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Wednesday, August 24 2016 @ 08:41 AM CDT

Episode 669 - All Aboard!! Amtrak's Auto Train

PodcastEpisode 669 is now available for download.

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Show Notes

Hosts: Matt Hochberg, Len Testa , Mike Scopa , & Mike Newell


Running Time: 17:43

Episode 669 - All Aboard!! Amtrak's Auto Train | 6 comments | Create New Account
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Newell has mad psychic skillz
Authored by: Jul on Friday, January 15 2010 @ 06:10 AM CST
Okay, so either you have our house bugged through MWR, or you're just totally psychic. After we came back from the Reunion, I made the decision that I have no desire to fly for at least 5 years or so. Because we live in the DC area, our first thought was the AutoTrain, but neither of us have used it before, so we were going to send in a question to you about it. We're as slow sending in questions as you are at answering them, so mark this one for the record book. Not only did you answer in a timely manner, you managed to answer before we asked!

Thank you so much...I know what I'm listening to first when I get to the office!!
Episode 669 - All Aboard!! Amtrak's Auto Train
Authored by: Kfischler on Friday, January 15 2010 @ 06:48 AM CST
In 1975, my family took the autotrain on our first trip to WDW. We lived in the north at the time when my dad worked for Mack Trucks and we thought it was quite an adventure. My sisters and I were elementary to middle school age at the time. As far as little ones on the train, my wife took our kids, ages 7, 4, and 14 months on an Amtrack train to visit my sisters over Thanksgiving in 2001 while I was deployed to Afghanistan and they loved it. They had a private sleeping car with bathroom and their meals were brought to them. The car had a TV with VCR, so they played games, watched movies, and took naps the entire trip. My wife loved that the kids were contained and entertained the whole way.
One more cost of flying
Authored by: ErwinM on Friday, January 15 2010 @ 08:18 AM CST
One additional cost that nobody seems to mention is paying for parking at the home airport (or a taxi, or a SuperShuttle, or whatever). For covered parking at BWI, that adds on $10/day for us. Right there that negates the perk of free parking for staying on property or using our AP to park.

Between all the monetary costs, the additional time wastage of flying these days, and the complications we'll run into for the next few years traveling with an infant, we're definitely going to give the old Iron Horse a shot. Lorton is less than an hour's drive away from our home, so we wouldn't be losing that much time getting there.
Real World Numbers
Authored by: Jul on Friday, January 15 2010 @ 12:33 PM CST
So because I see my husband is goofing off and posting here (hi sweetie!), I figured I can goof off and run the numbers to get a rough price comparison. Because ya'll are awesome and released the dates for Reunion '10 (thanks!), I decided to see how much it would cost. We're traveling as two adults and a 6-month-old infant. I hate flying, and the idea of flying with an infant is just...ick. We live in the MD side of the DC area, so it's about an hour to get to Lorton. We have a Prius, so there's little additional gas fees to get there, from Sandford to WDW, or around WDW. Here's how the numbers work out.

We tend to prefer flying AirTran when we have the option, and we often get suckered in to the $50 upgrade to business class each way. AirTran has not yet published their fees for December, so I picked comparable dates earlier in the year.

For the AutoTrain (leaving at 4 PM and arriving at 9:30 AM the next day), round trip for two adults with a full bedroom/bath on the way down and a family bedroom on the way up (the price for a full bedroom up was highly unreasonable going north), including the car fee, and with all the amenities included and AAA discount applied, the whole cost is $1196. Once I got over the sticker shock, I ran the numbers for flying.

If we opted to have the infant be a lap sitter (instead of buying an extra seat and strapping the kid in the car seat, which would mean we wouldn't have to rent a car seat in FL, but would be a hassle and a half at the airport), rented a car about the same size as our Prius (plus car seat, insurance, and prepay fuel), paid for parking at BWI, paid for one bag each and an extra bag for the baby, here's how the numbers work out:
Airfare round trip (without taxes and fees): $466 (add $200 if we did the upgrade at $50/pp/each way)
Car rental through Alamo: $528 (although we'd probably get some sort of discount ala AAA, DVC, AP)
Bag fee round trip: $150
Parking: $70
Total: $1214 or $1414 with the upgrade

So very comparable (actually cheaper on Amtrak) and without the stress of flying. Add to that some of the intangible issues, like having to go buy baby supplies on arrival in Orlando if flying or just packing them in the car if using the train, I can't think of a reason why this wouldn't work for us.

Thank you so much for doing this episode!
Episode 669 - All Aboard!! Amtrak's Auto Train
Authored by: bblhed on Saturday, January 16 2010 @ 07:28 AM CST

I am so glad you enjoyed your ride on the Auto Train. As someone who has ridden the train 17 times over the years and has traveled in every sort of accommodation Amtrak offers on the Auto Train I have to say that for me it is the way to go. Here are some of the pluses for me.
1. There is a shower on the train so if I have the car properly packed I can head straight to what I want to do and worry about unpacking and getting a shower later. I find when I fly or drive to FL all I want to do when I get there is take a shower, grab dinner and go to bed.
2. I live in Connecticut and I find that Auto Train gives me a chance to just relax on the way to FL, and again on the way home before the drive to CT, I find this makes a huge difference in both the first few days in FL, but also the first days back to work.
3. I have my car when I get there and my stuff is in the car, that includes several bags that have equipment for activities I would not be able to do as easily with rental gear like SCUBA, Hiking, and so on. The one bag rule is a vacation ruiner for me.
4. Amtrak service, the food is top notch, and they take care you quite well.
5. The whole train thing and seeing the world from ground level, well sometimes that can be a down side, but I mostly enjoy that as well.
6. Time to just relax and do nothing, your on vacation, count the trip as part of your vacation where you are at a mini resort with a bar and a nice restaurant but you have to bring your own book or movies. And lets face it having a few drinks on the train where you can relax is a lot better than having a drink on the airplane any day.
7. No security lines that you have to pass through if you just want to sit outside when the weather is nice outside.
8. If you are traveling with small children they don't have to be strapped to a seat the entire time and they are able to play and have fun. Also there are playgrounds at the train station for the kids as well.
9. The people you meet on the train.

The down side

1. You have to drive to the train station, and back home.
2. You still have to get there early but in Lorton VA there is the shopping plaza with restaurants in walking distance. There is nothing in walking distance in Sanford FL.
3. The 17.5 hours on the train, but as I said above it isn't so bad if you make the most of it.
4. Sometimes the train will stop and that can make you feel like it will make you late, but Amtrak has provided for these stops so they won't make you late.
5. The people you meet on the train.

Overall deciding to take the Auto Train is going to be a personal decision for people, but I have to say that for myself and my family it is the best way to get there and back, your actual mileage may vary, sit back and relax and leave the driving to us.

Also remember you should make reservations in advance, and the earlier the better if you want to get the best rates and accommodations.
Episode 669 - All Aboard!! Amtrak's Auto Train
Authored by: DoubleGoofy on Sunday, January 17 2010 @ 08:08 AM CST
My wife an I have taken the Auto Train to the world twice in the last 2 years. We had 4 people (2 kids, 8 and 5 this past Nov) and have some tips/considerations for the trip. Some of these are geared toward families with kids, but some information is generally applicable.

1. Cost was comprable to flying when you factor airport parking, tickets, luggage fees, rental car, etc.
2. We were able to overpack -- we didn't just take the bare necessities of flight, which helped when we had wild temperature changes.
3. You do play more for large cars -- we had to pay more for our Honday Odyessy.
4. Packing is easier, everyone got a rubbermaid tote for all of their stuff -- the bellman said it was the easiest job he had because everything stacked.
5. We packed food since we are DVC, which was a substantial savings
5. Yes, the trip is long -- but you sleep for a good portion of it, and you get up refreshed and can head right to the parks vs. when you wake up for early for an early flight.
6. Kids loved it. When they were younger, they cried when we left the world, but they cheered when they realized we were getting on the train. It really is part of the vacation, not just travel.
7. Food is excellent, Prior to leaving, they have free cheeze, crackers, veggies and wine tasting (I believe there is a charge for the wine)
8. 2 Seatings for dinner -- early and late
9. There is a movie car that shows semi-recent releases.
10. Free bottled water.
11. Family bedroom -- the kids beds are smaller, and the adult and kid upper bunks are very tight -- don't do this if you are clausterphobic.
12. Recomend getting two private joining rooms instead. More room, bigger beds (a must for older kids). You also have in-room bathroom/shower combo.
13. Book early -- up to a year in advance, (I believe) and you can get great deals. They have a certain % of cheap fares, and they step up in price through the year.
14. Remember to pack a bag for the train -- you cannot get into your car.
15. The car part in the back must get very cold, as everything is chilled to the touch
16. Wouldn't do it everytime -- but it is a great break up to do it every-so-often. Don't view it as travel.....view it as part of the vacation.

it was a blast....