Taking the Train
Amtrak runs three trains — the Palmetto, the Silver Meteor, and the Silver Star — from New York to Miami, with stops at Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. You can travel for the regular coach fare of $133, and up to two of your kids, from two to fifteen years old, can go at half price with each adult. Since it's an overnight trip, you may want to reserve a roomette or a bedroom, accommodating two people, for an extra charge of $116 per room. The former includes only fold-down beds, with restrooms and showers nearby, while the latter includes a very compact private bathroom and shower. Larger bedrooms are sometimes available for families with small children. There's also a dining car, with a special kids' menu, where you can get dinner and breakfast for an extra charge. Traveling by train to Miami from Chicago isn't feasible, since the trip would take forty-five hours to complete at a cost of $458. From Houston via Chicago, it would take sixty-eight hours and cost $714. Here are some tips for traveling by train:
When making reservations, check for special discounts that may apply.
If you plan on reserving a roomette or bedroom, do so well in advance.
Bring a light sweater and wear comfortable shoes.
Check the hours of the dining car as soon as you board and plan your meals around them.
Don't leave your luggage unguarded on the train.
If traveling overnight in coach, secure your luggage to the baggage rack with a bicycle lock.
Wear a money belt and keep your valuables in it when sleeping in coach cars.
Bring earplugs along to help you get a good night's sleep.
Bring along small games or coloring books for small children and a good book for yourself.
In most stations you can check your baggage — three pieces of luggage weighing a total of 150 pounds per person — through to your destination up to thirty minutes before departure and claim it within thirty minutes after arrival. On long-distance trains, you'll be allowed to carry on only enough baggage for essentials during the journey. Attendants on the train, or redcaps in most stations, will help you with your luggage for a tip.
If you're traveling to Florida from the northeastern United States for an extended period of time, you may want to consider taking your car on the Auto Train, operated by Amtrak from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida, near Orlando. Trains depart every morning in either direction and take sixteen and a half hours to reach their destination. Vehicles are driven into special enclosed flatbed cars and carried piggyback style while you ride in regular coaches. But the trip is pricey — cars cost $364 and vans and SUVs cost $692 one-way, in addition to your per-person rail fare and the cost of sleeping accommodations should you want them (see page 68). However, dinner and continental breakfast are included. You can also rent a digEplayer, a portable device that allows you to watch movies or television shows or listen to music. (www.amtrak.com)