Friday, February 27, 2009

Review: Amtrak Auto Train

I recently had the opportunity to experience Amtrak's Auto Train. Auto Train is a very interesting and unique way of riding the rails. Not only you, but also your vehicle, are transported approximately 800 miles between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL.

The train leaves, daily, at 4 PM from each station. Arrival time is about 9:30 AM the next morning. Two basic types of accommodations are available: coach and sleeper. Among sleeper there are several options. All accommodations include dinner and breakfast, with the meals in the sleeper dining car a bit more upscale. Both sections have their own lounge car with large viewing windows.

We opted for coach. The seats are very comfortable and lean back further than a coach airplane seat (but less than a First Class airplane seat would). There is a leg rest and a foot rest and tons of space between rows. A blanket and small pillow is provided but we chose to bring our own pillows.

There are several dinner seatings. We had 4 choices at dinner which included salad, bread, entree, desert, beverage and wine. Breakfast is continental with cold cereal and muffins. I brought snacks on board, and most people do, but we certainly didn't need as much as we brought.

While not cheap (cheaper if a reservation is made far in advance and with flexible travel days), Auto Train saves, at minimum, a night on the road, meals on the road, gas and wear and tear on the car.

We left Philadelphia area at 9 AM and arrived in Lorton around noon. After checking in we drove to a nearby plaza for lunch, then returned to have the car loaded. We had small bags packed with only the things we needed for overnight (toiletry kit, snacks, book, etc) and an Amtrak employee took the car.

It can take up to 2 hours for all cars to be unloaded the following morning. We got ours in about an hour. Everything went very smoothly, included arriving 1 1/2 hrs EARLY (something unheard of LOL), and we arrived at our final Florida destination by 3:00 PM that afternoon, one day after leaving Philadelphia.

When researching Auto Train, I came across an excellent web site that was very helpful: ON TRACK ON LINE. Check the menu on the left side bar for Auto Train and Amtrak tips.

(See also my June 2010 Auto Train and November 2010 Auto Train posts.)

No comments: