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I'll be flying to Chicago (O'Hare) in a couple of months and then taking Amtrak down to St. Louis. There are two trains I could take from Union Station. One leaves three hours after my flight arrives, and the other leaves nearly five hours after.

If I buy a ticket for the earlier train but miss it, can I take the later train?

If I buy a ticket for the later train but then get to the station early enough, can I take the earlier train?

What are Amtrak's rules about this? (I couldn't find information about same-day changes on their web site.)

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Your flexibility in taking a different train depends on whether you are booked for an unreserved or reserved service. Trains with unreserved coach seats are relatively rare these days, and all service between Chicago and St. Louis are Lincoln or Texas Eagle trains, which are all-reserve.

As such, you are only allowed to take the train you are ticketed for. To take an earlier or later train, you must change your reservation prior to your scheduled departure, but this is relatively easily done. You can modify it through the mobile app, on the website, with an agent at the station, or over the phone, provided the reservation is associated with an email address, Amtrak Guest Rewards number, or other way that it can be looked up in their system.

As per their current policy, Amtrak does not charge a change fee; however, you are subject to re-faring, so if the new ticket is more expensive than the one you booked, you will need to make up the difference. In the event the new ticket is cheaper, you can receive the difference as an electronic voucher towards future Amtrak travel.

Given this, it would be safer to book the later train, then change to the earlier one if your schedule works out.

  • I called Amtrak to double-check, and this answer aligns with what they told me over the phone. Unfortunately, the "flexible" fare is more than double the "value" fare; it would actually be cheaper to book both trains than to buy a flexible fare for just one! But Amtrak also has a condition stating that they can cancel "impossible" trips, such as booking two trains the same person couldn't possibly ride, so I guess they've heard of this trick. I agree with your conclusion; I'll book the later train, and then I'll switch to the earlier if time and reasonable fare permits. Thanks! – Kyralessa Jun 19 at 7:25
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As far as I can tell from Amtrak's Terms and Conditions, there are no restrictions on modifying a ticket the same day. You do have to make the modification before the time of departure, though, or otherwise you'll be a "no-show" and you might forfeit any credits you might have received.

For all types of tickets, if your travel plans change and you do not modify or cancel your reservation before departure and then do not board your train, your entire reservation will be canceled, including all subsequent segments in the itinerary, and any remaining funds or points for that trip may be forfeited depending on the fare type purchased. If permitted by the rules of the fare purchased, the money paid for the trip may be stored in an eVoucher valid for future travel.

For most (all?) Amtrak fare classes, there is no "change fee" per se. But you'll have to pay any difference between the fare you paid in your original booking and the new fare, which can be substantial; Amtrak tickets on the day of travel can be rather expensive. You may find that it is not worth it to you to make the change.

Changes to your itinerary may affect the fare, and a fee may apply when tickets are reissued.

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