You Can Take a Scenic Train Tour of the West Coast for Just $97

iStock
iStock

Plane travel isn’t as glamorous as it used to be. Between TSA pat-downs, the lack of snacks, and that guy in front of you who insists on leaning all the way back, it’s not exactly a romantic way to take in the sights. But trains? They’re an underrated form of modern travel, even if Amtrak does have its flaws.

So as you’re planning your next West Coast vacation, consider this: You can get an Amtrak ticket that will take you along the entire West Coast for as low as $97, Condé Nast Traveler reports.

The Amtrak Coast Starlight runs from Los Angeles to Seattle, giving you 35 hours' worth of spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, redwood forests, Mount Shasta, and some of California, Oregon, and Washington’s best cities. It doesn’t have the speed of a three-hour flight, but this way, your journey will feature as many great sights as your destination.

The $97 applies if you can snag a "saver" fare; other seats might cost closer to $150. For slightly more money, you can reserve a “superliner roomette,” which can cost between $500 and $700, but includes two seats that turn into stacked beds. And if you want to pretend you’re in a 19th-century travel novel (or North by Northwest), go ahead. It's guaranteed to be a less harried travel day than what you'd experience heading to LAX.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Road Trip! Why Traveling By Car Is the Safest Way to Vacation Right Now

A road trip may be the safest way to travel during a pandemic.
A road trip may be the safest way to travel during a pandemic.
Andie_Alpion/iStock via Getty Images

There’s no question that the threat of COVID-19 has had a significant effect on how Americans travel. Summer, which is typically vacation season, has seen millions cancel or postpone plans to traverse the country.

While travel by any means may increase your odds of coming in contact with the virus, some methods are safer than others. Recently, Condé Nast Traveler spoke with a number of health experts for guidance on how to approach vacations via air, train, or the highway. The general consensus? If you’re going somewhere, try to go by car.

Air travel presents a number of scenarios where risk of transmission increases. Passengers have to wait in long lines where physical distancing will be difficult. Once on a plane, they could be seated fewer than 6 feet from other passengers. While airplane cabins do have highly effective air filtration systems, being close to someone infected still presents the very real possibility of being exposed to germs. A lack of uniform regulations about masks and distancing for airlines also means that procedures for reducing the risk of transmission may or may not be observed.

It’s important to note, however, that a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a passenger during a two-hour domestic flight is just 1 in 4300. If the middle seat is blocked off, thereby increasing the distance between travelers, the risk drops to 1 in 7700. While that doesn’t mitigate the risk of standing in long security screening lines indoors, it does indicate that air travel may not be inherently high-risk.

Travelers can further reduce the risk of infection if they opt to travel by train. In addition to having less congestion in passenger compartments than airplanes, lines usually form outdoors. But train trips also tend to be longer than flights, and the duration of exposure to someone infected can influence the risk of transmission.

So why is traveling by car superior? Unlike communal travel, cars afford a level of control. People can travel with members of their household with a known health history and don’t need to share space for extended periods with strangers. There is still risk in stopping and entering public spaces like restaurants, but physical distancing is more manageable in those scenarios than on a long-duration plane flight or train ride.

“If you have to—and can afford it—I think traveling by car is the safest option right now, in part because you’re not traveling with another person whose risk of infection may be unknown,” Chris Hendel, a medical researcher associated with the USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and Innovation, told Condé Nast Traveler. “Essentially you aren’t sharing the breathing space with someone who could be infected. But of course, one needs to be very cautious about stopping while traveling by car. I think train travel might possibly have an edge over air travel. Regardless, everyone should be wearing a mask on the train or in the plane.”

If you do decide on a road trip, it’s a good idea to limit exposure to others for 14 days prior to your departure so you reduce your chances of becoming infected before to your trip or transmitting the virus during it. When stopping to use a bathroom—often the riskiest portion of highway travel due to being in a confined space with others—try to find a single-occupancy restroom if possible and make sure you wear a mask. And eat somewhere with outdoor seating if you can. 

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]