Auto Train (Autotrain) trip report

Discussion in 'Transportation' started by QueenGoblin, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. QueenGoblin

    QueenGoblin Mouseketeer

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    Hi All-

    Just wanted to post our experiences with the Auto Train since I know I came here to search through threads for information when we were making our transportation decisions, so I want help out future auto-train-ers!

    The biggest change: There are now electrical outlets at every seat! YAY!:cool1:

    We departed from Lorton, VA on January 6th, arrived in Sanford the 7th and then returned the 14th, arriving the 15th. We left on time and got in EARLY both ways. 90 minutes early on the 7th. So early that we actually had to wait for the staff at the station to get in place to detrain us. On the return trip we were about 30-45minutes early. We took the auto train in September of 06, and we were early both ways that time too. I know there are people who have had bad experiences with the auto train being late, but so far we have been really lucky, and given the snow storms that were present on the east coast when we were traveling, I am glad we took the train and avoid flight delays and cancelations.

    The trip down was full! It is so true that the "snowbirds" are the primary customers of this train line and they were out in force returning to Flordia after the Holidays on the 6th. We noticed that the fare for the trip down to Florida was much higher than for the return trip too, so the fares really do reflect the "demand" and we noticed they did get higher as the date approached. The return trip we almost had the train to ourselves.

    We went coach, traveling with 2 kids, and we were fine. We took extra pillows, snacks, coloring books, games and movies for the kids. They liked the fact that they weren't strapped into a carseat for 16 hours and seemed to enjoy taking trips to the dining car for meals and the lounge car for snacks. The meals were fine...we are vegetarian so our choices were somewhat limited, but the people around us seemed to be enjoying their selections. The movies they showed were too adult for our kids, but they were recent mainstream movies.

    The attendants were all very cheerful and pleasant. The train and the stations were very well maintained (although the Sanford station seems very outdated next to the new Lorton station).

    We were nearly the LAST car getting off the train in Florida, which was a bummer, because as I said, the train was full. Note: the myth that the vans/SUVs get off first is just that, a MYTH! We traveled with a van this time, a standard sized station wagon last year, both times we were almost last. The experienced travelers around us seemed to agree that it is just random. They seemed to even have extra people working to get the cars off, but 300+ cars are gonna take awhile and we just had bad luck. Even with that, however, we were at Pop Century by 11am. The drive to WDW from Sanford is very easy and takes less than an hour on I-4.

    Overall, it was another positive experience for us. I know it is not for everyone, but for us, it allowed us the more of the control and flexibility of driving our own car, without the kids being confined to a carseat for hours, or DH and I beginning our vacation road weary. Plus it is fun to watch the sun go down over mid-atlantic forests and rise over palm trees!

    Feel free to respond or PM me with specific questions. Happy Travels!
     
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  3. bdcp

    bdcp DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for the review. There have been a couple of recent threads about the AT, but there's alway someone who is negative about it even if they've never ridden. We're going on our 3rd rt this Nov. We did coach the first time, roomette the second and are doing coach again. The roomette was not as comfortable. We are always early to the station and have taken a minivan one year and a small sedan (Honda Accord) the second. It didn't seem to matter. We have been middle of the pack and in the last 10 off and this next trip we're taking my suv. I always wondered what it was like to be #1. We always joke that the last car off should get a free trip the next time. It's just DH and I since our boys are adults (21 and 24) and won't be going. I'm 47 and DH is 50 so we are in the families with older children, singles and couples car which is pretty quiet. I've walked through the families w/small kids and the snowbird cabins. They can both be boisterous. The early birds tend to go to bed earlier and rise earlier and the families w/small kids tend to have trouble winding down, but the kids are always sacked out when we head to breakfast. We booked a couple of weeks ago and got a really good rate ($689 rt). The trip down will be full of snowbirds as it always is in Nov. They tend to travel with friends and neighbors.

    I'm glad about the electrical outlets as DH and I take our laptops. We can watch movies at our seat with headphones that way.
     
  4. HugsForEeyore

    HugsForEeyore <font color=coral>Heck with the rides, give me som

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    I just got off the AutoTrain this morning! Like the OP, it was a wonderul trip. I rode from Lorton to Sanford, and we arrived early this morning, pulling in the Sanford station at 8:20! The whole trip was great - I had a sleeper which was expensive but worth it. I ate dinner with interesting people - one lady I sat with even did acting and was on an episode of Law and Order SVU (a show I adore! :teeth: ). And yep - most of the train were snowbirds! My car was probably around half way through. I was at Disney by 10:30ish. :)

    Next week, I will do the return back to the frozen north on the Auto Train. I don't fly, so I absolutely love taking the train. :)
     
  5. postalcop

    postalcop Mouseketeer

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    Sue, can't wait to read your TR~ ps. don't forget the pictures!!! lol.

    ~sue
     
  6. The Disney Bunch

    The Disney Bunch Disney Fiends!!

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    We are taking the AutoTrain for the first time in April - we got a roomette - we have 3 small girls so it is doable.

    How are the movies? We are planning on hitting the meal first then the movie.
     
  7. bdcp

    bdcp DIS Veteran

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    Do you mean you got a bedroom? Or a family bedroom? Roomettes are for two people only, no matter the size because what it is, is two seats that convert into two single (small) beds. They might allow two adults and an infant, but no more than that, and that I'm not sure about.

    Also, as far as the meal and movies go, you have to schedule your meal time. They only offer 2-3 seatings for dinner and the movies are scheduled throughout the evening. So, you won't know til you get onboard exactly when the movie is and you'll schedule your meal time when you check in.
     
  8. The Disney Bunch

    The Disney Bunch Disney Fiends!!

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    I am sorry - we got a family bedroom - we cannot schedule out dinner until we get on? I am hoping to have it settled before then. THanks!
     
  9. Mad4Dizne

    Mad4Dizne DIS Veteran

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    Is it Amtrak??? (I hate!!! flying and after our recent security screen nightmare-it'll be a long time [if ever] I get on a plane again!!!).....

    TIA!!!
    Flo
     
  10. solfan68

    solfan68 DIS Veteran

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    Another big proponent of the train. This after we had to drive down due to a frieght train derail that canceled our south bound passage. We also pop for a compartment. DW will NOT fly, so its the next best thing.

    Info on the AT can be found here.
     
  11. Henlady

    Henlady DIS Veteran

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    To The Disney Bunch:
    You will select your dinner time when you check into the Auto Train terminal. If you have a specific time need, then it is wise to get to the terminal as early as possible so you can request that time. If I remember correctly, the first meal time is at about 5:00pm, and the next at 7:00. If the train is "full" they will schedule a 3rd seating. If you did not reserve a specific supper seating, then everyone could be heading to the dining car at the same time and there would not be sufficient seating. You would end up standing in line for a long time in a swaying coach. With scheduled seating, you go to the dining car at the assigned time and a table is waiting for you. As a "first class" passenger, you will have a salad, your choice of entree, dessert, and beverage, wine is included.

    Breakfast is NOT scheduled. You just go to the dining car when you are ready. They will announce when the breakfast seating is available. If you do not want to eat in the dining car for breakfast, you may request a "take out" and they will place the breakfast items in a container for you to take back to your seat. This is helpful if you have children who aren't up yet.

    Also, when "room" passengers board, there is cheese, veggies, crackers, etc... available in the lounge as well as "wine tasting".
    Then during the evening, in the lounge car, there will be fruit, cookies and snack mix available. You will not be hungry on this trip.
     
  12. jajomo0118

    jajomo0118 DIS Veteran

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    Hello,
    We are thinking about taking the autotrain on Oct 16th. I was just wondering if this is busy season or maybe just a little to early yet for people traveling south for the winter. TIA for any help ;)
     
  13. QueenGoblin

    QueenGoblin Mouseketeer

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    We have traveled by AutoTrain 3 times now, the most recent being late October of 08 when we went down for MNSSHP. Traveling in October was fine. The train was not crazy busy like it was in January and we could all spread out and had our choice of dinner times, etc. If you are traveling with kids you should look into the "kids ride free" promotion Amtrak often runs in the fall or see if the Orlando Magic Card discount is still available (but I heard that was going away...) AAA also gets you a discount. If you go to Amtrak's website you can plug in your dates and see what kind of fare you are coming up with. Sometimes if you move your dates around a bit it really changes the cost.

    We have always gotten in on time or early and have only had good experiences. If you decide to take the train I hope you have a great time too!
     
  14. jajomo0118

    jajomo0118 DIS Veteran

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    Thank you for you quick reply and I did play around with dates and $403 was the best I could find for 1 way (We are driving home via Atlanta, stopping for a few days.) That was AAA ...it sounded competitive but what do I know...lol.
     
  15. hthrbells

    hthrbells DIS Veteran

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    OK many questions where does this leave from? Is it cheaper than flying? We are in CT and looking to go to WDW late Sept. Thanks I was curious about this? Do you bring your own car?
     
  16. cherylp3

    cherylp3 Florida Resident

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    It leaves from Lorton VA, Depending on the time of year and when you book it can be cheaper. You bring your own car ( although in theory you can bring a rental just make sure you get insurance)
     
  17. chartle

    chartle DIS Veteran

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    Here is really good page about the AT.

    http://on-track-on-line.com/autotrain-tips.shtml
     
  18. jajomo0118

    jajomo0118 DIS Veteran

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    I have been all over the net and can't find any pics of the "coach" seats.

    BTW there are some great "you tube" videos of the auto train and the above link is a great web site.
     
  19. FirstTimertoDiz

    FirstTimertoDiz <font color=teal>I love visiting NYC<br><font colo

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    We are thinking of doing the Autotrain next June for our trip for the first time. It would be me, dh, ds6, and dd1. DD would be allowed to share a seat with an adult, saving us a fare, but I am skeptical on this one. I am not sure how we would sleep, trying to hold a wriggling toddler, lol.

    Has anyone held an infant the whole time in coach seats? Any experiences good or bad would be great. Thanks!
     
  20. mykidslovesdisney

    mykidslovesdisney DIS Veteran

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    I traveled years ago w/ my the dd 1 on the reg train from NYC to orlando. I slept w/ her on my chest or betwn me and ds who was 5 then. It wasn't too bad. Last year we did the autotrain and ds 14 months slept on the seat next to dh. We were able to put the foot rest all the way in an up position-- it looked like a wall. We took a pillow from home and he slept on the seat w/ DH next to him. I did switch w/ dh half way thru the night. We are returning for our 5th autotrain trip this Aug.

    I'd be happy to answer any other ?'s you may have
     
  21. Poohbear5

    Poohbear5 DIS Veteran

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    How long do you wait for your car when it is amongst the last to detrain?

    Are they handlers careful with your vehicle?

    Is it secure to lock valuables into the trunk?
     

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