Bonus: according to the TSA website, in October 2022, 91% of TSA Pre-Check travelers waited less than five minutes in line going through security. With lines like that, we’re planning our next trip already.
One of the Seven Wonders of The World, The Grand Canyon is on everyone’s list. Here is how you can make the most of it in October.
One of the world’s seven wonders, the Grand Canyon impresses with its sheer immensity. With its dramatic depths and panoramic view, this 101-year-old national park in a two billion-year-old landscape reflects the beauty of the American West.
The month of October for the Grand Canyon results in a less crowded destination, and accommodations will be cheaper in the fall as the summer season dies down. Here’s what to know about visiting the Grand Canyon in October, during its shoulder season.
The Grand Canyon of Arizona is deemed to be carved by the Colorado River about 6 million years ago and a cumulative effect of a smaller series of canyons.
It is 6000 feet deep and 18 miles at its widest beholding major ecosystems and great biological diversity (and amazing views).
Most importantly, the vast Grand Canyon has four rims: The South Rim, North Rim, Grand Canyon West, and the East.
First-time visitors often choose South Rim, which is more focused on family-oriented activities as well as open year-round whereas the north rim is open from mid-May To mid-October.
Also, North Rim is more focused on hiking, backpacking, and camping and its elevation is higher than the South Rim.
The West Rim is owned by the Hualapai tribe and its favorite activity includes the skywalk which is a glass bridge.
The East Rim is inside the South Rim National Park and should be explored while one is at South Rim. It comprises less conventional views of the Grand Canyon.
October is a relatively good month to visit the Grand Canyon when it isn’t on extreme sides of heat or cold. The beginning of October can still be relatively dry although the weather calms down to pleasant gradually.
The highest temperature during the day in October 2021 was 23-degree Celsius and the lowest temperature at night was 1-degree Celsius. The temperature also varies accordingly to different locations of the vast Grand Canyon.
Sometimes, the weather is also cloudy or partly cloudy. Yet, October is a decent month to head towards Grand Canyon and also the last month to enter the North Rim.
Visit The Visitors Center
This may sound less than exciting, but it’s quite imperative to be well versed in the weather conditions of the Grand Canyon.
One will be informed if any hiking trails and activities are closed due to sudden weather changes.
A 20 minutes movie acquaints the visitors with the park thoroughly along with the trails as well as its history.
An amazing point for viewing spectacular sunrise, Mathers Point is quite famous. It is located 1.4 km northwest of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Although, it is still crowded Yavapai Point can be considered over for a tranquil experience.
Hiking Through the Rim Trail
If one wishes to watch the beauty of the canyon without exerting much, the Rim Trail starting from the Visitors Centre to Village is a great hike.
It stretches from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Total Distance 5.5 miles
Average Duration : 3 to 4 Hours
For more hiking info, including the Desert View Drive, day hikes and the rim-to-rim trail, click below:
We finish our trip with a 2-day visit to Salt Lake City before heading home to Chicago. SLC is a beautiful, clean city with an abundance of things to do, with one caveat. Seeing the sites on Sunday, as we did, might disappoint some of you. SLC, being a Mormon dominated city, is virtually closed at least in the downtown area. Even Macy’s was shuttered for the day. Finding an open restaurant, impossible.
Monday, however, the city comes to life with a 2 1/2-hour shuttle tour of the area in the offing. Photos are of the 2 days we enjoyed on our extended weekend trip in SLC.
One venue always open on Sunday is the Morman Tabernacle and its’ famous pipe organ.
It is open to the public on Sundays.
And this is the world-famous organ with a short recital (maybe tuning the pipes).
At 11:00, it’s time for mass down the street at the Cathedral of the Madeleine with its magnificent altar, stained glass windows and its own pipe organ.
We happened to attend a mass that featured a 20-voice choir accompanied by the organ.
This smaller organ rivaled the sound of the Mormon Tabernacle organ.
More sightseeing. We visit “The Place” or “This is the Place” Heritage Park. It is named in honor of Brigham Young’s famous statement in 1847 that the Latter-day Saint pioneers should settle in the Salt Lake Valley.
The monument that features Brigham Young and the pioneers who crossed the Rockies in a 4-month ordeal.
A typical wagon used by the pioneers on their journey.
Lastly, a tribute to the Pony Express riders (Sorry about the raindrops).
Thoroughly exhausted (who knew sitting for 4 days could be so tiring), we board our flight back to Chicago, just missing a violent thunderstorm that occurred just prior to arrival.
Not our plane!
It’s good to be home, but we are both ready for more adventures. Any suggestions?
Flying over the Rockies is an awesome, bumpy ride. My wife and I decided to take Amtrak thru the Rockies to get a close-up view of what we had been seeing from 30,000 feet. Here are some of the highlights.
Yes, our train: The California Zephyr rounding one of many bends.
And yes, that is snow on top of the Rocky Mountains in June.
The Zephyr stops to let passengers on/off and for a short stop for picture taking.
Rapids anyone? That’s a long way down!
These pictures don’t capture the majesty of the Rockies. Many, many times the train slows to a crawl because we are so close to the mountainside. There is a 3-wire barrier next to the track that protects the Zephyr from the mountain boulders that could come crashing down at any time because of the train’s movement.
Looks like fun. Maybe try that next time.
Leaving the spectacular Rockies behind, we ride into Utah and the Wasatch Mountain range as the sun sets.
We are scheduled for a 11:05 p.m. arrival time in Salt Lake City, however, freight still rules the rails, so we wait outside of SLC as the freight trains clear out. So, at 11:45, we detrain and head for our hotel, the itch having been scratched for now. I’m wondering how the Rockies would look under a pure white blanket of snow in winter.
Our adventure continues the next day, as we explore downtown Salt Lake City.
Chicago to Denver, Denver to Salt Lake City and back to Chicago…in an extended weekend. My wife and I, Whew! What a ride. Ride along with us, won’t you?
Welcome aboard. It all started at ORD, Chicago’s humongous airport on the furthest northwest reaches of the city. I was thinking our 2:30 flight to Denver should be a breeze, right? Wrong! It’s Friday afternoon and business travelers are scrambling to get a flight home, college students, ditto, or going off to party. Anyway, the TSA line… it’s like someone is giving away free food. I have never seen a line of people so long, so filled with bored, grumpy looking individuals. OMG. And so, we enter the line. Uh, do we need to pack a lunch? No, a beady-eyed TSA guy says. “No food allowed. No beverages allowed. Not in your hand, not in your carryon. Eat it now, drink it now, or toss it.” Welcome to today’s travel nightmare.
Lois, my ever-lovin, goes ahead of me in the line, then I go. I get thru it with no prob, but Lois gets a “random” pat-down from an agent. “Every time”, she explains to no one in particular. I begin to see why people are so grumpy.
After the TSA experience, it’s off to find the gate. Naturally, it involves walking to the other concourse which means walking about a 1/2-mile underground to get to Gate C-24. But we still have plenty of time to reach it and we do without stopping for lunch along the way.
Not surprised, we get to the gate to find our plane has been delayed due to lack of a crew. Our 2:30 is now 4:45 and counting. Not to worry, the plane arrives, passengers get off, the cleaners get on and get it done quickly. Soon we are seated and airborne, on our way to Denver.
(Not our plane)
Along the way, we catch a nice tailwind and end up only 1 hour late. No bags were checked, so it’s time to find our hotel which is located in downtown Denver. There is a handy, but pricey shuttle that takes us there and so we arrive in downtown Denver coincidently at Union Station, the site of our next adventure in the morning.
It’s now Saturday, 9:00 a.m. and we are on Amtrak train #5 to Salt Lake City, Utah only 15 hours away. Getting there at 11:05 p.m. so fingers are once again crossed that we are on time.
(Not our train)
I want you to check out some of the things we saw while on the train, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Get to your gate quicker by knowing what TSA looks for. To help, we rounded up the items, substances, and packing strategies (or lack thereof) that are getting your luggage flagged by the TSA, causing your things to be tossed at security checkpoints or simply adding time to this not-so-fun part of your travel experience
Bringing too much liquid
Liquids, gels, and pastes (including toothpaste) can’t exceed one 3.4-ounce container each (aside from these 12 items), per the TSA. Consumables must also comply with the rule if you’re carrying your luggage on board, however they can be packed in any quantities in checked luggage. All of these must fit into a one-quart bag (again, this is only for carry-ons). Only one bag is allowed per traveler. Exceptions include baby formula, medications, and other items for special-needs travelers.
You’re allowed to bring clearly labeled prescriptions in your carry-on, per the TSA, which you should always do, just in case your other luggage gets lost or delayed. Additionally, you can bring medication in liquid form that’s more than 3.4 ounces—and you don’t even need to put it into a resealable bag, unlike other liquids. However, you must tell the TSA officer that you have these medically necessary liquids before your search, as they will likely require additional screening.
This is the worst: You spent hours perfectly wrapping presents, only for TSA officers to rip through them at security. To avoid this miserable situation, they recommend simply popping your gifts into gift bags or gift boxes so they can be easily checked, or keeping them unwrapped for now and bringing the wrapping paper with you.
I know what’s happening on the beaches, swimming pools and cruises right now, BUT it won’t always be this way. We will get back to normal and what better way to wait it out is to dream a little. That country, that island, that beach, that ship, that swimsuit ! Yes, swimsuit. Are you ready for summer ? Take a peak at some really cute suits. Then get dreaming where you’d love to wear it. Read on:
That’s all for this edition. I may post another edition if you enjoyed this one.