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Old 06-11-2013, 02:34 PM   #1
poison ivy
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Auto Train to College Program w/24hr at MK & Star Wars(New!4/22:Snake in the grass)

Hello and welcome to our second trip report!

Its been a crazy year with so much unusual and unplanned travel to WDW.

We're having a really great time with it all!

Hope you follow along!

Travel dates: Wed. May 22, 2013 to Sat. June 1, 2013

Who:
Myself (Christine)
Johnny Quest (DH James)
Iron Man (DS Mark)



Where:
Split Stay: 4 nights Pop Century Resort (AP rate w/ standard meal plan)
5 nights Saratoga Springs (rented pts - no meal plan)

Some highlights:

DAY I - Wednesday May 22, 2013

**The Auto Train**

Part I - road trip (next post)
Part II - z train
Part III - the roomette
Part IV - roomettes at night; other rooms and coach
Part V - facilities, HA and moving between cars
Part VI - Food on a Train
Last - Sanford, FL to WDW



DAY II - Thursday May 23, 2013


**Walt Disney World**

Day 2 - Hangin' at the POP
Day 2 cont. - The Meal Plan
Day 2 wrap - Winging it on the West Side


DAYS III AND IV - Friday May 24 & Saturday May 25, 2013


**A Monster 24 hr all-nighter at the Magic Kingdom**

Day 3/4 - To the MK
Journey to the "24" challenge - Take I
Let the challenge begin -Take II
An A to E Ticket to paradise - Take III
An A to E Ticket to paradise -Take IV
Morning Wrap - Take V

Lunch at The Plaza - Take VI
Iron Man Returns - Take VII
Afternoon Close - Take VIII

4 pm - A Star Wars "D-Tour"

Dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern - Take IX
"24" Extra Innings - Take X
An Enchanted Evening - Take XI - Part I
An Enchanted Evening - Take XI - Part II

Vintage Photos - That 70's Show


DAY V - Sunday May 26, 2013


**Day 5 - Star Wars Weekend at the Studios**

Part I - Darth Maul meets Willow
Part II - Darth Maul meets Willow (incl. lunch at Studio Catering Co.)
Part II cont. - Darth Maul meets Willow

Part III -Star Wars Wrap Up
Part III cont. - Star Wars Wrap Up

Evening - A Signature Dinner at Citricos


DAY VI - Memorial Day, Monday May 27, 2013


**The Disney College Program**

Introduction
I. Check-In
II. Part II
III.Waiting at SSR


**A DVC tour of the Grand Floridian Villas 2-bdrm lockoff**

Take I - the studio side
Take II - the living room & kitchen

Take III - The master(s) - bed, bath & beyond
Morning - Saratoga Springs Grounds and Studio


**The Disney College Program - Continued**

IV.Housing and Move-In Day
V.Chatham Square 2 Bdrm Apts

**Port Orleans French Quarter**
Part I - Sassagoula Float Works - Lunch
Part II- DCP & QS Dinner to go at Sassagoula
Part III- Port Orleans Room Tour


**The Disney College Program - Continued**

VI.College Program Schedule: Week 1
VII.What a guy packs and buys

Part I - A Signature Dinner at Monsieur Paul
Part II - A Signature Dinner at Monsieur Paul


DAY VII - Tuesday May 28, 2013

Snake in the Grass



And more!



up next:

Day 1: Road trip to the Auto Train]

Last edited by poison ivy; 04-22-2014 at 11:39 AM.
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Old 06-11-2013, 03:00 PM   #2
poison ivy
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Day 1: Take a ride to the Auto Train

This was a quickly organized trip to accompany our son Mark to the WDW College Program.
His check-in date was Monday, May 27.

Iron Man wanted to take his truck. Its a 1992 GMC pickup.
Runs great for his purposes - but not to drive 1100 miles south to Florida.

So, I began to research the Auto Train.

The Amtrak Auto Train is a great travel alternative, and happens to be the only one of its' kind in the US.
It runs one route per day in each direction, transporting you and your vehicle between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL.

We have always wanted to try this, so the prospect was perfect - provided it was affordable

Turns out, Iron Mans CP start date of Monday, May 27, 2013 was on Memorial Day!

Not sure whose idea that was but I suspect my son may have had something to do with it.

To travel any day that weekend, was way too expensive.
But backtrack a few days and Tues, Wed or Thurs. are much lower in price.

We booked Wed May 22 using a AAA rate of $ 90.00 per passenger + $ 175.00 for the vehicle.
We also reserved one roomette for JQ and I for $ 125.00. Iron Man was travelling coach.

Total price: $ 570.00 (incl. all taxes and fees)

(Note: You have to call and book by phone to split tickets between Coach and First Class (sleeper cars only) with one vehicle. It can't be done online.)

To fly would cost approx. $ 435.00 (3 tix.) + $ 125 car rental = $ 560.00
To drive was much cheaper but no way were we driving that truck down there!

Surprisingly the train vs flying were close to a break even. Great!! Lets take the train!!

The Auto Train departs daily at 4:00 PM.
The gate opens at 11:30 AM.
Vehicles must be checked in by 2:30 PM

The plan was to leave NJ around 7:00 AM and get there early. We of course pull out of the driveway promptly at 10:25 AM.

Yes! Thats correct! We left NJ at 10:25 AM. Mapquest estimated 3.5 hrs. to get there.
To say I was nervous about the late start would be an understatement!
This was a place we had never driven to and had no idea what to expect.

I quickly remind myself: "It all works out in the end" and leave the rest to fate.

Should be fun!

Heres a brief photo journey of our road trip.

NJ traffic was non-existent straight thru to the Del Memorial Bridge.



Crossing into Delaware at 11:11 AM. So far so good.



Hello Maryland! 11:26 AM



Traffic was still pretty good.



Check out the Earl of Sandwich at the Chesapeake House. Who knew?



Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at 12:16 PM








I must have had a premonition to take this shot. quid pro quo.



Traffic picked up on rt. 295



Crossing into Alexandria, VA at 1:03 PM



Almost there





Arriving at 1:21 PM!! You can see the passenger cars of the train on the right.







Vehicle drop off





They have these complimentary luggage carts lined up for everyones use



That's it! We were all checked in. I made a note of the time.



It took 3 hrs to get here. Excellent! I attribute this to two things - travelling on a Wed. after rush hour, and leaving mid-week before Memorial Day weekend.

Some photos of the auto train lobby in Lorton, VA









The men in my life!



Up next: "Z train! Z train!"

Last edited by poison ivy; 07-18-2013 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:08 PM   #3
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We have thought about using the Auto Train, but never have. We live in Jersey also, 20 minutes from the Philadelphia Airport, it is so convenient, but we always rent a car when we get there. What was your opinion of the Auto Train?
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Old 06-12-2013, 08:39 AM   #4
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In for your TR!
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Old 06-12-2013, 08:44 AM   #5
poison ivy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiggeye View Post
We have thought about using the Auto Train, but never have. We live in Jersey also, 20 minutes from the Philadelphia Airport, it is so convenient, but we always rent a car when we get there. What was your opinion of the Auto Train?
Hi and Welcome!

We're about a half hour from the PHL airport so we must be S. Jersey neighbors!

My opinion of the Auto Train was really great! We've always wanted to try it but airfare usually won out on convenience and price. Not true this time.

It's a long ride but then so is driving so it was great to kick back and relax for a change. Loved having our own car once we got to FL. I've heard people have mixed feelings about long distance rail travel. this did not bother us.

I was concerned about complaints I'd read re: hearing the engine whistle all night or rocking in an upper cabin while trying to sleep or people walking back and forth in the corridor or weird odors or just plain being bored. We had none of this in our section. I did question the rep at the counter in the terminal on several of these issues before we boarded. She walked me through where we were located in proximity to everything. Very helpful.

Hope you stick around. My next post will detail our experience.



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Old 06-12-2013, 08:48 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by wiigirl View Post
In for your TR!
That's great! Welcome!!
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:31 PM   #7
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I also took the AT down to Florida in April for my DCP! Same boat as your son, I have an older car and thought the drive to Florida from CT would be too much for it. Interested to hear your full review!
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Old 06-13-2013, 07:02 AM   #8
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Looking forward to the rest of the TR!!
Jan

.
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Old 06-13-2013, 10:40 AM   #9
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PI - Love the pics. You're so handy with your camera. I keep forgetting to have mine out till it's too late. haha

Anxiously waiting for the rest of your trip.
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Old 06-13-2013, 04:05 PM   #10
poison ivy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emcclay View Post
I also took the AT down to Florida in April for my DCP! Same boat as your son, I have an older car and thought the drive to Florida from CT would be too much for it. Interested to hear your full review!
Welcome and congratulations on your culinary internship! Would love to hear your experience as well. Stay tuned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JLSE50 View Post
Looking forward to the rest of the TR!!
Jan

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henlady View Post
PI - Love the pics. You're so handy with your camera. I keep forgetting to have mine out till it's too late. haha

Anxiously waiting for the rest of your trip.
So glad you guys are here! Hi Jan Hi Kris I'm getting ready to update now.
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Old 06-13-2013, 04:17 PM   #11
poison ivy
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Travel Day 1 continued...........


"Z train! Z train!"

Before we start, I forgot to list the tolls from NJ to Lorton, VA.

Delaware Memorial Bridge - $ 4.00
Delaware Toll on 95 - $ 4.00
Baltimore Harbor Tunnel - $ 3.00

We did not drive the NJ Turnpike to the Del Mem. Bridge. We took 295 S (non-toll)

Ok back to the Auto Train.

Being an uber-planner, I was always searching for any and all information on this train. It wasn't easy to come by.

So I wanted to pay it forward as best I could. Hope these details will prove helpful someday.

There is no WiFi onboard (subject to possibly change! They have provided this on a test basis in the first class lounge - so doublecheck)
2 carryons per passenger allowed
Smoking is no longer allowed onboard in any car
There are designated handicapped accessible coach seats, first class rooms and bathrooms all on the ground floor. (I did photograph the coach section)

Fun stats about our train:

I don't know the max capacity for the Auto Train but our particular train looked about half full.
(remember we left on a Wed - May 22)

33 Rail Cars Total
16 Passenger Cars

255 Passengers
127 Coach
128 Sleeper

126 Autos/Vans/Trucks/SUVs
2 Priority Vehicles
1 Motorcycle

First, let me start by saying this is a

L============O============N===========G TRAIN!

My sympathies to those who patiently wait at the crossings when this baby rolls by!





Auto Transport Cars also have two levels



Passenger cars looking toward the back of the train.



Passenger cars looking toward the front of the train



As I mentioned, our booking was unique JQ and I were booked in a sleeper car and therefore classified as First Class Passengers. Iron Man was coach.

This is important because each class has its own dining car and lounge and ne'er the two shall meet.

Yes. You can walk between them but the dining cars were strategically positioned to place a good amount of distance among each class.

We did not know this when we booked.

Once we found out thanks to a fellow Diser, we were hoping to negotiate a nominal fee to grant Iron Man permission to dine with us and possibly hang out with us in First Class. We also contemplated smuggling him in if all else failed. (joking of course - not!)

More on that later.

Quote:
UPDATE: EFFECTIVE APRIL 2014 - THE AUTO TRAIN DINING/LOUNGE CARS AND AMENITIES HAVE CHANGED!!!

IN SUMMARY:
REMOVED FIRST CLASS LOUNGE CAR - ALL PAX USE 1 LOUNGE CAR
ELIMINATE COMPLIMENTARY WINE IN DINER
REALIGN ALL FOOD SERVICE CARS TOGETHER IN TRAIN - sleeper diner / table car / coach diner / coach lounge
MOVE TO SINGLE MENU FOR ALL DINERS


READ HERE: http://www.disboards.com/showthread....02667&page=189
Here's a comparison of what the two classes of passengers were during our trip in May 2013.

First Class

For ALL sleeper cars and ONLY sleeper cars.
Provides a shower and changing room area per each car
Complimentary coffee / tea / water / ice station per each car
Complimentary Wine and Cheese reception upon embarkation
Separate Dining Car and dinner menu w/ complimentary wine
Separate Lounge
Assigns each car a personal attendant who assists will all needs and sets up your sleeping quarters.

Coach

No Shower in the cars
No complimentary coffee / tea / water station in the cars
Separate Dining Car w/ different menu
Separate Lounge
No Welcome Reception
complimentary carafe of wine w/ dinner (info courtesy of fellow disers!)
Not sure about any attendant.

We were all checked in by 1:30pm. Boarding begins at 2:30pm. So we had an hour to kill working on a strategy regarding our split classes.

I approach the desk to explore options and discuss a few other concerns.

Question 1: Can we upgrade the coach dining to first class for our son? Answer: No
Question 2: Can he visit us in first class? Answer: Check with your attendant once you board. No guarantees.
Question 3: How far away from us is he anyway? Answer: you're in the last passenger car. His coach car is 9 away and his dining car is in the front of the train. It's set up this way on purpose.
Question 4: How much would it cost to upgrade him to first class? Answer: $125.00 for a roomette. No Discounts. (which was the same price we paid for ours)

I tell her, "I'll be right back".

Meanwhile, JQ was having a lot of fun with Iron Man: "too bad for you dude!" "enjoy your coach!" "hope you get a window seat" "we'll catch up with you in about 18 hrs."

Iron Mans response: "hey man. I"m not doin' it!"

Of course he was holding onto all his money for the college program and was at the mercy of his parents.

I tell JQ, I think we can pawn him off and smuggle him into the dining room. The set up here looks pretty low key. But he cant hang in our roomette. It'll be too crowded. Plus, he has to lug all his stuff whenever he leaves his seat.

I suggest we just bag the whole thing and pay for a 2nd roomette. $125.00 seemed reasonable to eliminate all problems.

JQ replies, "Forget it. He'll be fine".

After some arm twisting, I get him to agree (more like give in) and we revisit the desk to upgrade our son. Now I'm asking even more questions.

I start off by saying, "I'm sorry, we're new" hoping she'll indulge us.

1. Can these roomettes be placed together? Answer: yes I'll put him directly across from you.

2. Are we in a bad passenger car with a lot of foot traffic/ engine noise and rocking? I've read a few things. Answer: no - you're in the last passenger car. The engine is in the front. There are 15 passenger cars in front of you and the vehicle cars are directly behind you. You'll have no foot traffic except for those among your car and a great buffer from noise. I've placed you in the center roomettes of the car as well. You will prefer the upper level.

3. How much for a family or superliner bedroom? Answer: $475.00 to $580.00 less the $125.00 pd for the roomette, but you can't book these since you have three adults. All larger staterooms can only accommodate a max of 2 adults. You exceed their capacity.

Two roomettes it is! Lets go!

They call for boarding at 2:30pm

JQ always jokes that he's the bell hop and chauffer whenever we travel.
Judging by this photo, he may be right!



We are immediately greeted by this sign attempting to direct us on where to go.



We're heading all the way down - to the last car standing.



Looks like they're still loading cars at this point. Good to know.



Passengers can only move between cars from the upper floor.



JQs photos









Iron Man is greeted by Charles, our attendant. You can see our entire passenger car here.



Ok lets board.........................................

This is the layout of our sleeper car. They're not all the same, but this was ours.
Left is ground level - 4 roomettes, 1 family bedroom at each end, 3 bathrooms and 1 shower/changing room.

Right is upper level - 10 roomettes, (we had #s 5 & 6), 5 superliner bedrooms, 1 bathroom and 1 beverage service station



We are walking in at ground level per the arrow on the left side of the diagram and immediately turn right to the stairs. Those family bedrooms at each end seem to have the least amount of privacy in my opinion.



Towels are available for everyone to use.



Stairs from the lower level.



Top of steps. beverage service station (coffee / hot water/ tea / cocoa / ice)



I have no idea what JQ is doing in this photo.





Front of our upper level is 10 roomettes (including ours) w/one bathroom (door on the left). The bathrooms are very small.





Back of our upper level were 5 superliner bedrooms. Each has their own bathroom/shower combo inside.



Up next;

Stateroom photos and more......

Last edited by poison ivy; 04-13-2014 at 07:38 AM.
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Old 06-13-2013, 04:53 PM   #12
Johnny Quest
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I was just playing with the button. I didn't know what it was supposed to do...it didn't do anything. I kept wanting to get a drink or ice or something because it was free, but I never did.

I would definitely ride the auto train again. It was very enjoyable and relaxing for me. If you do ride, ask for the last car and a room in the center of the car. No foot traffic or noise.
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Old 06-13-2013, 07:18 PM   #13
dromio42
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We love the auto train too! FYI they do serve white wine in carafes with dinner in coach. Can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip.
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Old 06-13-2013, 08:01 PM   #14
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Joining in as well. We've never taken the train overnight but it's so interesting to read this! I am sure that people who are considering the auto train will find this so useful
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Old 06-13-2013, 08:08 PM   #15
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We were served free wine with dinner. I honestly didn't mind the train that much. There was an obnoxious passenger and people snoring at night. Plus, I got hardly any sleep from being nervous in general about moving to Florida. Overall, I would do it again if I need to go back to CT!
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