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Old 01-08-2008, 08:14 PM   #1
chipmunk226
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Question auto train

who has done it?

we are planning to do the auto train for our trip in december. we will be taking our mini van and it will be me, hubby and our kids will be 9,3, and 2. and we don't have flexible travel dates. what sucks it that it looks like its going to cost a LOT since we would want to get a suite. we are near Lorton VA, so that's convenient enough.

would it be cheaper to travel just by regular train and rent a car there? I got to thinking, we are going to be in FL from 12/3-12-6. On 12/7 we leave for our cruise. then come back on 12/11. seems silly to have a car just sitting in FL for 4 days Hubby says he would just rather take the auto train so we have our own car and we don't have to attempt to lug our bags and try to corral 3 tazmanian devils

any suggestions?
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:30 AM   #2
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I'ts about a 13 hour drive from Lorton. I'd just drive down. It's very, very doable with two drivers in one day. Get the van packed the night before and get to bed early. Put the sleeping kids in their PJ's into the van and be on the road by 4:00. They'll sleep until you're well into NC.

You'll get to WDW in time to check in to your hotel and have dinner and a swim, and be ready to rock the next morning.

It's less work then dealing with getting on and off the train--which is often running at least a little late, although sometimes it runs 24 hours or more late--ask MushyMushy about her train experience. No waiting in lines to board or rent a car.

For what you'll pay for the autotrain, or just Amtrack and a rental you could drive there and back at least twice--even after factoring in wear and tear on your car.
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Old 01-09-2008, 08:32 AM   #3
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Check out this thread.

http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=402667
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Old 01-09-2008, 09:46 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ducklite View Post
I'ts about a 13 hour drive from Lorton. I'd just drive down. It's very, very doable with two drivers in one day. Get the van packed the night before and get to bed early. Put the sleeping kids in their PJ's into the van and be on the road by 4:00. They'll sleep until you're well into NC.

You'll get to WDW in time to check in to your hotel and have dinner and a swim, and be ready to rock the next morning.

It's less work then dealing with getting on and off the train--which is often running at least a little late, although sometimes it runs 24 hours or more late--ask MushyMushy about her train experience. No waiting in lines to board or rent a car.

For what you'll pay for the autotrain, or just Amtrack and a rental you could drive there and back at least twice--even after factoring in wear and tear on your car.
I don't know if I can handle being in the car with a 2 and a 3 yo for 14 hours Hubby first said he wouldn't mind driving. I think it would be great driving down... but the drive home would SUCK! Especially after having such a great vacation. Plus, we have to get to Philadelphia to get my oldest to his dads for his weekend and THEN go back home to Maryland . that makes it an even longer drive.

I haven't read the thread cheryl posted yet... maybe that will change my mind
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Old 01-09-2008, 10:25 AM   #5
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Do check air prices. We flew Southwest nonstop to Orlando from Dulles last summer for $39 each (one-way), then we took the Magic Express bus (free) to Disney World so didn't need to rent a car for the WDW part of our trip.
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Old 01-09-2008, 10:36 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chipmunk226 View Post
I don't know if I can handle being in the car with a 2 and a 3 yo for 14 hours Hubby first said he wouldn't mind driving. I think it would be great driving down... but the drive home would SUCK! Especially after having such a great vacation. Plus, we have to get to Philadelphia to get my oldest to his dads for his weekend and THEN go back home to Maryland . that makes it an even longer drive.

I haven't read the thread cheryl posted yet... maybe that will change my mind
Like I said, leave in the wee hours so the kids will sleep. If you can, leave even earlier--maybe 2:00 am so you'll be into SC before they wake up, and then use a portable DVD player to keep them busy from that point.

On the way back is there any way that your ex can meet you halfway, or you can take your oldest up very early the next morning? What will you do if the train is significantly delayed--which does happen with a fair amount of frequency.
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Old 01-09-2008, 11:19 AM   #7
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I never saw the lure of the Autotrain!

I know there are people who swear by it, but by the time you drive to VA, the worst driving is (generally) behind you.

Why not just keep on driving until you reach WDW?
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Old 01-09-2008, 12:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ashef View Post
Do check air prices. We flew Southwest nonstop to Orlando from Dulles last summer for $39 each (one-way), then we took the Magic Express bus (free) to Disney World so didn't need to rent a car for the WDW part of our trip.
Hubby thinks flying will be harder with the kids then driving . But then again, he's the same dad that doesn't like taking the kids out to eat b/c they 'make too much noise' I personally am not a big fan of flying myself, so I didn't argue too much

Quote:
Originally Posted by ducklite View Post
Like I said, leave in the wee hours so the kids will sleep. If you can, leave even earlier--maybe 2:00 am so you'll be into SC before they wake up, and then use a portable DVD player to keep them busy from that point.

On the way back is there any way that your ex can meet you halfway, or you can take your oldest up very early the next morning? What will you do if the train is significantly delayed--which does happen with a fair amount of frequency.
Unfortunately, my ex and I do not have a very good relationship. He is still bitter that I moved from Philadelphia [which is understood] but even if it means more time with his son, he refuses to assist in ANY transportation. So I don't ever plan outside of my custodial 'time'.

About the delay- I tried to do a search here to find some reports, but I don't know if the search isn't working, or I just don't know how to use it but I couldn't find any threads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OlderMan View Post
I know there are people who swear by it, but by the time you drive to VA, the worst driving is (generally) behind you.

Why not just keep on driving until you reach WDW?
For one, I have horrible night vision, so I wouldn't be much help as far as driving. Two, I drive 2x a month during the school year to get my son to his dads [180 miles one way] and I think we we're just looking for an alternative.

Another question. Is a car really necessary in WDW? I say no, but hubby wants the freedom to drive where he wants.
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Old 01-09-2008, 12:53 PM   #9
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Why don't you put your son on a plane to Philly before you leave Orlando? A non-stop O/W ticket on SW will cost you under $100. Then take your time getting back with the little ones. Still cheaper than taking the train or buying five r/t plane tickets.
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Old 01-09-2008, 01:07 PM   #10
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We think of the AutoTrain as part of the vacation experience. Getting a suite is the most expensive way to go on the AutoTrain. Even with two rooms, space if tight. You'll want to plan ahead for some things to entertain your kids. We did not find the movies in the lounge to be appropriate for younger children. I don't think you will find too many bargain times for fares.

I personally did not sleep well, but the rest of my family did. Even so, we are planning to use it for our next trip - getting a suite again. I found it an enjoyable way to get to/from WDW.
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Old 01-09-2008, 01:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OlderMan View Post
I know there are people who swear by it, but by the time you drive to VA, the worst driving is (generally) behind you.

Why not just keep on driving until you reach WDW?
We take the auto train because the kids can move around, use the bathroom when they want, and generally like taking it. It is cheaper if you factor in wear and tear, gas and we would need to rent a room along the way than driving. While I don't sleep very well on it, everyone else does and on the way home when the vacation is over, driving is just pure miserable.
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Old 01-09-2008, 02:42 PM   #12
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We take the autotrain every year and love it. We consider it part of the adventure. The kids enjoy it because they can walk around, go get a snack, eat dinner, watch a movie etc. They also meet other kids who they pass the time with. The train leaves at 4:00 p.m. and after the evening activities, including dinner and the movie, they go to sleep and when they wake up we are basically there.

I like it because I don't have to drive so much, get to read a book, and can spend some quality time with the kids. We play cards and games. Sleeping is not the best but we make do in the normal seats. There are usually empty seats for us to spread around a bit, with each person getting two seats to lay sideways on.

I also prefer it to flying because we load up the van at home and then just take our pillows and some small suitcases with us on the train. No airport hassles.

It also makes sense for us money wise as we are in Florida for two weeks and bring our van with us. The cost of bringing the van on the train is no greater than a rental in Florida would be, and the ticket cost for the passengers is quite reasonable. Over the last several years the rates for 6 of us, Me, DW, DS(14), DS(12), DD(11) and DD (8) has varied from $746 to $1050 RT, including the cost of the van. Dinner and breakfast are included as well. Amtrak often has a promotion where kids travel free during the summer. Otherwise there is a AAA rate and kids are half price (I think).

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Old 01-09-2008, 03:08 PM   #13
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The good, the bad, and the return trip.

We used the Auto Train in June of 07. Left home the day of our departure, arrived at the station early. Now this is hopefully the exception rather than the rule... but we were informed that due to a freight derailment overnight, we would be unable to make the trip that day. Instead, we ended up leaving Virginia and driving as far as the Carolinas. Amtrak reimbursed up to $65 for a hotel stay, in addition to refunding us the south bound trip.

We got up the next morning and continued south on 95. We made it to Disney alright, though we did miss our ADR for dinner that night.

The return trip went off without a hitch. The bedroom was pleasant enough and the meal was good. We did pay double what we would have paid for airfare at the same time. Keep in mind that our trip included "upgrades" both from seats to a room, and from a car to an SUV. DW refuses to fly, and while the drive was tolerable, I wouldn't be hot to do it again. Even with the 50/50 experience from this past summer, we do intend to use the train again this coming June.
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Old 01-09-2008, 09:50 PM   #14
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Red face Auto Train!

I admit I am a huge fan of the Auto Train! I always look forwards to the ride, as see it as a big part of my vacation. I have taken the AutoTrain over 25 times over the last ten years. My family are the types who enjoy the train.

The OP is in a tough spot with the Auto Train, since with 5 people, you can't fit in a family sleeper, and would have to get two sleepers of some sort. Definitely adds a lot to the cost.

I have traveled on the Auto Train with my sister and her two daughters (ages 4 and 2 at the time). We had a family sleeper, and overall it was a great trip. The kids liked walking around the train, watching out the window, visiting the lounge, and watching movies in our sleeper. I couldn't imagine doing the trip in coach, though! And the thought of traveling 20 hours in the car with the 2 year old was enough to justify the price of the train. I won't fly, so the train was a great alternative. Of course, it almost is always cheaper to drive or fly, but sometimes the price of being able to relax on the train, chill out, and avoid the long exhausting drive is so worth the extra money!

I am going on the train in less than 2 weeks, and I can't wait! Already I am trying to find the perfect book to curl up with on the train.
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Old 01-10-2008, 12:55 PM   #15
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[QUOTE=HugsForEeyore;22502515]I admit I am a huge fan of the Auto Train! I always look forwards to the ride, as see it as a big part of my vacation. I have taken the AutoTrain over 25 times over the last ten years. My family are the types who enjoy the train.

The OP is in a tough spot with the Auto Train, since with 5 people, you can't fit in a family sleeper, and would have to get two sleepers of some sort. Definitely adds a lot to the cost.

I have traveled on the Auto Train with my sister and her two daughters (ages 4 and 2 at the time). We had a family sleeper, and overall it was a great trip. The kids liked walking around the train, watching out the window, visiting the lounge, and watching movies in our sleeper. I couldn't imagine doing the trip in coach, though! And the thought of traveling 20 hours in the car with the 2 year old was enough to justify the price of the train. I won't fly, so the train was a great alternative. Of course, it almost is always cheaper to drive or fly, but sometimes the price of being able to relax on the train, chill out, and avoid the long exhausting drive is so worth the extra money!

I am going on the train in less than 2 weeks, and I can't wait! Already I am trying to find the perfect book to curl up with on the train. [/QUOT

do you leave the morning of the train ride or the night before??? (we are concidering taking the autotrain this year due to work schedule, since we dont fly.) anyway i was just wondering since we are from Long Hill (morris county, also) how lon it takes, i know its 4 hours to DC. but, i know we would have to get there early since we have an SUV.
well have fun on your next trip!
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