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This epic American rail trip takes you coast to coast and costs just £196

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Chris Sayer
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How many of your colleagues’ New Year’s resolutions have you rolled your eyes at this morning? Your 20-minute sweepstake estimate on Gavin’s ‘cut out social media and live in the real world’ bid seems set to earn you a pot of cash before lunchtime. Patricia’s promise to ‘eat healthy’ seem to be going, er, interestingly, if her fistful of tea-dunked Hobnobs is anything to go by. But you, with your ‘travel more’ wish, could have the goods to back up your big 2017 plans, if this insanely frugal USA trip of a lifetime features in your new year plans.

Back in 2011, a travel blogger devised a way of getting from the west coast of America all the way to the east, through 11 states and four time zones, over four days and taking in 3,400 miles of spectacular scenery and iconic cities, and one that today will still only dent your credit card by $241 (which, even with today’s utterly dogsh*t exchange rate, is £196, or exactly the same as a one-way ticket from Totnes, Devon to Edinburgh). 

Using the California Zephyr and Lake Shore Limited train services six years ago (when the trip cost just $213 (£173)), blogger Derek Low travelled from San Francisco to New York City, seeing the Nevada desert, the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, the Wild West frontiers of Utah, the Colorado Canyons, the Denver plains, and the cityscapes of Chicago, Salt Lake City and New York and more.

But what sort of cattle class torture do you have to endure for such a low price? Er, well, look. For starters, you get the option of watching the world go by from the surprising comfort of the California Zephyr’s Sightseer Lounge carriage:

Image: dereklow.co

As for the sleeping arrangements? You’ll have to cough up around $500 (£407) for a ‘roomette’ to sleep in and a few thousand bucks for a private room, but keeping it cheap by kipping in a reclining chair doesn’t sound bad at all.

“The seats are spacious with plenty of legroom and they recline a good 40 degrees. They’re more comfortable than economy class seats on planes; perhaps something more like business class on a crappy domestic airline,” Low said of the train seats.

As for boredom-killing entertainment, the journey also features narration from historians and park rangers along the way. And then there’s the food…

Image: dereklow.co

Yes buddy, that’s a big old plate of yee-hawin’ thigh-slappin’, God-fearin’ American ribs. None of that £11 beige Ginsters muck you find on the overcrowded sweat box service to Penzance, is it.

If you want to stop and romp around the cities your rail-route of a lifetime takes you though, you can pay a bit more and bag yourself a 15-day rail pass, which Derek did in order to hop on and off the tracks at New York, Denver, Salt Lake City and more for $429 (£349). In fact, Derek’s been so inundated with questions about cheap American rail travel that for just $49 (£40) he’ll book your entire Pacific-to-Atlantic trip for you.

About time you put that holiday request form in, don’t you think? 

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Chris Sayer

Chris Sayer is a freelance journalist and editor based in London. Chris has interviewed some of the biggest names in entertainment and travelled the world doing an all manner of adventures for lots of brilliant magazines. He writes for Shortlist about booze but would probably prefer we let him write about fishing instead. Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisSayer00

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