If you’re just travelling a short distance in the United States, it can often be quicker and cheaper to travel by train instead of flying, especially if you are travelling between city centres. Luckily then, for a number of years Amtrak has allowed small pets to travel on many of its train services, similar to flying in the cabin of a plane with your pet.
Find out everything you need to know about how to travel on Amtrak with a dog, from the rules for travelling with a pet on Amtrak to how much it costs and how to make a booking. Plus, I cover in detail our experience of travelling with our dog on Amtrak from New York City to Philadelphia and then to Washington, D.C.
Are Pets Allowed on Amtrak?
Both small pet dogs and cats are allowed on Amtrak trains, although naturally there are some restrictions. For starters, not all trains allow pets on board. (If you’re travelling with a service animal, they are welcome on all Amtrak services and these rules don’t apply.)
Pets are not allowed to travel on the Auto Train, Keystone Service, Pennsylvanian, San Joaquins and Capitol Corridor. Pets are also not allowed on Thruway Connecting Services. Pets are also not allowed to travel on board the Adirondack, Maple Leaf or Amtrak Cascades in Canada. Double check the latest list at the top of the Amtrak pet policy.
Other key rules to keep in mind are that the maximum weight of both dogs and cats, including their carrier, is limited to 20 pounds (9kg). There is also a limit of one pet per customer (as the pet must be stowed underneath your seat except on Amtrak Cascades trains), plus your pet must be at least eight weeks old and be vaccinated.
Pets are only allowed on trips up to seven hours in duration, including transfer time for multi-segment trips. Pets are also only allowed in coach class, not in first class, business class or sleeping cars, except for Acela business class.
Also refer to the Amtrak pet policy for details of the carrier your pet needs to travel in. The maximum size is 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high. It can be hard or soft, but must be leak-proof, well-ventilated and large enough for your pet to sit and lie down inside without touching the sides.
Note that your pet in its carrier counts as a piece of carry-on baggage (out of your normal limit of two carry-on pieces and two personal items). Your pet must remain inside its carrier both at the train station and while on the train, and you are not allowed to leave your pet alone.
Booking Your Pet on Amtrak
There is a limit to the number of pets allowed on each Amtrak train service, usually five pets, so try and book your train trip in advance.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as it used to be to book an Amtrak train trip with your pet. Whereas previously the number of remaining pet spots on each train service was clearly displayed when the list of train services to select from were listed (plus made clear which train services were pet-friendly), this is no longer provided.
To double-check that the train service you’d like to book is pet-friendly, once you’ve started your search, I recommend clicking on Details and then Services under the train service. Underneath Add-Ons, “Pet” should be displayed.
Once you’ve comfirmed your preferred train service allows pets, then choose your seat type and ticket option (whether Saver, Value and Flexible). On the next screen, the Trip Summary screen, you’ll be displayed a list of Additional Items and be able to add your pet, along with see the price charged. The number of pets you can add depends on the number of passengers in the booking.
Click Add to Cart, and then it’s time to finalise your booking, including entering passenger details, and pay for your tickets. It’s also possible to make a booking including a pet through the customer call centre or at staffed Amtrak stations.
The fee for traveling with a pet varies depending on the train service and distance travelled, as of August 2022. Currently it is either $29 or $39 per segment. The full list of pet fees is displayed on this page, plus the fee is listed when you add a pet to your trip.
This fee is higher than I’ve experienced in Europe (where in nearly all countries, a small pet in a carrier bag rides for free), but it is far cheaper than if you were flying with your pet.
Checking in with Your Pet
We travelled with our dog on two Amtrak train trips in 2018: firstly from New York City to Philadelphia, then from Philadelphia on to Washington, D.C. We made sure to arrive in plenty of time for both trips.
Amtrak requests that people traveling with a pet from staffed stations (like we were), to check-in at the ticket office no later than 30 minutes before departure. I don’t believe this is a hard cut-off like when checking in for a flight. Although we did go close to finding out in New York!
In my experience though, the down-side is then it’s a long wait after checking in until the platform number is announced for trains.
At the ticket office, the staff member looked up our booking, had a quick glance at our pet carrier bag with our dog inside (although didn’t weigh or measure it), and then handed us a Pet Release and Indemnification Agreement to sign.
It’s best to review this ahead of time, so you are familiar with the contents, but you don’t need to print it and bring it to the station. If you are traveling from an unstaffed station, speak to the conductor who will confirm your pet’s eligibility and provide you with this document.
Boarding the Train with Your Pet
Once the platform for our train was announced each time, we headed downstairs to the train. Despite what is printed on the pet agreement form (that it “must be signed and returned to an Amtrak Train Crew Member to permit pet on-board”), in my experience you don’t need to show this to anyone before boarding the train.
I hunted for someone both times, but was waved onto the trains. Hold onto it until the ticket inspector onboard reaches your seat.
The other confusing thing is that despite having “reserved coach” tickets, you don’t have a specific seat reserved. “Reserved” just simply means you are guaranteed a seat (with a maximum number of tickets sold for the train).
Except for a few trains that have a specific car for pets, you can sit anywhere, on any coach car (although perhaps skip the quiet car). The trains with a specific car for pets include: Amtrak Cascades, Carl Sandburg, Illinois Zephyr, Illini, Lincoln Service, Saluki, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, Hiawatha and Missouri River Runner.
Additionally, it’s possible to travel with a pet in Acela business class cars, where it’s possible to reserve an exact seat.
On-Board the Train with a Pet
Once you’ve found seats onboard the train, place your pet in their carrier bag underneath your seat. (The seats are constructed differently than on a plane, so there’s a gap underneath your seat, rather than the seat in front.)
The one exception is Amtrak Cascades trains where you can put your pet carrier on the floor in front of the seat next to you. It’s even possible to stow your pet’s carrier bag in your footwell, if you would prefer, as it’s quite roomy.
Sometime after boarding, a ticket inspector will come around the check your tickets. At this point, also hand over your pet agreement form.
As well as putting some tags in the holder above your seat to indicate your ticket has been checked (and perhaps your destination), the ticket inspector will also place a paw print tag there.
Now it’s time to sit back and relax for your train trip. Note that until you disembark and depart from your destination station, your dog will still need to stay in their carrier bag. And if you’re planning on heading to the food service car, you won’t be able to take your pet. (Perhaps pack a snack instead.)
You May Also Like
Inspired? Pin this to your Pinterest board!
22 thoughts on “How to Travel on Amtrak Trains with a Dog in 2023”
I wish Amtrak would allow large dogs as well. Since they already have vehicle cars for transporting people’s cars to Florida, I don’t know why they couldn’t put aside an entire car for people with large pets. But the US is far behind the rest of the developed world on train travel so I guess I won’t expect to see it in my life time.
Glad you had a good trip with Schnitzel. Trains are the best!
It would be great if they allowed large pets too! They’ve only been allowing small pets for a couple of years, so fingers crossed. Hopefully by having lots of small pets ride and be well-behaves, helps the case for larger pets, too.
Shandos great website. I will recommend it to my friends. Our family loves our dog and to resolve some of the issues my son had of walking the dog he and I decided to create a product to resolve that and maybe there are more on the way. We are currently in China and there is a huge boom in new dog owners. If you could translate your site into Chinese you would have many new followers.
Thanks Lago! I will consider that for the future.
I rode Amtrak a few days ago with my King Charles Cavalier, who had her on ticket. She was in the carrier for four hours, sleeping. When we got near Winona, Wisconsin, the only stop where people can smoke or walk a dog) I took her out to put her jacket and leash. The conductor, Mr. Shorter, came by and said, “ I’m taking you off the train because your dog is out of the carrier.” He actually called the POLICE! I was left in the middle of nowhere, at a depot without an attendant. I had to call a friend who drove 2 hours to pick me up. I guarantee that my dog was sleeping the whole time and I am a calm, elderly woman who has never made trouble, anywhere
Linda – That’s terrible to hear! It’s horrible to hear that the conductor was so strict with the rules, when it should have been clear you were just preparing to walk your dog outside. Have you spoken to Amtrak to complain? I guess for now, it should serve as a warning to leave our dogs in their bag until outside the carriage when stopping.
What if your moving?
Mikaela – I’m not sure what you mean, can you clarify? If you’re moving house, your dog can accompany you on Amtrak, as long as you follow the usual rules.
I wish my med sized dog could travel with me. He is ESA and so well behaved.
It would be great if the restrictions could be eased!
I travelled with a 20lb pug on amtrak this week. I found it painful and frustrating. Much like Linda above, it seemed that amtrak trained its employees to be nitpicky about every single possible thing.
For example, when we first got on the train, the train was in the sun and quite hot. We opened his carrier to fan him and give him some water. he just had his head poking out, and the conductor had a major issue with it. He was quiet, calm, seated in the carrier under our feet, not bothering a soul. I found this kind of stickler-ness for the rules to be typical. It makes travelling with a dog pretty stressful and not fun. Overall, I wouldn’t do it again. And my dog is pretty good!
(Obviously I understand the need to keep dogs from acting out, being unruly, etc., but I’m mostly looking at the no harm type situation, like the example above, or if you wanted to hold your dog in your lap, assuming it wasn’t bothering your neighbor, etc)
Chris – Thanks for sharing your experience. This helps all of us know what we should do when taking Amtrak, or whether we might want to skip Amtrak entirely with a dog.
I am thinking of taking my dog (less than 11 lb) with me from Denver to Orlando. I have questions and concerns.
How do I walk the dog? Do trains stop at major stations and are there walk areas?
Do I have to feed and supply water inside the dog carrier? What if I have a sleeper coach?
Hi Sampath, I’ve only taken shorter trips on Amtrak, so don’t directly have experience with this. However, I recommend you to speak to the staff on board to find out what are the longer stops, when you can take your dog off the train for a walk, plus to feed or give them water. Otherwise, I recommend feeding and supplying water to your dog inside their carrier, as some other travelers have been treated harshly for even briefly taking their dogs out of their carriers. Hope this helps! Shandos
They need to come up with a way for large dogs to travel on trains….not everyone has a small dog!!
Can a person book a cabin and have a large dog? My dog is well behaved, does not bark ever!!
In Europe, it’s quite normal for large dogs to also travel on trains (plus small dogs in carrier bags are usually free). Hopefully the rules will change one day. Small dogs were only initially allowed on trains recently, so I guess it’s just a matter of waiting.
Since the time limit aboard is no more than 7 hrs and memphis to New Orleans is 9 hrs, can I book from memphis to Greenville MS and then from Greenville to NOLA?
I don’t see why not, as long as they are separate trains and there is a break in between. If you booked two tickets on the same train, without a break in between, I believe there would be an issue when your documents are checked for the second leg.
Does anyone know if small dog can ride from Texarkana Arkansas to Fort Worth Texas? It’s really hard to get a definitive answer.
Morgen – If it isn’t on one of the services listed as not allowing pets, I would presume that pets are allowed on this train.
Do they let your dog go out to go potty. And what happens when your dog is over 20 lbs. Do they still let you get on and charge more. Do you pay for a pet
Can you book with a dog more then 8 hours .
There’s no specific break spots to let dogs potty, but if you know the train is stopped for long enough you could do this. Just I would be worried the train might leave without me! I’ve only taken my dog on shorter trips, where I know he’s fine with staying inside, and that’s probably why they have the 7 hour limit.
For larger dogs, they simply don’t allow them onboard. However, our dog wasn’t weighed, although I guess they might do this if they are concerned about the size of the dog. Yes, you pay for a pet’s ticket.