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Amtrak is smarter than this nerd (or ISIC discounts on Amtrak)

Even though I moved out of New York City a couple years ago, I find myself there fairly often. My closest friends are there, as are my favorite restaurants and my hairdresser, Ricky. (Just because I’ve been a grad student for years doesn’t mean I’ll let some randomly pierced, tight-jeaned Philly hipster get their grubby little hands on this mane.) Yes, I will go all the way to NYC just for a haircut. I took megabus for a while but it’s more often than not a pain in the ass to have to wait for the usually late bus (especially in crappy weather), having to fight for a decent window seat to control my tendencies toward violent motion sickness and listening to Penn kids brag to their friends on the phone about how they are heading to “The City” and the first thing they’re going to do is eat at Chipotle. Since I don’t drive, my only other feasible option is Amtrak. It’s overpriced, but if you can get a ticket far enough in advance, it can cost something like 36 bucks between Philly and NYC. It’s comfortable and civilized. I’ve been doing combo trips, so outbound on Amtrak and usually back on megabus or the other way around.

I had ordered my boyfriend and I ISIC cards (through STA Travel¬†when we were going to be in Europe for a while) and from experience, I knew there were some decent discounts at museums and such to be had with the card. They cost $22 each plus shipping. I usually forget about it when I’m in the States, except when I’m trying to book Amtrak tickets. There’s a discount of 15% (as with the Amtrak Student Advantage card, which I’ve never bothered to get because I was trying not to splurge for Amtrak often enough to warrant its purchase) and being the genius I am, I’ve never been able to successfully plug in my number into the ISIC discount box when booking my Amtrak ticket (for which I receive Amtrak Guest Rewards, of course) and get the cheaper fare. I’ve been trying to plug in my ISIC number for YEARS. Finally, the other day when I was booking tickets for us to meet up with my dad in New York, I finally bothered to squint and read all the fine print: “Do not enter spaces, dashes or alphabetic characters.” I tried entering my number again for the 87th time, but finally omitting the letters at the beginning and end of a slew of numeric characters and ARGGH!! It worked. I could have saved myself a bunch of money, a bucketload of tears and too many glasses of wine downed out of frustration if I only left out those two little letters.

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