Flying Versus Train Versus Driving from Baltimore area


Jun 21, 2011
We are thinking of switching it up for our next trip. We have always flown Southwest, but sick of the prices going up and up. 500 for all 4 of us roundtrip in 2014, up to 1200 for the 4 of us last month!! We don't care about having a car with us, even if we drove we would park it for most of the stay and not use it. We like being all about the 'bubble'. But we are getting sick of flying and the rising prices. I priced out the regular Amtrak, less than flying, but my big question is how does the comfort compare in the regular train seats, not a sleeping compartment? Particularly over 17 hours versus 2 hours. Can you actually sleep in the regular seats? It's 2 adults, 1 DS 16 and 1 DS 11. How bad really is driving? Be brutally honest please. And if we drove, we would stop overnight somewhere, so no straight through. Who has done 2 or 3 of the options (fly/train/drive) from Baltimore or near, and how do they compare? We would do annual pass, so no concerns about paying to park.
  • sponica

    DIS Veteran
    Oct 16, 2017
    I haven't done that train trip, but I've done Boston to DC and that was 8ish hours. It's long, I don't care that you can walk around and stretch your legs. It's long and the longest I would want to be on a train without any sleeping compartment. I can cat nap in the seats much like I do on airplane seats but it's not quality sleep.

    I'd choose drive over the train, the worst part is probably going to be Baltimore/DC


    DIS Veteran
    May 4, 2018
    I've only ever done the autotrain, so can't say about regular train travel., but even the private sleeping accommodations on the auto train were a bit cramped.
    At least with the drive you'll have three drivers - good opportunity fo the 16 year old to get some 95 S experience :drinking:


    DIS Veteran
    Aug 31, 2005
    We’ve driven from north of Philly and flown.

    You’re there in about 2 hours when flying, however, if you really want to be technical, for us it’s 1 hr drive to airport + 2 hrs at airport + 2.5 flight + appr 2 hrs from getting off plane to getting off ME at hotel = 7.5 hrs total.

    We are north of you, so our drive is about 16 hrs. So more than twice as long as flying, but cheaper. We drive straight thru, but I can understand stopping. It’s long, but not unbearable.

    For us, the cost is a consideration, but so is the length of our vacation. DH will not drive for trips less than 10 days now. The drive essentially kills 2 days each way (even driving straight thru), so unless it’s a long trip, we fly.


    DIS Veteran
    May 23, 2017
    I'm near DC and have no desire to ever make that drive. We've driven to the beach in SC a few times and that is MORE than enough.
  • Mamabun

    May 16, 2017
    I've done all 3 from the Va/DC area. Flying's definitely the easiest option and is worth some extra dollars to us. We don't mind the drive, but we have several adults who all like to drive. The drive is long, no two ways about it. I personally, wouldn't do the train again except in a sleeper compartment (those are small, but the privacy and ability to sleep, make that an okay option). However, I haven't done the train in a number of years, so perhaps it's improved.

    Flying pros: shortest travel time, not in any one place too long (wait in the airport, ride on the plane, riding ME to the resort, etc.)
    Flying cons: cost, rigid schedule that for us is a bit stressful, delays are completely out of our control

    Driving pros: cheap, have a car with us if we decide to venture from the bubble, low stress (for us driving is not stressful), complete control of our schedule
    Driving cons: long and boring, there's not too much exciting to see on the way

    Train pros: cheaper than flying (non-sleeper), relaxed atmosphere
    Train cons: really long travel time, seats aren't terribly comfortable and aren't good for napping (similar to airline seats), don't like the schedule (departure and arrival times)


    There's more to life than mice...
    Feb 16, 2005
    At least with the drive you'll have three drivers - good opportunity fo the 16 year old to get some 95 S experience :drinking:
    Somehow that slightly terrifies me :scared:
    That's actually priceless experience, and I've made sure to introduce DD17 to the joys of expressway driving...and airport pickups...and in a few weeks, a drive down the Florida Keys.

    Is it a little scary? Sometimes yes, especially here in Miami (we have some pretty fancy drivers :eek: ). But do you really want a new driver's first experience on a major expressway to be on their own?
  • NJ Goofy

    DVC Member - SSR & BWV
    Mar 4, 2008
    I agree about the flight prices, we fly out of PHL when SW used it as a hub prices were much better. We booked Spirit this trip, with bags, etc. and it came to @$1,200 for the four of us. We've driven to Hilton Head and Charleston a couple times. But when you figure in the gas, wear & tear on my truck, hotel (we don't drive straight thru anymore), food on the road and parking at WDW, the savings, unfortunately are not that great. Plus adding in the lost time, I think flying is still the best way option, just a heck of a lot more than it used to be.


    Earning My Ears
    Sep 17, 2012
    I would not go by train. That is a reeealllly long trip, and you're at the mercy of the train schedule, which can often run behind. For us, it's worth the cost to fly direct out of DCA and gamble with flight delays.


    DIS Veteran
    Jul 26, 2012
    We have driven from NYC 4 times. The drive is old hat now and has become part of the adventure. Driving down we stop (the last 2 years in Savannah, GA). I'm not going to lie, it can feel long, but it's something we like doing. We usually drive back in one day.

    I do not like flying (but have and would), however with 5 people from NYC to MCO I'd rather spend the money on other things rather than ~$2500 airfare.

    I have looked into autotrain but it's still requires a long drive from NYC to Lorton, VA, and a sleeper plus the car is even more expensive than flying. I would like to try it sometime though just for the experience.


    Dis Veteran
    Jan 2, 2011
    We've done Boston to Orlando on the train (26ish hours) in a sleeper car, Autotrain in coach seats, driven down with a camper in tow three times and now we fly.

    We enjoy the train if we have a sleeper, we would not do coach ever again for an overnight.

    If our drive were only 17 hours and the savings were significant, I would do that with an overnight somewhere interesting and shorter drive time in the morning.


    DIS Veteran
    Feb 28, 2009
    Somehow that slightly terrifies me :scared:
    Maybe at first. And I wouldn't have him driving DC, Richmond or Jacksonville. But I'd allow him to take a shift in the Carolinas. Smooth sailing down I-95. He needs the interstate experience. Let him do it when it's not in a urban area.


    DIS Veteran
    Oct 2, 2008
    I priced out the regular Amtrak, less than flying, but my big question is how does the comfort compare in the regular train seats, not a sleeping compartment? Particularly over 17 hours versus 2 hours. Can you actually sleep in the regular seats? It's 2 adults, 1 DS 16 and 1 DS 11.
    I take Amtrak pretty frequently, from Washington DC to NY and cities in Virginia and West Virginia. I've done the auto train three times. I can't imagine doing an overnight trip in coach.

    There are many station stops overnight. People will be coming and going at all hours (gathering/storing luggage, finding/getting up from seats, etc.). The trains that serve central Florida have 5 stops between midnight and 6 AM. There's also the the swaying of the train and the train horn. Throw in other people's flatulence, snoring, sleep talking, crying babies, and phone conversations.

    Then consider 30 minute to 8-hour+ delays. Train travel sounds like a fun adventure, but can be a nightmare.


    DIS Veteran
    Jan 8, 2008
    Have you checked prices out of Philadelphia, DCA, and Dulles? My closest airport is Dulles, but I've flown out of DCA and BWI when the price/schedule worked out better for me.


    DIS Veteran
    Jan 17, 2002
    We just went through making this decision for our upcoming WDW trip. For the last 10 years, we've driven straight through from just north of Philly. I'm a night owl so like getting through the big cities at night when traffic is less. Last time we traveled for Christmas week at WDW in 2018, we left later than intended and ended up hitting traffic from SC on south. I think everyone was headed to Florida for the holidays on I95S!

    So, this trip we have family traveling from two different starting DD coming out of Pittsburgh area. She refuses to drive. We planned to drive because there will be 4 of us, but memories of last trip made air attractive timewise. The cost...well it's expensive for 6. I was going to wait for SW to come out with their fares, but decided to book with AA when they released their flights. We have the times we want, on the days we want, and the locations...and we'll save time over driving. That's what I keep telling myself! :-)

    We did the auto train once when the kids were about 10 & 12. It was a fun experience, but we got to Lorton so early, that by the time the train left the station, I was calculating how much farther along I would have been had I continued driving and would get there a lot earlier than the train. We enjoyed the novelty. There was plenty of room with the seats. The kids loved it, but we were in a car with other families. Between the crying babies and the train horn blowing for each crossing, I didn't get much sleep.

    I don't know how I'll like flying again. Truth be told, if it were a different time of year where I could rely on traffic being better, I think I'd opt for driving.

    BTW, prior to us driving, we always flew to Orlando. My husband having an ECV and being able to bring Christmas decorations with us, along with the money we saved, had us convert to driving over air.


    DIS Veteran
    May 24, 2005
    We are about an hour north of Baltimore. We drive to FL twice a year. We drive straight through, leaving as soon as the kids get home from school. The day we get to FL DH (he drives all night) sleeps until about lunchtime but then isn't right for the rest of the day. We just go to visit family so losing that whole day isn't terrible. We also tend to stay closer to 9 or 10 days. I have done coach on the Autotrain. It wasn't terrible and we would like to do it again but the price was very comparable to flying. I will say that the Autotrain wasn't bad for sleeping but I can imagine with a regular train the stops and people coming and going it would not be all that fun. This trip, thanks to credit card points, we will be flying. The kids have not flown before so it will be an adventure for them and then at the end, I know how exhausted we all are after a week at Disney so it will be nice to not have to drive. Driving isn't terrible (our kids are 4, 9 and 11). The kids look at it as part of the fun. DH and I see it as a means to an end. Audiobooks help.


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