Take a Trip on the Auto Train

Taking the Auto Train was relatively inexpensive for the convenience of not having to drive the 855 miles each way.

Take a Trip on the Auto TrainI am excited to be taking a trip on the Auto Train this summer. After making plans to vacation in Virginia, we had to decide how we were going to get there. After all, gas prices are up making both driving and flying expensive. A bus trip would take too long, and the only other option is to take a train. We looked into taking a passenger train, but knew we would still need to rent a car to get to our destination of Williamsburg.

Luckily, we live relatively near the only train in the United States that can carry your car with you. Passengers travel in comfortable seats, or sleeper cars, and their cars, or even motorcycles travel in an enclosed car carrier at the end of the train. The Auto Train offers its passengers dual benefits: they avoid the long drive on busy Interstate 95 in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and instead of the expense of a rental car they have the convenience of the use of their own vehicle upon arrival.

The Auto Train only runs between two points, Sanford, FL (near Orlando) and Lorton, VA (near Washington, D.C.). The train leaves daily from each point at 4:00 p.m. with only one stop during the night in Florence, South Carolina to refuel and change engine crew and conductors. Each train is scheduled to arrive at the other end the next morning at 9:30 a.m., for an endpoint-to-endpoint average speed of about 49 miles per hour.

Auto Train TrailAlthough it will cost more than driving, the price was relatively inexpensive for the convenience of not having to drive the 855 miles each way. It is required that you bring a vehicle on the Auto Train, but the cost of transporting the car is less than renting a car for the week. The passenger fare is much less than a plane ticket and they do offer some options for discounted fares for children, seniors, students, and active duty military. Another bonus is that most of your baggage will remain in your car and there is no additional fee for excess baggage!

One hour prior to departure, vehicles should be checked in to be loaded on the train. After checking in and receiving a seating assignment, passengers should also choose a dining time as dinner and breakfast are included in the price of the train ticket. After dinner, passengers can watch a first-run movie, share a nightcap and conversation in the Lounge Car, make use of free Wi-Fi service, or just stretch out and relax in the reclining seats.

Even though we have not chosen to reserve a sleeping car, traveling by Auto Train should be a lot less stressful than driving all night. Instead of worrying about traffic and falling asleep while driving, we can both rest. In the morning, after a continental breakfast, we can collect our vehicle and be on our way to enjoy the rest of our vacation.


  1. Anonymous

    Going by train is the least stressful, or should I say most enjoyable, way of travel vacation. But in the end it will be a matter of economics and time what your choice will be. Especially if you have to drive two hours south (Sanford), be at check in more than an hour prior to departure and repeat that procedure on your return trip. I’d take the train from Jax and rent a car.

  2. Cynnielynn

    We actually had built the time to drive the trip ourselves into our vacation so taking the auto train works well. We will drive down on Saturday morning, check out Sanford (there is a free shuttle to the town that follows the train schedule), and check in by 3 and leave by 4 and when we wake, we will be there. The other benefit is that we are arriving in D.C. so even though it is Sunday, we will do some sightseeing there before heading to Williamsburg and again the next Sunday we can see some sights in D.C. before embarking on the train for the trip back to Florida.

  3. Ameliaprivateeye

    I think this sounds like a great vacation!

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