AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (2023)

Taking the Amtrak auto train to Florida from the northeast is an option for traveling to the Sunshine State. But is it worth it? What are the pros and cons? Is it really cheaper to take the train? This post explores these questions and shares the author’s experience traveling on the Amtrak auto train from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida.

AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (1)

Table of Contents

Why take the Amtrak auto train to Florida?

The main reason travelers take the Amtrak auto train to Florida is because they prefer not to drive. We go back and forth from New York to Miami every once in a while and the driving can be exhausting. Traffic on the I-95 can be daunting and just sitting in a car for hours on end is exhausting. Friends had taken the auto train and recommended it. “Let’s check out the auto train,” we said. So we began our research and explored options on the auto train.

Auto train cost, tickets and reservations

I have to admit I had a bit of trouble nailing down the price of my ticket. I first identified what I thought was a pretty good price of $89 for coach. A coach seat is one which reclines a bit but not totally flat. You can doze on it but it will be like sleeping on a plane, not very restful. I thought the price seemed reasonable but when I plugged in the date on the Amtrak site, the price shot up. After trying several different dates, I did find a $89.00 coach fare but that was waaaaay in the future. The lesson here is, a good way to save money is to book as far in the future as possible. The $89.00 does not include the price of transporting the car which is an additional $200.00.

(Video) Amtrak Tips And Tricks | Beginners Guide

The prices for other accommodations also depends on how far in advance you book. The closer the date, the more expensive the fare, similar to what some airlines do.

You can buy your tickets online or at the station.

From a cost perspective, it is not necessarily cheaper to take the train, although it could be. There are many factors to consider. Will you go coach or sleeper accommodation? If you drive, will you linger and take a leisurely, several-day road trip from the northeast to Florida or try to make it in one non-stop drive?

For stark comparison purposes, we were two people in a “roomette” on the auto train. We paid $742.00 for 2 people to go from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida. That’s $542.00 plus $200.00 for the car. We also had a bicycle attached to the back of the car. We were originally coming from New York so we had to drive to Lorton to get on the train. That cost needs to be factored in if you are coming from somewhere other than Lorton. For this comparison, however, we’re just starting from Lorton.

Had we driven from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida, the cost for two people would have been about $350.00 including gas and tolls, one hotel night and food. That’s a $392.00 difference compared to the auto train. Of course there’s the wear and tear of the car and of the passengers. For us it was worth it for the experience but we wouldn’t do it every time we take that route.

Amtrak auto train route.

The train travels non-stop from Lorton, Virginia in the Washington DC area to the city of Sanford, in Central Florida just outside of Orlando, a major tourist destination since that is where Disney World is located. The return route is in the opposite direction, Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA.

How long does the journey take?

The trip takes 17 hours and 29 minutes. That’s just the travel time and does not include the time involved in loading the car into the train at the departure point or unloading it at the destination.

(Video) The Don'ts of Amtrak Train Travel in the US

AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (2)

Cars begin loading at 11:30 and loading closes at 2:30. Once you get to the loading area you leave everything in your car except your valuables and a bag or two for what you will need on the train. Then you check-in in the waiting area and are given your ticket to board, dinner menu and dinner time. You wait in the waiting room until boarding. The train actually leaves at 4: pm.

On the other end, it takes another good chunk of time to unload all the cars. Once we arrived in Sanford, it took us an hour and a half before our car was unloaded.

As can be expected, the first cars to load will be the last to unload. For that reason, it makes sense to load your car closer to the loading deadline of 2:30. Just to be on the safe side, being on line at 1:30 to load your car, would mean you won’t have to wait so long to receive it on the other end.

Accommodations on the Amtrak auto train.

Amtrak provides several options for the Lorton, Virginal to Sanford, Florida route. The first is “coach.” This is the most economical option and doable for the almost 18 hour ride but you are still sitting all this time so, if you can afford it, upgrade.

The next option is basically two coach seats in a tiny compartment that pull out to form a bed. The shelf above it pulls down to create a bunk bed so there are two beds in this compartment euphemistically called a “roomette.” This is suitable for two people (two people who really like each other because it’s very small) or one person who wants to sleep in a bed vs a reclining seat. The bathroom is in the hall and shared with other passengers.

Another option is a “family room” suitable for 2 adults and 2 kids. It has private bathroom and shower.

The final option is a “bedroom” which is twice the size of a roomette with in-room bathroom, sink and shower. This is for people who want ample space.

(Video) Roomette on Amtrak auto train

It’s difficult to get a good photo of the compartments because they are so small. The dimensions of the roomette is 3’6″ X 6’6″. We chose the roomette and although yes, it’s cramped, we were fine for the length of the trip.

All sleeper accommodation options come with towels, linens, turndown service, meals, access to the lounge and dining car. There is free wi-fi throughout.

Our cabin attendant, Keith, was very pleasant asking when would be a good time for our turn-down service and answering general questions about the journey.

It is a pleasant ride to Florida as you sit by the window and see the marshes, rivers, farms and towns go by. This was certainly more pleasant than driving and constantly focusing on the road and traffic.

AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (3)
AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (4)

Auto train menu, dining car and lounge.

When you check in you are given a choice of different times to have dinner in the dining car. We chose 7PM. I wanted to check out the lounge so I went there and had a pre-dinner cocktail. The price was a reasonable $8.00. The lounge was inviting with good music – Motown -piped in.

AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (5)

At dinner the menu was certainly adequate with options of steak, fish, chicken, and pasta. All meals come with wine, non-alcoholic beverages and dessert. There is also a children’s menu. All meals are included in the price of a ticket if you choose a sleeper accommodation. If you chose coach, the meal must be paid for separately and you eat in your seat although we were told that in future, holders of coach tickets could eat in the dining car.

(Video) Amtrak Tips and Tricks: 10 Solo Train Travel Tips for the California Zephyr (Overnight Train Ride)

AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (6)

Breakfast was a “grab and go” affair of coffee, cereal, milk and juice with a little pound cake eaten in the lounge or at your seat. Again perfunctory and fit for purpose.

Tips for enjoying your Amtrak auto train journey,

  • Bring your own pillow or blanket, the beds are a bit hard.
  • Download movies and/or a book. Remember the journey is over 17 hours.
  • Bring snacks. The meal selection is not large so you might want a snack after the food car closes.
  • Bring comfy slip on shoes or flip flops to make bathroom runs.
  • Needless to say, if you are in a roomette where the seats turn into bunk beds, the person who uses the bathroom the most at night should be in bottom bunk.

Arriving the night before

If you are arriving at Lorton from a different destination and don’t want to be rushed in order to make the loading time, you may want to consider spending the night in Lorton. There is plenty of accommodation in Lorton, Virginia. We stayed at the Lorton Holiday Inn Express which was 7 minutes away from the train station.

  • AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (7)
  • AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (8)

There are also tons of attractions in the area. We visited the old Lorton reformatory which has now be transformed into artist studios called The Workhouse Arts Center which you can visit to see the artists at work and performing. The complex also houses the Lucy Burns Suffragist Museum that tells the story of how women fought for the right to vote. The museum is very well curated and interesting. Behind the museum are the cells where the suffragists were imprisoned and tortured for demonstrating in front of the White House. The museum is free but the prison cells have a $5.00 entrance fee.

We visited attractions in the Lorton area because we didn’t want to travel too far from the Amtrak auto train station, but the area around Lorton is packed with things to do. Visit Fredericksburg, Virginia, an hour away if you love Civil War history. Washington DC is only 30 minutes away. DC is a city you could spend a lifetime in and not get bored.

If you ae going further south beyond central Florida to Miami with its trendy and eclectic Miami neighborhoods or South Beach, that’s an additional 3 and a half hours. Of course there are also tons of cool things to do in the national parks and cities near Miami and the beaches in the area.

What are YOUR thoughts on the Amtrak auto train to Florida? Have you been? Was it a good option for you? Let us know in the comments.

AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TO FLORIDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Travels with Talek (9)
(Video) Amtrak Roomette, Bedrooms, and Seat Compared

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I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

FAQs

How do you board Amtrak Auto Train? ›

You must reserve space and check in each vehicle you bring. On the day of your departure, check-in begins at 12:30 pm. All vehicles must be checked in by 3:00 pm. No exceptions will be provided.

How early should I arrive for the Amtrak Auto Train? ›

Arriving at the Station

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

What can you take on Amtrak Auto Train? ›

Bring snacks and beverages. Hunger might strike before dinner service if you're riding in the sleepers. If you're in coach, you might want options besides the limited menu in the cafe car. Bring a long charging cord for your phone and/or tablet.

What do I need to bring to Amtrak? ›

Valid Photo ID Required

Purchasing documents with a stored eVoucher or Transportation Credit. Traveling as a Pass Rider (active or retired) Storing baggage at stations. Checking baggage (including firearms)

How many bags can you take on the Auto Train? ›

Baggage on the Auto Train

Auto Train does not offer checked baggage service, but you may pack baggage inside your vehicle (you may not access your vehicle in route). Each traveler is allowed two carry-on bags.

Can you bring food on Amtrak Auto Train? ›

Bringing Your Food Aboard

You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars.

How long does it take to unload cars from Auto Train? ›

Waits of more than 2 hours sometimes occur, but are relatively rare. The first autos usually start coming off the carriers about 20 min. after you get off the train. If it takes 2 hours to get them all off, the median time is a little over an hour.

How long does it take to get your car off the Auto Train? ›

If the train has been crowded it can take well over an hour until the last car is unloaded. Passengers who chose to pay an extra fee when they made their Auto Train reservations will have their vehicles among the first 30 that are unloaded. On average, expect to wait about 45 minutes before you receive your car.

Do you have to check bags on Amtrak? ›

You + Two Bags = No Extra Charge

Unlike many transportation options, traveling with Amtrak is twice as nice with our generous baggage policy. When you travel with us, you can carry-on two free pieces of luggage. Each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and needs to be 28 x 22 x 14 inches in size.

Where do you put your luggage on an Amtrak train? ›

Unfortunately, we can't accommodate bags in seats. Any luggage you bring on board needs to be in your custody, stored in overhead racks, under seats, or in designated baggage areas. Travel necessities like pillows, blankets, computer cases or medical devices are allowed.

Should I bring a blanket on Amtrak? ›

Bring a comfy blanket or scarf.

Sometimes a little extra comfort by way of your favorite travel blanket or scarf is a must. Bonus, fold it in half or quarters and you've got yourself a mini pillow.

Do you have to wear shoes on Amtrak? ›

Watch your step moving from car to car while the train is in motion, as the vestibules can be slippery. Be sure to step over the gap between the train and platform. Leave personal food items and baggage at your seat. Wear shoes at all times and use caution when wearing shoes without rubber soles.

Does a purse count as a carry-on Amtrak? ›

personal items do not count toward the carry-on baggage limit. Each passenger on board the train; each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches.

Do I have to travel with my car on Auto Train? ›

The Auto Train doesn't just allow you to bring your car on the train but actually requires you to bring a vehicle on the journey. If you just want to hop the train between New York and Florida, the Silver Meteor and Silver Star lines are what you're looking for.

Can you walk between cars on Amtrak? ›

You're allowed to walk about the train as often as you'd like. Just make sure to watch where you're walking onboard the train between cars. The safety plates often shift and pinch when the train is in motion.

How do you carry luggage on a train? ›

Trunks, suitcase and boxes having outside measurement of 100 cms. x 60 cms x 25 cms (length x breadth x height) will be allowed to be carried in the passenger compartments as personal luggage.

Can I bring a bottle of alcohol on Amtrak? ›

A: Yes, you can absolutely bring alcohol onto an Amtrak train as long as it remains unopened. Feel free to pack any bottles of alcohol safely and securely inside your allotted amount of luggage. Each passenger is allowed two 25-pound personal items and two 50-pound carry-on items on board.

Can I buy snacks on Amtrak? ›

Most Amtrak routes offer Café service, with a variety of meals, snacks and beverages for sale. Customers in all classes of service are invited to the Café and service is available from early morning until late at night.

Can you fill a water bottle on Amtrak? ›

Don't forget to bring a refillable water bottle with you to refill on the train. Do not refill your bottle in the bathroom. There are water stations in the train, use them to fill your bottle.

How much do you tip on the Auto Train? ›

Remember to tip your waitperson. Because your meals are included, it's still courteous to leave a gratuity for your dining car server based on 15%-20% of what the meal would have cost. Guidelines: $2-$3 per person Breakfast; $3-$5 Lunch, Dinner $5-$10 or so.

How much is priority unloading on Auto Train? ›

Priority offloading on the Auto Train means that your vehicle will be among the first 30 to be brought off the train after arrival. This will save you time at your destination. The cost to purchase priority offloading is $60 and can be purchased when you buy the ticket for your vehicle.

Does Amtrak Search 2022 bags? ›

Yes. Your bags are subject to search at any time you are airside (inside the secured area). What is amtrak security like? Transparent.

Can you sit anywhere on Amtrak? ›

Put in your city and state and we'll do the rest. You get to pick your seat because there are no seat assignments, and there are no middle seats.

What are coach seats like on Auto Train? ›

Coach class is offered on every Amtrak train and features wide, reclining seats with ample legroom, no middle seat option and at-seat trays, reading lights and electric outlets. Restrooms are located in each car. Amtrak Guest Rewards customers traveling in Coach earn 2 points per dollar spent.

How does the Auto Train to Florida work? ›

Amtrak auto train route.

The train travels non-stop from Lorton, Virginia in the Washington DC area to the city of Sanford, in Central Florida just outside of Orlando, a major tourist destination since that is where Disney World is located. The return route is in the opposite direction, Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA.

How does Amtrak boarding work? ›

1) How do you board a train? In general, once one knows on which track a train will arrive, one goes to the adjacent platform and waits. When the train arrives, the doors will open and people who need to disembark will get off. Then you go through the open door and hop on the train.

Do they xray bags on Amtrak? ›

No metal detectors, x ray machines, or the like with Amtrak. You can come and go at Chicago or any other Amtrak station as you please. None of the TSA activity you see at airports. As for baggage, once you hand your bags to the agent, you do not have to handle them until you reach Kansas City.

What does it mean when Amtrak says no checked baggage? ›

It means they are not going to stow your luggage for you. Whatever you have, you take it on the train and find a secure place for it in the overhead bins or under your seat. You will be fine with a carry on and a suitcase each.

What clothes will you carry If you will travel by a train? ›

What to wear on the train
  • Plastic slippers or thongs. If you're on a long train trip, you're going to need a pair of shoes you can easily slip on to wear in common areas and to the bathroom. ...
  • Light cardigan or cotton scarf (summer) ...
  • Warm socks and a comfortable sweater you can sleep in (winter)
13 Dec 2019

What can you not eat on a train? ›

08/11Meat. All types of non-vegetarian food items need 12 hours to digest. Eating meat while travelling on a train will promise you either food poisoning, acidity or frequent trips to the loo.

What is the best food to eat while travelling? ›

On the road
  • Applesauce.
  • Fresh fruit such as bananas, apples, oranges or grapes.
  • Yogurt.
  • Low-fat string cheese or cheese slices.
  • Single-serving containers of hummus, guacamole or tuna.
  • A peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.
  • Single-serving packets of nuts such as almonds or cashews.
23 Mar 2021

Where do you put your stuff on a train? ›

Storing Items

Carry-on and personal items must be kept with you, stored in overhead racks, under seats or designated baggage areas.

Does a purse count as a carry-on? ›

Technically, any piece of luggage that you “carry on” to an airplane is a carry-on bag. Most airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage or “hand baggage” that can fit in the overhead bin, plus a “personal item” (a smaller purse, computer bag, diaper bag, small backpack, etc.

Does Amtrak provide pillows and blankets? ›

Just like a hotel! Facial, hand and body towels are all included, and your train attendant will make your bed for you at night and put it away for you in the morning whenever you want. We also provide pillows, but you're free to bring additional ones. Just remember space is at a premium in our room!

How much is a blanket on Amtrak? ›

Service Attendant

The current Cafe/Lounge menu shows "Souvenir Blanket" at $15 in addition to the "Passenger Comfort Kit" at $10.

Does Amtrak have assigned seating? ›

Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat and choose a different seat at any time after your booking is complete by viewing your reservation in the Amtrak app or on Amtrak.com. There is no fee to change your seat.

What is the best seat on Amtrak? ›

The most comfortable seat is the one all the way up front in the locomotive. Yes, some of Amtrak's trains are Superliners, and they do indeed have two levels. However, only the upper levels connect between the cars. A reserved seat is not an assigned seat.

Does Amtrak have free water? ›

50+ Year Amtrak Rider

Yes, Potable Water is Available in the Coaches but as you say putting a Flavor Additive in it helps overcome the less than Thrilling Taste! In Sleepining Cars Bottled Water is Avaialble for Free and if you Eat in the Diner Meals include Coffee,Tea,Milk or Water!

Do you wear seatbelts on Amtrak? ›

Normal deceleration of trains doesn't require seat belts for passengers to remain in their seats. The brakes aren't powerful enough (they cannot be, due to the friction between wheel and rail). In the unlikely case of a crash, it was found that seatbelts wouldn't be very helpful either.

How do you prepare for a train? ›

The following 10 tips are some of the most commonly recommended to ensure a relaxing and enjoyable first-time rail journey!
  1. ARRIVE EARLY. ...
  2. CHECK EXCESS BAGGAGE. ...
  3. BE COMFY. ...
  4. MOVE AROUND AND EXPLORE. ...
  5. GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP. ...
  6. KEEP YOUR CAMERA HANDY. ...
  7. BRING SNACKS. ...
  8. UNPLUG (BUT BRING A CHARGER)
26 Jul 2020

How early should I arrive at Amtrak? ›

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

What if my bag is too big on Amtrak? ›

Amtrak doesn't allow overweight luggage on-board; instead, you'll need to repack your bags to ensure that they're under 50 pounds. This can be done by moving some items around from your checked bags to your carry-ons, or purchasing boxes (which are available at the train station) to repack.

Are seats assigned on the Auto Train? ›

Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat and choose a different seat at any time after your booking is complete by viewing your reservation in the Amtrak app or on Amtrak.com. There is no fee to change your seat.

How does automatic train stop work? ›

An antenna under the train picks up messages from the balise and passes them on to the ATP on-board computer which is then used to monitor and restrict the speed of the train. ATP works alongside existing lineside signalling infrastructure and mechanical train stops.

Do I have to check bags on Amtrak? ›

You + Two Bags = No Extra Charge

Unlike many transportation options, traveling with Amtrak is twice as nice with our generous baggage policy. When you travel with us, you can carry-on two free pieces of luggage. Each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and needs to be 28 x 22 x 14 inches in size.

What should I wear on Amtrak? ›

Wear comfortable clothes

We're not talking full-on pajamas, but breathable, stretchy clothing will make your ride more enjoyable. If you choose to have dinner in our awesome dining car, the dress code is still casual. Feel free to wear jeans and a T-shirt or take it old school and wear a dinner jacket.

Does the Auto train make multiple stops? ›

While there's a stop to change crews late at night, the train makes no stops for passengers to embark or disembark along the way.

How do train drivers know when to close the doors? ›

The motor man and conductor can look out the window to make sure nobody was leaving or entering the train. In some stations mirrors and cameras help out. The key thing though is that the doors are equipped with travel detection so that if they cannot close they will reopen.

Do train doors automatically open? ›

Generally, you won't have to worry about opening train doors because the train operator opens them automatically. Some trains, however, require you to use a button or handle to open the door. You may also need to open doors to cross cars or to exit the train in an emergency.

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