I get many questions from people who are thinking about visiting Walt Disney World and want Disney World vacation tips and suggestions. Disney vacation planning can be very involved and confusing as well, so the goal of this series is to start at the beginning, and look at everything you need to think about, in the general order you need to think about it. Each week’s post will be numbered and link to all the others so that, when complete, you will have a guide with all the steps and information you need to plan your own Disney magic.
On our first visit to Disney World with our then 7 year old daughter, we made the decision to take the train. I had grown up traveling by train when I was young and loved the sense of adventure. And since we live in the Baltimore/Washington area, we had the ability to use Amtrack’s Autotrain, which allowed us to take our car with us. We wanted to have a car, and found out that doing this was a great way to help us have an affordable Disney vacation. We took the train down, and drove home at the end of our trip and found out we loved the train! On our second trip we again used the Autotrain, only this time we drove down and took the train home (it was VERY nice to relax and not worry about driving at the end of a Disney World vacation!).
So if you are interested in doing this and you live on the East Coast of the US, what should you know?
First of all, you will have a couple of options as to trains as well as seats/accommodations. If you choose the basic train, you will make a number of stops along the way, so be sure to look at the travel time on Amtrak’s schedule to see how long it will take…and realize that it may actually take a bit longer than estimated. It is nice if you can time the trip for overnight so you wake up the next morning in Florida, ready to go! There are several stops that are close to Disney World: Sanford, Orlando, and Kissimmee. From each of these stations you can arrange for a taxi to take you to your hotel, or from Sanford and/or Orlando, you can rent a car.
For the Autotrain, it goes from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL in about 15-16 hours, departing around 4 p.m. and arriving the following morning. While this version may seem pricier, it will include the cost of transporting your car, as well as dinner and continental breakfast the following morning. Plus you have the added bonus of being able to bring with you as much “stuff” as you want for no additional charge, provided it can fit in your car. 🙂
With both options, you have the choice of just buying a seat, or a compartment. While seats are clearly the least expensive option, you will want to make sure you will be comfortable sleeping pretty much upright for the night, and that you don’t mind not having any real privacy for the duration of your trip.
But if you plan ahead, a compartment may be an affordable option. Compartments come in various “sizes” to accommodate different family needs, often including toilets, and always including dinner and continental breakfast. This is what we chose and it was so much fun and very relaxing. We brought games, read, talked, enjoyed the scenery, and watched dvds.
If you decide to go by train, be sure to watch Amtrak’s site regularly, and check out their specials. Once you book, continue checking, since if your cost goes down, they will usually refund the difference.
Traveling by train is a totally unique experience, and can really help you have an affordable Disney vacation. If you have never done it before and have the chance, I highly recommend it! 🙂