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Old 05-15-2012, 02:16 PM   #1456
la79al
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Our trip dates have changed and the only plus side I can find is that it looks like Autotrain is in the budget again . My 4 year old is soooo excited. The only other option was going to be driving which would be cheaper but not more fun. I'm probably going to have a million questions but my first couple are, are the seats big enough in coach that we could fit an adult, an average size 4 year old and an average size 2 year in 2 side by side seats? I know I'm going to have to pay for 3 seats but I have a feeling both girls will want to stick very close to me. Secondly how often does the train arrive in FL late? We will be picking up some family members at the airport and want to try to time it so no one is waiting for very long.
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:44 PM   #1457
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Originally Posted by la79al View Post
Our trip dates have changed and the only plus side I can find is that it looks like Autotrain is in the budget again . My 4 year old is soooo excited. The only other option was going to be driving which would be cheaper but not more fun. I'm probably going to have a million questions but my first couple are, are the seats big enough in coach that we could fit an adult, an average size 4 year old and an average size 2 year in 2 side by side seats? I know I'm going to have to pay for 3 seats but I have a feeling both girls will want to stick very close to me. Secondly how often does the train arrive in FL late? We will be picking up some family members at the airport and want to try to time it so no one is waiting for very long.
Yay!! for getting to do the train!!

yeah, you can probably squish both kids into one seat. And since you'd have to buy 3 seats anyway, if it doesn't work out then you still have the 3rd seat to use.

I suggest that you get 2 seats next to each other and then the 3rd seat across the aisle. That way everyone can see each other and the girls can have the 2 seats together and you can just be 2 feet away from them.

In the 5-6 times we've taken the train, we have never been early to Sanford, but almost always early to Lorton (go figure!!). Mostly it seems we are late to Sanford...somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour. But remember, you still have to wait another "undetermined" time to get your car. If you're one of the first, you can have in 15 minutes...if it's crowded and you're one of the last, it'll be over an hour wait before you can leave.

So for those folks who are being picked up at the airport (Sanford or MCO?), just tell them to have a good book to read...It'll be minimum an hour wait but probably longer.
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Old 05-16-2012, 08:12 AM   #1458
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Well I was doing my daily checking on Amtrak yesterday and noticed the Oversized Vehicle cost had jumped up to one-tier higher. It's $50 more but it started to concern me if there are more oversized vehicles, it may mean more families and they may eventually book rooms too. I was so concerned that our room cost might go up that I decided to just pull the trigger...and upgrade us!

I must say that calling Amtrak has NEVER been a quick experience but that's okay. Since I was booking 2 roomettes for five people, I could not do that online. I've had my issues and always get them resolved. There was NO issue with me putting two kids and one adult in the roomette, though the phone agent said he HAD to inform me about the size. I told him I was VERY familiar with the size, that I've stayed in the rooms before. I also stressed to my in-laws not only about the size of the roomette but the climb to the top. It's not for the weak, so hopefully they will be okay with it.

In any case, I did find that when all was said and done, despite the long wait, I did NOT get charged extra for the vehicle. It was the same price as I had booked it originally, and not the $50 more that it was online...so that was nice. He did warn me ahead of time that I'd lose out on the special $25 kid fare, but considering I also got to apply my AAA discount to all of us, it only cost me an extra $37 for the rail fare in the end.

And now I don't have to check the Amtrak sight EVERY DAY any longer to make sure the rates don't increase on the rooms. It's done and we will be getting roomettes for our trip!
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:50 AM   #1459
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Originally Posted by la79al View Post
Secondly how often does the train arrive in FL late? We will be picking up some family members at the airport and want to try to time it so no one is waiting for very long.
I've been tracking (mostly) since Jan 13.
In that time, it has been late 33 times, and early 75 (never "on-time").

Mostly around an hour, but in one extreme case, it was almost 6 hours.

DW thinks I'm crazy tracking the arrivals and departures.
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:52 AM   #1460
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Originally Posted by la79al View Post
Our trip dates have changed and the only plus side I can find is that it looks like Autotrain is in the budget again . My 4 year old is soooo excited. The only other option was going to be driving which would be cheaper but not more fun. I'm probably going to have a million questions but my first couple are, are the seats big enough in coach that we could fit an adult, an average size 4 year old and an average size 2 year in 2 side by side seats? I know I'm going to have to pay for 3 seats but I have a feeling both girls will want to stick very close to me. Secondly how often does the train arrive in FL late? We will be picking up some family members at the airport and want to try to time it so no one is waiting for very long.
Over the last 12 months that Autotrain has had an 80% on time rate going to Florida, and an 86% on time rate coming back. Worst case over the past month was 101 minutes late but there were also times when it arrived up to 116 minutes early.
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Old 05-16-2012, 12:07 PM   #1461
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Originally Posted by DanBoris View Post
Over the last 12 months that Autotrain has had an 80% on time rate going to Florida, and an 86% on time rate coming back. Worst case over the past month was 101 minutes late but there were also times when it arrived up to 116 minutes early.
The Auto-Train does have a much better on time % then the Silver Service Trains to Florida. One caveat to those of us traveling in the Summer, is that heat restrictions are implemented when temperatures reach a designated level and trains must travel slower than normal. As this obviously depends on the weather, it does vary from day to day in the Summer. Also anyone traveling to Florida during hurricane season needs to monitor the weather and conditions for railway closures due to winds and flooding. We once had to leave a day early as a storm was approaching South Carolina/Georgia and Amtrak cancelled service. One year our train was delayed two days due to tropical storm that hit Florida. Always buy trip insurance..it's worth it.
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Old 05-16-2012, 08:17 PM   #1462
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Thanks for the replies. It looks like I will let the rest of my family know to get an early afternoon arrival time at MCO. I figure it will be more of an adventure for my girls than the adults to hang out and wait at the airport.
For those of you with small kiddos, what do you take along on the train to keep them entertained (girls will be almost 5 and 2.5)?
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Old 05-17-2012, 06:54 AM   #1463
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Originally Posted by la79al View Post
Thanks for the replies. It looks like I will let the rest of my family know to get an early afternoon arrival time at MCO. I figure it will be more of an adventure for my girls than the adults to hang out and wait at the airport.
For those of you with small kiddos, what do you take along on the train to keep them entertained (girls will be almost 5 and 2.5)?
Ninetendo DS, cards. We spent a lot of time looking out the window pointing out the different features and states along the way. Bring plenty of snacks and beverages and you will be fine.
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Old 05-17-2012, 12:24 PM   #1464
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanBoris View Post
Over the last 12 months that Autotrain has had an 80% on time rate going to Florida, and an 86% on time rate coming back. Worst case over the past month was 101 minutes late but there were also times when it arrived up to 116 minutes early.
3 hours and 37 minutes late today (217 minutes). That's the problem with averages, and what happened in the past. It all depends an what is going on today. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that when we go everything works out.
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Old 05-17-2012, 12:45 PM   #1465
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Is it common for the train to leave VA early?

I was watching a youtube video and the guy showed the time the train pulled out~about 20 minutes early.

Is there a cafe car to purchase snacks\drinks like they have on the other trains? I saw drink areas in the videos but those were in the sleeper cars. We're going to book coach seats.

I always take soda and juice when travel by train. I don't worry about keeping the drinks cold because I can always grab a cup of ice from the cafe car.

Just wondering if we'll be able to buy coffee, tea and get ice while on the auto train.
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Old 05-17-2012, 12:49 PM   #1466
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Originally Posted by disneyjunkie View Post
Is it common for the train to leave VA early?

I was watching a youtube video and the guy showed the time the train pulled out~about 20 minutes early.

Is there a cafe car to purchase snacks\drinks like they have on the other trains? I saw drink areas in the videos but those were in the sleeper cars. We're going to book coach seats.

I always take soda and juice when travel by train. I don't worry about keeping the drinks cold because I can always grab a cup of ice from the cafe car.

Just wondering if we'll be able to buy coffee, tea and get ice while on the auto train.
Yes there is a cafe car. I am unsure if they charge for ice.
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Old 05-17-2012, 01:02 PM   #1467
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Do the coach lounge cars have room for a lot of people or should I just plan on it being full and staying at our seats? We will be traveling Aug 5 which is a Sunday.
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Old 05-17-2012, 10:58 PM   #1468
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We have traveled the last 8 yrs on the Autotrain. it is a toss up on when we get in early or late. Anything can happen on the trip. usually by 630am we have a fairly good idea where we stand on arriving. Having GPS on the cellphone is fairly cool bc you can actually find yourself on the map too. that is if you have cell service.

yes the AT can leave early if everyone is loaded they will head out. We have left 30 mins early before. We even had a delay one year when one of our engines left to help another train. We sat at the station for over an hour.

We were also on the cancelled AT in Aug 08 from Tropical storm Fay. We opted to wait 5 days till the next available train had room. Make sure you give Amtrak a cellphone with the reservation. They were able to contact us to advise of the delay even though I had already planned a back up due to the intensity of the storm.

To keep the little ones busy - we brind DVD players (dont' forget the headphones), card games, video games and a few small toys to play with.

the trip is broke up fairly well and most of the travel is done at night. leave at 4pm. Dinner 5,7 or 9pm. Sleep by 8 or 9pm and then wake up by 630/7am. There is plenty of room to play infront of the coach seat too. DS5 brings a few of his trains along to push around.

The cafe will have drinks available for purchase. Sleeper cars have a beverage station with hot water/cocoa/tea/coffee and ice. you might be able to get ice from the cafe.

We always pack extra drinks and snacks in the event there is a delay we have food to snack on. last yr we were delayed 3 hrs right after we left Sanford due to trees on the tracks from a violent storm that went thru. The adjusted breaksfast to serve later and even had lunch food available too since we were arriving in Lorton around 230pm. The line of cars waiting to board was out to the street. they had cars lined up in the lot all ready to load once we were unloaded. The crew did an awesome job keeping us updated on the situation.

Lounge car seats tend to fill up fast. We rarely get a seat there. If you want one grab it as soon as you board but also remember to leave something on your coach seats so no one takes them. We boarded very late last June due to Amtrak issues and people already took our seats. 2 teenagers moved right away and apologized when they realized they had our seats but one older lady refused to move unless Amtrak could find her 2 seats together. I had a party of 7. The supervisor came down and they determined she belonged a few cars away and boarded with someone else. So throw a blanket or something on the seat to signal it is taken.

We head back in 87 days and can't wait to go. We consider the trip part of the vacation not just the mode of transportation.

i'd be happy to answer any ?'s on the AT
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Old 05-18-2012, 07:19 AM   #1469
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mykidslovesdisney View Post
We have traveled the last 8 yrs on the Autotrain. it is a toss up on when we get in early or late. Anything can happen on the trip. usually by 630am we have a fairly good idea where we stand on arriving. Having GPS on the cellphone is fairly cool bc you can actually find yourself on the map too. that is if you have cell service.

yes the AT can leave early if everyone is loaded they will head out. We have left 30 mins early before. We even had a delay one year when one of our engines left to help another train. We sat at the station for over an hour.

We were also on the cancelled AT in Aug 08 from Tropical storm Fay. We opted to wait 5 days till the next available train had room. Make sure you give Amtrak a cellphone with the reservation. They were able to contact us to advise of the delay even though I had already planned a back up due to the intensity of the storm.

To keep the little ones busy - we brind DVD players (dont' forget the headphones), card games, video games and a few small toys to play with.

the trip is broke up fairly well and most of the travel is done at night. leave at 4pm. Dinner 5,7 or 9pm. Sleep by 8 or 9pm and then wake up by 630/7am. There is plenty of room to play infront of the coach seat too. DS5 brings a few of his trains along to push around.

The cafe will have drinks available for purchase. Sleeper cars have a beverage station with hot water/cocoa/tea/coffee and ice. you might be able to get ice from the cafe.

We always pack extra drinks and snacks in the event there is a delay we have food to snack on. last yr we were delayed 3 hrs right after we left Sanford due to trees on the tracks from a violent storm that went thru. The adjusted breaksfast to serve later and even had lunch food available too since we were arriving in Lorton around 230pm. The line of cars waiting to board was out to the street. they had cars lined up in the lot all ready to load once we were unloaded. The crew did an awesome job keeping us updated on the situation.

Lounge car seats tend to fill up fast. We rarely get a seat there. If you want one grab it as soon as you board but also remember to leave something on your coach seats so no one takes them. We boarded very late last June due to Amtrak issues and people already took our seats. 2 teenagers moved right away and apologized when they realized they had our seats but one older lady refused to move unless Amtrak could find her 2 seats together. I had a party of 7. The supervisor came down and they determined she belonged a few cars away and boarded with someone else. So throw a blanket or something on the seat to signal it is taken.

We head back in 87 days and can't wait to go. We consider the trip part of the vacation not just the mode of transportation.

i'd be happy to answer any ?'s on the AT
You make me even more interested in taking AT. If only I could talk my claustrophobic hubby into trying it.
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Old 05-18-2012, 07:23 AM   #1470
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You make me even more interested in taking AT. If only I could talk my claustrophobic hubby into trying it.
There is more room in the train than in a car or airplane. He can get up and walk around and sit in the lounge car with lots of windows..
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