Relax with Amtrak
Amtrak can be a good option for those living in the eastern portion of the US who don’t enjoy flying. Typical amenities include a Dining car and Lounge car. While Amtrak transverses the country, travel time increases significantly outside of the East Coast Corridor. Travel from the west will require connecting routes, and the cost of sleeping compartments over coach fares can be pricey. Travel from California can take half of a week each way. Travel from New York City to Orlando, on the other hand, takes slightly less than one full day. Each passenger can bring two carry-on items and check up to 4 bags – 2 free of charge and 2 for $20 each. This can be great for those taking a 7-night Disney cruise who would like to bring both casual and dressy clothes.
Published fares can be reduced further with the following standard Amtrak passenger discounts:
- AAA members (10%)
- Seniors (15% for those 62 & older; not valid on the Auto Train)
- Military (10% on most fares for active duty US military personnel, their spouses & dependents)
- NARP (10% on many fares for National Association of Railroad Passengers members)
- Veterans Advantage (15% discount)
- Student Advantage (15% discount)
- ISIC (15% with International Student ID card)
- Children 2 through 15 years old ride half-price; under 2 rides free
- Disabled passengers, plus one companion receive a 15% discount
Amtrak’s Silver Service trains (Silver Meteor and the Silver Star) serve Orlando (ORL) and Kissimmee (KIS) daily, originating in New York from the north and Miami from the south. Silver Service trains include Viewliner Sleeping and Dining Car accommodations, along with Coach Class seating. No Wi-Fi is offered on the Silver Service. Passenger’s can board from connecting trains at points along the Silver Service routes. Using Amtrak’s Interactive Route Atlas, travelers can plot custom routes to see the various options Amtrak offers between any two stations. Traveler’s can also specify stations and dates to see all available connecting fares and travel times.
Both the Orlando (ORL) and Kissimmee Amtrak Stations are less than a half hour drive from Walt Disney World. Taxi stands and Hertz Rental Car (accessible by shuttle pickup) are located at the Orlando station. While the Kissimmee station is located closer to WDW, it has no on-site transportation options. Be sure to bring along the number for Yellow Cab (407-422-2222) or make other pick up arrangements.
An estimated taxi fare from the Amtrak Orlando or Kissimmee Amtrak stations to most Walt Disney World resorts can be calculated using Yellow Cab’s fare calculator. Just pick the nearest landmark to your hotel (Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Blizzard Beach for All Star Resorts, and Disney Institute for Port Orleans) from the drop-down menu. A typical fare from the Kissimmee station to an Epcot Resort will run about $37 plus tip; a fare from the Orlando Amtrak station will run about $51 plus tip for a similar trip. Another option is to contact Mears Transportation for pickup information for the Orlando station only. Amtrak shuttles are priced similar to Mears’ airport shuttle transportation (about $20).
Amtrak Station Information
- Kissimmee (KIS)
Address: 111 East Dakin Ave.; Kissimmee, FL 34741
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:30 am- 7:00 pm
Station Details: Staffed with enclosed waiting area; No WiFi.
Transportation: No car rental available; LYNX bus stop one-tenth of a mile from the station (allow an 1-1/2 travel time to WDW); you can also pre-arrange private car service pick-up or call a taxis.
Distance from Walt Disney World’s Epcot Resort Area: 13.7 miles
Approximate Driving Time: 26 minutes
- Orlando (ORL)
Address: 1400 Sligh Blvd.; Orlando, FL 32806
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 7:30 am – 8:15 pm
Station Details: Staffed with enclosed waiting area; No WiFi.
Transportation: Hertz car rental at station; taxis available at station; LYNX bus stop (bus #40) is on the north side of station – transfer to Lynx #50 to Downtown Disney where you can catch free Disney bus transportation to resorts (allow 2 hours travel time to WDW); you can also pre-arrange private car service pick-up.
Distance from Walt Disney World’s Epcot Resort Area: 19.3 miles
Approximate Driving Time: 27 minutes
Information For Hertz Orlando Amtrak Location
Address: 1400 Sligh Blvd.; Orlando, FL 32806
Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 6 pm, 7 Days per week
Additional Info: This location is for Amtrak customers only. After hours, delayed Amtrak trains are met up to 8:00 pm. If a delayed train arrives after 8:00 pm, reserve car at the Orlando International Airport location. Cab fare will be reimbursed with receipt.
Driving Directions From Hertz Car Rental to Epcot Resort Area
1. Start out going north on Sligh Blvd toward W Underwood St. – 0.1 mi
2. Turn left onto W Columbia St. – 0.0 mi
3. Turn right onto Sligh Blvd. – 0.2 mi
4. Turn left onto W Gore St. – 0.4 mi
5. Merge onto I-4 W via the ramp on the Left. – 15 mi
6. Take the SR-536 E exit, Exit 67, toward SR-417-Toll/ Epcot/ Downtown Disney – 0.2 mi
7. Take the ramp toward Epcot/ Downtown Disney – 1.0 mi
8. Merge onto Epcot Center Dr. – 0.7 mi
9. Take the ramp toward Disney’s Hollywood Studios/ Epcot Resort Area/ Wide World of Sports – 0.3 mi
10. Merge onto E Buena Vista Dr. – 1.5 mi
11. Turn right onto Epcot Resort Blvd. – 0.5 mi
With the rising cost of fuel and more companies transporting goods by train, the rails have become more congested as of late. Delays are particularly notable in the summer months when heat restrictions require trains to travel at a slower rate, and time tables are not always maintained. Amtrak is notorious for arriving off schedule. Other cons concerning train travel are lack of leg room in coach, difficulties sleeping in partially upright seats, and disturbances caused by passengers moving in and out of train cars at odd hours.
While the Orlando Amtrak station offers onsite taxi and rental car options, it is reported to be located in an Industrial park bordering on a less safe neighborhood than the Kissimmee station. Also the outside area is not well-lit in the evening. The Kissimmee station does not offer handicap accessible restrooms. Here are a few practical tips to consider when taking the train:
- Never leave luggage unguarded on the train or in the station.
- A bicycle lock can be a great way to secure bags to luggage racks on overnight trains.
- Purchase a money belt for valuables if you will be sleeping on the train.
- Trains can be noisy. Bring along earplugs to get a good night’s sleep.
Take the Car Along on the Auto Train
The Auto Train is Amtrak’s nonstop train service between Lorton, Virginia (near Washington, DC) and Sanford, Florida (near Orlando, Florida) for travelers who want to take their vehicle with them. The Auto Train is the only route in the Amtrak system that transports vehicles. If you don’t mind sacrificing day on either side of your trip, the Auto Train can often be a better deal than combination airfare and rental car.
Meals are included in the price of all Auto Train tickets, no matter which class you travel in. Meals are in the Dining Car, and include special meals for the kids. Passengers can also take in a movie or mingle with fellow travelers in the Lounge Car. In the morning, a continental breakfast is served. The entire trip from Lorton to Sanford takes 17 hours 29 minutes if there are no delays.
There are several levels of fares offered on the Auto Train which are similar to those offered on regular Amtrak trains, including coach, roomier superliner lower level coach seats, roomette, one bedroom, family bedroom and suites. You must also pay a fare for your vehicle.
Auto Train does not offer checked baggage service. You may pack baggage inside your automobile; however, you may not access your vehicle in route. Amtrak allows two carry-on bags per passenger. To travel on the Auto Train you must reserve space for a vehicle, and vehicle check-in must occur at least one hour prior to travel. There are additional charges for oversized vehicles such as SUVs and trucks. Only those transporting a vehicle can book fares on the Auto Train. Learn more about the Auto Train on Amtrak’s web site.
Amtrak Sanford Station (SFA) Information
Address: 600 South Persimmon Avenue.; Sanford, FL 32771
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8:00 am- 4:00 pm
Station Details: Unstaffed with enclosed waiting area; complimentary WiFi.
Transportation: In most cases transportation won’t be an issue since you will have your car; should you need it, Hertz car rental available – you cannot rent a car upon arrival, but you can pre-arrange to have a rental car at this station for pick up.
Distance from Walt Disney World’s Epcot Resort Area: 42.7 miles
Approximate Driving Time: 52 minutes
Driving Directions From Sanford Amtrak Station to Epcot Resort Area
1. Head north on S Persimmon Ave toward W 4th St – 0.3 mi
2. Turn left at SR-46 W – 3.0 mi
3. Turn left to merge onto I-4 W toward Orlando – 35.3 mi
4. Take exit 67 toward Epcot/Downtown Disney – 1.2 mi
5. Merge onto Epcot Center Dr – 0.7 mi
6. Take the ramp to Epcot Resort Area/Wide World of Sports/Disney/MGM Studios – 0.3 mi
7. Merge onto E Buena Vista Dr – 1.1 mi
8. Turn right at Epcot Resort Blvd
Beginning June 1, 2013, smoking will not be permitted anywhere on the Auto Train, including the lounge car, food service car and coach and sleeping cars. Passengers will be permitted to get off the train and smoke in Florence, S.C., when the train stops for servicing.
Tips for Getting the Best Amtrak Fares
- Reserve Seats Early
Amtrak uses four to Five levels of pricing and initiates sales approximately eleven months prior to travel dates on a percentage of coach seats and sleeper accommodations. As the seats set aside for sale are reserved, Amtrak’s automated management system moves the remaining seats to the next highest fare. This could causes fares to increase as they get closer to departure dates. The sooner you purchase a ticket, the better chance you have of getting a good price, this is especially true during peak travel times or holidays. You can also use AmSnag to help you locate the lowest fares within a range of dates (the search does not take into account any applicable discounts, codes or promotions).
- Share Sleeping Accommodations
Amtrak sells fares and sleeping accommodations separately, meaning each person will pay one price for a fare plus a fee for the use of the sleeper. The room cost however is only charged once just like hotel rooms, whether it is occupied to maximum capacity or not. If you’re traveling together and don’t mind sharing sleeping quarters, reserving one roomette which sleeps two passengers will come out cheaper than two fares with roomettes included.
- Take Meals Into Account
When deciding on what type of fare to purchase, take into consideration that meals are included in the fare with sleeping accommodations while coach passengers are charged to dine (except for the Auto Train). Reservations are often required to dine and can go quickly; be sure to make them early. While riding first class does get your meals comped, you will still need to leave a tip. The difference between paying for meals verses not may make upgraded fares more attractive. If you will not be paying for meals, consider packing a cooler with sandwiches and snacks to save money.
- Use Amtrak’s Refund Policy For Maximum Flexibility
Amtrak has a 100% refundable policy of coach seats 24 hours prior to travel and a 15 day refund policy on sleeper accommodations, as long as no ticket has been printed. Although tickets can be picked up in advance at manned stations and at Amtrak’s Quik-Trak ticketing machines, a 10% refund service charge can be avoided by having the ticket physically issued closer to departure dates. Waiting to have tickets printed will give you maximum flexibility to change if cheaper fares are located after reserving.
- Keep Trying For Sold-out Dates and Upgrades
If the fare and train you are interested in is sold out, and other dates won’t work, there are a few things you can try. Try reserving the ticket again the following day as close to 4:00 am ET as possible. Amtrak updates its system overnight with cancellation information. The same advice goes for upgrades. If sleeper accommodations weren’t available when reserving and you settled for coach, keep calling. It may also be possible to upgrade even after you’ve boarded. It never hurts to ask.
Current Train Discounts and Deals
Generally, most Amtrak codes require a 3-day advance purchase, apply to adult, child and senior fares only, and may not be combined with other discounts. Discounts are also subject blackouts during peak travel. Most promotion codes can be used online, by phone (1-800-USA-RAIL), at staffed stations or with Quik-Trak machines. Promotion code blackout dates apply.
High School Students Save 50% off Companion Fares
Valid for junior or senior high school students visiting a Florida college campus with a parent or guardian companion reserving a full price fare. High school ID required to pick up tickets. Register at Amtrak’s Campus Visit Promo Page for the needed code. Valid for Silver Service (Silver Meteor and the Silver Star). Not valid for Auto Train. Requires a 3-day advance purchase. Blackout dates will apply.
Discounted fares of 25% off, known as SmartFares, are available on select routes each week on Amtrak.com and occasionally include the Silver Service route. To receive this discount when available, you must purchase between Tuesday and Friday for travel 1 to 2 weeks in advance. Discount routes are for travel every day of the week except Fridays and Sundays. Fares are valid for coach seats only and no upgrades are allowed. Routes offered change weekly and are posted each week on sale days. SmartFares are non-refundable and must be purchased on Amtrak’s SmartFares page. SmartFares may not be combined with any other discounts.
Auto Train Deals
Discounts for the Auto Train are very limited. In recent years, however, they have offered a few promotions, including Amtrak’s “Winter Sale” promotion (January) for travel in the first 3 or 4 months of the year. This discount is typically, 20% off on coach seating on the Auto Train and does not include vehicle and sleeping accommodations. For travel in the summer months, Amtrak has run discounted kids fares in the past for booking in April and May for June, July and August travel. The rest of time, the best fares can be obtained using one of the standard discounts such as 50% off for kids ages 2-15, AAA, NARP, Senior, Military, etc. Discounts will be posted here when available.
Earn Guest Reward Points
Amtrak Rewards gives points for every fare purchased, even popular regional and Metro routes. Points can be redeemed for special discounts on future train fares, rental cars, airline miles, or hotel points such as Hilton HHonor points and Starwood rewards. The Swan and Dolphin hotels at Walt Disney World are both Starwood hotels and a “level 4” free night is redeemable with Amtrak points.
Check Amtrak’s Deals page for the latest discounts.
Tips From TheMouseForLess Readers
Getting Upgrades: The price of the sleeper upgrade goes up… and DOWN… as much as $150 or so. The price fluctuates depending on supply and demand. If there are available rooms, one might be able to get a sleeper room upgrade on the train itself. Watch the price daily and be ready to book it. You should also leave a tip for the sleeping cars attendant. If you do get the room upgrade, that means you ride first class, which if you wait at NY Penn or Washington Union Station, you can take advantage of the Acela waiting lounge. Inside the lounge, they have internet access, complimentary beverage and snacks.
Coming from the North, the stops are Deland-Winterpark-Orlando-Kissimmee. Its 45 minutes between Deland to Winterpark, and another 1/2 hr from Winterpark to Orlando. The longest 1/2 hr of the trip. Between Winterpark and Orlando, you will pass Church St Station where a preserved old steam type passenger train. When disembarking, they give you a 10 minute warning and line you up to exit the train quickly.
Another thing worth mentioning, don’t drink the tap water, just like you’re not supposed to drink the tap water on the plane.
In the sleeper cars, they also have complimentary bottled water, coffee, and juice. Hire a car service rather than renting a car unless you are planning on using a rental car on your vacation.
The dinning car table sit 4 (two on each side) They start serving about 6 or 6:30. If eating in the dining car, and you are one or two people, expect to be seated with other people, this is normal practice and one of the things people enjoy about train travel. for lunch and dinner, you will make a reservation with your car attendant at what time you will be eating. You may have to walk through another coach car to get to the dining car. Never leave any valuables when going to eat, even if in a sleeper, you can only lock them from the inside. ~ Thank you to Bruce for the info
We will be boarding Amtrak at an unmanned station in SC. I call Amtrak and was advised that when the train arrives, someone gets off the train to greet and assist us, (show us which car to board) but that it will be up to us to get our luggage ON the train. From there, someone will show us where to stow it. I was also told to bring any blankets/pillows if we want if we’re in coach seats. ~ Thank you to Danielle B. for the info
Those traveling with children can pick up a 24-page Amtrak activity book for young travelers, on sale in the Lounge Car. Activities, games and stories are for children ages 6-11.