Florida is an ideal vacation location. It has many major metropolitan areas and thousands of miles of oceanfront beauty. Of course, Disney World, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens provide fun and adventure for the whole family.
Fortunately, you can travel to most of the major Florida vacation areas by Amtrak. Three daily trains travel to and through the state from the east coast. As a relaxing and affordable method for travel to Florida, the train is preeminent. Given the rising cost and hassle of air travel, a land alternative may be the most enjoyable way to get to the Sunshine State.
Here are five tips/hints for effectively traveling to/from Florida by Amtrak:
One: You must decide which long-distance train you wish to take to Florida. If you wish to stay in the Jacksonville-Orlando-Miami corridor, the Silver Meteor that originates in New York (with great connections from Boston) will be your train of choice. You can leave New York or Washington in the afternoon and arrive in Orlando or Miami the next afternoon. If you wish to go Florida’s Gulf Coast, you will be best served on the Silver Star. At Tampa, there is connecting Thruway Motorcoach service to Sarasota and Fort Myers. Finally, if you wish to bring your car along for the ride, the Auto Train runs from Lorton, Virginia (outside of Washington, DC) to Sanford, FL (45 minutes from Orlando.)
Two: Most Florida Amtrak cities have connecting local transportation from Amtrak stations. Miami International Airport can be reached from the Miami train station by Miami Metrobus and the Hollywood train station by the Tri-Rail commuter trains. Connecting taxi service from DeLand to Daytona Beach can be reserved with your Amtrak ticket. If you are going to Walt Disney World, you may wish to miss the crowds at the Orlando station and go on to the next stop, which is Kissimmee. At Kissimmee, there is complete baggage service, taxi cabs and pre-arranged van service available. Although there is no good public transportation options at either Orlando or Kissimmee, you are actually closer to the park (and thus you will incur lower transportation costs) from Kissimmee.
Three: For many people, having the flexibility of a rental car allows them to easily take advantage of all that their Florida destination offers. At Jacksonville, you can pick up your Hertz car right at the train station daily except Sundays. At most other stations, you can pre-arrange for Enterprise or other major car rental company to pick you up or reimburse you for taxi fare to their offices. Before you leave home, talk to the local rental office (not the toll-free reservation agents) and confirm their hours of operation and the best method to reach the office.
Four: The Auto Train is one of the most unique experiences Amtrak offers. You and your vehicle (it can be a car, motorcycle or trailer camper of limited size) board the train at Lorton, Virginia or Sanford, Florida in the afternoon and travel nonstop 800 miles to the other location, arriving the next morning. Your vehicle travels in specially-made carriers in the back of the train. You can either stretch out in a reclining coach seat or reserve private Superliner sleeping accommodations. All passengers receive a complimentary sit-down dinner with wine and continental breakfast. There is also a lounge car that features movies for family entertainment.
Five: It is extremely important to make advanced reservations for transportation to and within Florida. By buying your tickets in advance for both Amtrak and local transportation services, you may be able to receive discounted advance purchase fares or special fares for students and seniors.