Acela Tip: Red Cap Chaps!

I've become quite the expert at traveling on the Acela between Boston and NYC. It seems like at least every other week I am making the trip.

  • I know that the 3pm and the 4pm trains out of New York's Penn Station are always booked solid, and that I need to buy my ticket in advance. (Sweet Baby Jesus Bless the Amtrak App for making that possible!
  • I know exactly which track the train boards at... As does everyone else, because we all line up 10 minutes before it's even called. 
  • And I know that the Quiet Car is the best place to sit (because the train will be booked solid) so that I don't have to hear the conversations of some chirpy (usually) female on her mobile phone.

However, what I hadn't figured out yet is how to score a better seat in the Quiet Car. Everyone lines up so early, by the time I get down to the track, pickings are rather slim in the QC. I was lamenting to my travel writer friend, Frogger, about this last week. She gave me one of her little tips:

Use the Red Caps.

The Red Caps are the friendly chaps at the station by the Acela waiting area. They usually have dollies with them. For a tip, they will help you with your bags onto the train. But the best part about that isn't having someone carry your bag for you... It's that you get to board before anyone else does!

So obvious! Why had I not picked up on it myself?

When I got to Penn Station this afternoon (after needing to be in NYC for an hour and a half meeting), I went to the waiting area for the Acela and made eye contact with a Red Cap.

"Do you need assistance boarding your train, Miss?" he asked.

(Calling me "Miss." SOLD!)

"Why yes I do," I said smiling... As the only bag I had on me was my backpack for work. And it was by no means "heavy."

A quick exchange of $5 and handing over my bag (after taking out my wallet and iPad), and I went to sit and wait for my train. The Red Cap came and got me 10 minutes before everyone else got to board and brought me down to the train as it was pulling into the station.

There's my tiny backpack, being escorted by the nice Red Cap chap!

It was worth the $5 to do it. Will definitely be using this tip again.