You may already be familiar with the baggage policies and fees of your favorite airlines. However, if you need to travel by train, you’ll need to take some time to research the company’s baggage allowances as well. If you’ll be traveling by train, there’s a good chance you’ll be purchasing a fare through Amtrak, as they’re the largest passenger train provider in the country. Fortunately, they also have some of the most generous policies when it comes to luggage.
Still, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Amtrak’s specific baggage policies and fees so you can best prepare for your own trip and avoid surprises.
Amtrak Checked and Carry-On Allowances
Carry-ons are allowed on all Amtrak routes, but checked baggage allowances can vary from one route to the next. In general, you’re more likely to have a free checked baggage allowance if you’ll be traveling on a longer route—but to be sure before your trip, check with Amtrak directly to inquire specifically about checked baggage policies for your route.
Checked Bag Allowances and Fees
On Amtrak routes that do allow checked bags, the policy is pretty straight forward. Two bags can be checked at no charge, so long as they don’t measure more than 75 linear inches each or weigh more than 50 pounds each. If you will be checking any baggage for your trip, be sure to do so at least 45 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. If you arrive at the station after this point with bags to check, there is no guarantee that baggage services will still be available. This is one of the most common mistakes travelers make when it comes to checking bags with Amtrak.
Carry-On Allowances and Fees
Carry-on allowances with Amtrak are a little more straight forward because these policies won’t vary from one route or one station to the next. Specifically, all ticketed Amtrak passengers are permitted two free carry-on bags, provided that they don’t weigh more than 50 pounds each or measure any larger than 28″ x 22 x 14″ each. Carry-on sizes are a little bigger than what you get on most airlines.
In addition to two full-sized carry-on bags, Amtrak is generous enough to allow two small personal items at no additional charge. This can include anything from a blanket or coat to an electronic device or small purse. These items should not weigh more than 25 pounds each, nor should they measure greater than 14″ x 11″ x7″ each. Passengers will be pleased to learn that these items never count towards your standard carry-on item allowance, either.
If you’ll be carrying luggage aboard your train, keep in mind that you’ll need to store it either underneath the seat in front of you or in the compartments above your seat (much like you would on a plane). Overhead storage sizes can vary from one train to the next, but these compartments tend to be larger than what you’d find on most airplanes.
What About Strollers and Other Infant Gear?
If you’ll be traveling with an infant age two or younger, you are also allowed to bring an extra infant item that does not count towards your standard carry-on or personal item allowance. This can include anything from a diaper bag to a stroller.
Charges for Additional Bags and Overweight Luggage
One of the things you’ll want to be careful about when traveling with Amtrak is making sure your checked bags aren’t overweight. Amtrak doesn’t allow overweight luggage on-board; instead, you’ll need to repack your bags to ensure that they’re under 50 pounds. This can be done by moving some items around from your checked bags to your carry-ons, or purchasing boxes (which are available at the train station) to repack.
Oversized luggage is another issue to watch out for. Large bags are generally permitted, but you’ll pay a premium. Specifically, any checked bags that measure more than 75 linear inches will be charged a $20 fee. Keep in mind that this is a per-bag, one-way fee—so if you have two oversized bags and are traveling round-trip with Amtrak, these fees could easily add up to $80.
If you need to bring additional checked bags on-board your train beyond what is included with your fare, you can purchase up to two additional bags at $20 each. Again, this is a one-way charge, so be prepared to pay the same fees on your way back.
Saving on Amtrak Baggage Fees (Or Avoiding Them Altogether)
Amtrak’s baggage allowances are rather generous, so unless you have oversized bags or need to check additional bags beyond what’s included for free with your fare, you aren’t likely to accumulate additional baggage costs. Still, there are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your trip that may help you avoid any additional fees.
Weigh and Measure Your Bags Before Your Trip
Start by using a luggage scale to weigh your bags before your trip and take time to measure your bags as well. When measuring the dimensions of your bag, be sure to include any accessories, such as handles and luggage wheels. Compare your measurements with Amtrak’s permitted bag dimensions for both checked and carry-on bags to make sure you won’t be over. This will help you avoid any oversized baggage fees.
Weighing your bags using an accurate luggage scale will also help you avoid showing up at the train station with an overweight bag that will need to be repacked. Keep in mind that overweight bags are not permitted on Amtrak routes period, so you’ll need to purchase boxes at the station to repack your items if your luggage is too heavy.
Limit What You Pack to Your Included Luggage
Amtrak includes two standard carry-on bags, two personal items, and up to two checked bags for many routes. Most passengers find that this is more than enough to pack everything they need without incurring additional baggage fees. Limiting what you pack to the included baggage for your fare should be relatively simple and will save you from needing to purchase additional checked bags at $20 apiece each way.
Seek Reimbursement From a Travel Credit Card
Some credit card companies offer baggage fee reimbursement not only for airline baggage fees, but train luggage fees as well. If you have a travel credit card that already offers airline baggage fee reimbursement, consider checking with them to see if they offer the same for Amtrak baggage costs as well. If you, and if you do incur additional baggage fees on your Amtrak route, you may be able to receive an account credit or other form of reimbursement from your credit card company.
Amtrak Baggage Policies: Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about Amtrak baggage fees and policies.
What is Amtrak’s policy on special equipment?
Amtrak is pretty flexible with their policies on special equipment. For example, if you have a small musical instrument (such as a flute or clarinet), you’re welcome to bring this on board so long as it will fit in the overhead luggage racks or in your own luggage. Larger instruments, such as guitars, can be carried on for a nominal $10 service fee, and larger instruments (such as tubas) can be carried on with the purchase of an additional fare.
Sporting goods (such as surfboards) are also permitted aboard most Amtrak routes, so long as they are enclosed in some sort of protective case. In these instances, each piece of sporting equipment can be brought on in lieu of a standard carry-on. Some larger sporting equipment can also be checked for an additional $10 service fee.
If you have any additional questions about traveling with special equipment, Amtrak encourages you to reach out to them on Twitter for a quick response.
What if I have an oversized bag or need to bring an additional bag?
Bags that exceed the maximum linear size dimensions can still be brought aboard the train, but will be subject to an additional $20 fee each way. Keep in mind that overweight bags are not permitted on Amtrak and will need to be repacked in the station. Additional bags can be purchased for some routes at $20 apiece each way, but it’s best to check with Amtrak ahead of time to be sure that additional checked bags are available on your route.
Where is baggage stored during my trip?
Much like on a plane, Amtrak’s trains have cargo storage for all your checked bags. Carry-on bags can be stored either underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin. Keep in mind that Amtrak policies prohibit carry-ons from being stored in empty seats or in aisles.
As you can see, baggage policies with Amtrak aren’t much different from your typical airline’s baggage policies, such as Delta baggage fees. In fact, compared to most airlines, Amtrak’s luggage allowances are quite generous. Still, be sure to keep this information in mind and contact Amtrak directly with any questions about luggage prior to your trip.