For today’s article, I’m going to take a look at an alternative method to get to Walt Disney World….the Amtrak Autotrain which runs from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL. The Autotrain is an excellent alternative for those people who are afraid to fly but don’t want to drive the entire distance either.
Lorton, VA is the northern loading point for the Autotrain. Lorton is a 30 minute drive south on I-95 from Washington, DC. So, people coming from the north still have to deal with traffic of the New York/Philadelphia/Baltimore/Washington DC megalopolis. From my understanding, this is the worst part of the drive to Walt Disney World from a traffic perspective. Once you get south of Washington, DC, the next major city you would drive near would be Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL which don’t have near the traffic congestion issues that major northeastern cities too.
That said, taking the Autotrain can save 1800 miles of wear and tear on your car if you take the Autotrain round trip. 1800 miles puts most cars almost halfway to needing another oil change. As a result, you may need to get your car serviced both before and after your trip to Walt Disney World if you drive the entire distance and not take the train.
The train’s schedule is easy to remember. It leaves Lorton at 4 pm and it leaves Sanford also at 4 pm. It takes just over 17 hours to make the trip on the train with a 9:29 AM arrival at each location. Once your car is loaded onto the train, you don’t have to worry about another thing except relaxing and enjoying the ride while scenery going by your window.
Even though, the train leaves at 4 pm. Amtrak starts loading cars as early as 11:30 am and recommends that you arrive by 2 pm. NO VEHICLES WILL BE LOADED AFTER 3 pm. If you are hauling a trailer, to ensure space for both the vehicle and the trailer, it must be loaded no later than 2 pm. Transporting a vehicle costs $186 each way. Once your car is loaded and you are in the passenger area, you can not access your car until the train is stopped in Lorton or Orlando.
So, you made the decision to take train. What do you get with your ticket? You get two things: 1) A standard coach seat. 2) All your meals are included. There aren’t a lot of choices in what to do eat. You can always pack your own meals in a cooler. The breakfast is more of a continental breakfast with cereal, bagels, toast, etc.
Like I said, it’s not fine dining but it’s included in your ticket and you can always bring your own meals if you don’t like the selections.
I DON’T GET A BED?!?!?
No, sleeping accommodations are an extra fee. A standard one-way ticket costs around $150-250 per adult based on the type of ticket. There are three levels of ticket: saver (least expensive), value (moderately expensive), and flexible (most expensive). Families would need one of the family bedrooms which cost about $850/each way. These sleeper rooms include 2 adult beds and 2 children’s beds in a room which is 5’2″ x 9’5″
Sleeping Car Floor Plan
The family, in the above pictures, are friends of mine and now make the Autotrain part of their trips after taking it on the return portion of their trip in November of 2012. I asked them to make a pro and con list for taking the Autotrain as opposed to driving since they have experienced the train for themselves whereas I haven’t. Here’s their list:
- Only 8 hours of driving versus 24 hours (they, like Dad, live in upstate NY – your mileage may vary)
- Pack as much as your car can fit
- No need for a rental car
- Arrive at your destination (Sanford or Lorton) rested at 10 am
- Dinner and breakfast are included in the fare
- Top notch service
- The ability to get up and walk around without having to stop
- Sleeping accommodations are expensive
- Still a day of driving to and from Lorton (again your mileage may vary)
- 18 hour train ride in tight quarters
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