Why riding the rails has never been more appealing

Jamie O'Meara

Jamie O'Meara is Editor-in-Chief at C2 Montréal and the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

For many a voyaging soul, yours truly very much included, the holidays – winter, summer, you name it – are synonymous with train travel both to and from Montréal. From convenience to comfort to cost, the train is as unbeatable as the age-old experience of rolling across the country on wheels of steel itself.

As either jumping off point or final destination, Montréal is ideally situated, located within easy reach of major metropolitan centres not just right across Ontario and Québec, but also the American eastern seaboard. VIA Rail offers frequent departures from downtown to downtown without the hassles of air travel (transportation to and from the airport, long security lines, baggage fees, etc.).

Stress-free travel

The VIA Rail experience is as stress-free as it gets. Easy on-and-off, comfy adjustable chairs, lots of legroom, spacious cabins, big windows for taking in the great views of this country, helpful service and all the amenities necessary for a relaxing journey (eyes open or closed) are but a few of the many reasons the allure of train travel is so strong. And whether it’s for a lengthy trip or a simple weekend getaway, another key consideration is affordability.

Weekly discounts

For example, each week VIA Rail offers its “Discount Tuesday” deals, whereby VIA’s lowest seat fares between multiple destinations across the country are on offer right up until midnight. And Wednesday’s are rockin’ reduced round-trip fares as well as part of VIA’s “Weekend Getaways” special packages. Super duper deals will be posted every Wednesday, but quantities are limited so be sure to check early. And deals for football fans, CAA members and on sleeper cars are also among the many special offers.

Family deals

Travelling with the family? Kids 24 months and under always travel for free. Plus, the kiddies get some perks! They receive a special CHOO CHOO CLUB goodie bag (which keeps them busy during the trip).

Five VIA Rail travel tips

1) First things first: book early. There are incredible deals to be had both in economy and business class (indeed, business class tickets can frequently be had at close to the cost of a regular price economy fare).

2) You don’t need to line up super early to get a seat. Since last year, all seats are now pre-assigned, so just show up and ease into your seat.

3) Sign up for the VIA Preference travel rewards program. It’s one of the few travel points programs that pays meaningful dividends quickly, and there are frequent specials and offers for helping ramp up the points on the way to free travelling.

4) Pay attention to the baggage weight restrictions indicated on your ticket. E.g., a typical economy-class ticket permits a carry-on bag of up to 25 lbs and a large article weighing no more than 40 lbs, which is usually more than sufficient for your average human being, but which might come into play during the holiday season if you’re hauling a Santa’s sleigh worth of gifts.

5) Feel free to bring your laptop or tablet or what have you: VIA Rail’s trains are equipped with Wi-Fi as well as recharging sockets at each seat to help ensure your continued connectivity.

Jamie O'Meara

Jamie O'Meara is Editor-in-Chief at C2 Montréal and the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

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