Group Travel is Fun and Affordable

groupl travel 1 smBernagene Shay gives the New Mexico Rail Runner Express Group Travel Program an “A.” The teacher from North Valley Academy used the Rail Runner last school year to transport two 8th Grade classes to Santa Fe for a tour of the New Mexico Museum of History.

“This year we plan to take two trips,” Shay says. “We want to go to the history museum and the International Museum of Folk Art.” Another addition will be the inclusion of 7th Grade classes.

Part of the experience was a scavenger hunt wherein the students used their phones to photograph statues and buildings in Santa Fe. Back in the classroom, the students were required to research what they saw and then report about their significance.

Helpful Staff

As one can imagine, traveling with a group of mid-schoolers can be noisy and distracting, but Shay says the staff of the Rail Runner helps smooth out the bumps.

“When we were getting on, we were all lined up to get on a quiet car,” she says. “The conductor quickly moved us to a different car with an upper level where we would not disturb other passengers. And the conductors were very aware of us as a group and acted as tour guides, telling us what pueblo we were passing through and some history about them.”

To be honest, this wasn’t Shay’s first experience with the Rail Runner. She has two 20-year-old sons who rode the train downtown regularly to attend high school. “My boys are Rail Runner experts,” she says. “It is very comfortable and affordable.”

group travel 2 smThe group rate for the North Valley Academy’s 29 students, four chaperones and two teachers to Santa Fe was $178 – only $5 per person after the group travel discount was applied.

Jenna Paulson is the Rail Runner’s customer service manager, and helps teachers and others book travel on the Rail Runner. In addition to North Valley Academy, she has assisted a variety of other groups including Nex+Gen Academy in Albuquerque, the First Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, and Vacations by Rail – a professional travel company.

Paulson says the busiest season for group travel is February, when the New Mexico Legislature is in session and citizens want to make their opinions known in the Roundhouse.

During the state’s fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, a total of 3,000 riders took advantage of group travel rates. The typical group is 35 people.

“If you are traveling with a group of 25 people or more, you get $2 off the listed price per person,” she says. The group leader receives a travel certificate, and each passenger has a ticket good for that day.

Group travel tickets must be purchased through the Rail Runner’s office in Albuquerque. Paulson may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Balloons, Too

balloon rrKen Snyder of Vacations by Rail helps train aficionados travel the world, and so far he’s helped about 100 riders visit New Mexico and Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta.

“One of our travel itineraries starts in Chicago,” he says. “The passengers take the Zephyr from Chicago to Grand Junction, Colorado,” Snyder says. The California Zephyr’s full run is 2,300 miles to San Francisco, but once passengers depart in Colorado they take a motor coach to Durango where they ride the narrow-gauge Durango-Silverton train, he says.

Durango-Silverton has been served by the 3-feet-wide railroad since 1881. The 45-mile journey on the historic train passes through a mining district and scenic high peaks where golden aspens provide a stark contrast to the rolling fields of the Great Plains. After Durango, passengers return to the motor coach and travel to Santa Fe.

The third and final rail leg of the tour is our own New Mexico Rail Runner Express, which takes passengers from Santa Fe to Albuquerque for two days of the International Balloon Fiesta in October.

“And then they leave via the Albuquerque International Sunport,” Snyder says, “and they fly all over the world to wherever home is.”

Vacations by Rail offers an extensive web of travel opportunities across the United States, Canada and Europe. Learn more at

Story by Martin Frentzel

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