Amtrak is celebrating its 40th year by letting kids ride free with fare-paying adults. And that's reason enough for a short side trip into U.S. rail history:
The golden age of passenger train travel peaked in the 1930s and '40s and then flagged after airplanes and cars became more popular. To pump new life into rail travel, Congress in 1970 created the private company that we know today as Amtrak, and service began a year later. Amtrak's routes stretch across the country.
The deal: This is a great way to get children excited about taking a train ride and traveling in something other than the back of an SUV. With Kids Ride Free, you get one free child's ticket (ages 2 to 15) for each adult ticket purchased. Reservations for this deal, which applies only to coach seats, must be made at least three days before traveling.
When: The offer is good for travel from Sunday through June 9, but tickets must be bought by 11:59 PDT May 6.
Tested: I went online and tested round-trip fares from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to coincide with National Train Day (May 7). With this deal, I found a $46 fare for an adult on the Coast Starlight leaving L.A.'s Union Station at 10:15 a.m. May 6 and returning at 6:17 p.m. on May 8. The $18 children's fare was waived.
Make sure to use the "Book It Now" feature on the "Kids Ride Free "website or request the "Kids Ride Free" rate by phone). The discount won't show up if you book through the main Amtrak reservation page.
Tip: Check out Amtrak's kid-friendly Web page, known as the Kids Depot, which features games and train facts.
Contact: Amtrak Kids Ride Free, (800) 872-7245.