Our little sister was in Westchester over the weekend, en route to taking the girls i on a little vacation in the Irish Catskills. Kat and Brian were fresh off the Amtrak car train from Florida (near Orlando) to Virginia (near DC).
They’d booked the auto train several months ago, some prescient thinking with the price of gas through the roof. The cost ran about $900 for the four of them and, of course, the fully-packed minivan.
Kat and Bri said mostly favorable things about the trip, which took off at 4 p.m. and pulled into its destination in Virginia around 9:30 the next morning. They’d scored four seats in the back row, which meant the girls could sleep on the smallish floor space between the row and the wall (they’re 6 and 3). The downside of that spot was hearing the car doors open every few minutes more or less until 2 in the morning.
It’s worth noting that bro-in-law Brian is like 6′ 8″, with a bit of the Restless Legs Syndrome to boot. He said, if you can sleep in a Lazy Boy, you can sleep in one of the car train seats–they recline a bit, and there’s a footrest for everyone under 6′ 8″.
Also on the plus side of the ledger, every row had an outlet, and Kat and Brian gave the service very high marks–Amtrak staffers who were constantly looking to make your trip better (particularly after you’d greased the bartender’s palm to score some free snacks for the girls).
Kat and Brian said your car train trip would be basically a joy or a debacle based on the people seated around you–remember, you’re on a train with strangers for over 17 hours. It’s mostly old folk, who tend to behave themselves, while some kiddies pushed fellow riders’ buttons, so to speak, with noisy video games.
There were several dinner seatings in a dining car (Shannon spoke highly of the Choo Choo Chewies chicken fingers, Brian not so much on the veggie lasagna), a movie in the lounge (“Mad Money”, if you’re scoring at home), and bathrooms that rated higher than their airplane counterparts.
Keys to keep in mind on the car train–bring earplugs (or Bose headphones, for that matter), pillows, blankets and socks (apparently people from Florida don’t always wear them), and sign up for AAA for a major discount–like kids are free or something like that.