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I think by now, Points With a Crew readers will know that I am the resident Amtrak aficionado around here. Living in New York City, I find much of their Northeast network to be convenient, comfortable, and inexpensive, so they’re my go-to choice when traveling in the region. While much of Amtrak’s service is along the Northeast Corridor, some of Amtrak’s most famous routes actually never see the Big Apple. One of Amtrak’s most unique routes is the Auto Train, which carries both people and cars from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL. This unique service began in 1983 with three trains a week, and was expanded to daily service the following year. Taking the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida can be a great way to travel between Washington D.C. and Orlando, without actually having to do the driving!

Boarding Process

The Auto Train has a very specific boarding process, one that is highlighted on the schedule Amtrak publishes:

Amtrak Auto Train to Florida - Schedule

Amtrak Auto Train to Florida scheduled, effective 1/1/2016.

While the train doesn’t leave Lorton or Sanford until 4pm, you can start boarding your car at 11:30am, with no cars being accepted after 2:30pm. Per Amtrak, only passengers with four-tire, two-axle vehicles or motorcycles may travel on Auto Train. You’ll want to check out all the requirements here, as there are limited on oversized vehicles. It probably goes without saying, but you CANNOT ride in your vehicle on the Auto Train :).

Amtrak Auto Train to Florida - AutoRacks

An example of the AutoRacks used to transport cards on the Auto Train. Image courtesy of Prompt Critical via Wikimedia Commons.

Route

The Amtrak Auto Train’s route is 885 miles from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL. The trip should take roughly 17 hours, barring any delays along the way. Note that the tracks used by the Auto Train are owned by CSX (for the most part), which means that freight trains will get priority.

Onboard Accommodations

On the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida, you can expect the following classes of service: Coach, Business, Superliner Roomette, Superliner Bedroom, Superliner Bedroom Suite, Superliner Family Bedroom, and Superliner Accessible Bedroom.

The above tweet should give you some semblance of what the different types of rooms look like, and what they’re equipped with.

(SEE ALSO: Amtrak Superliner vs. Viewliner – what’s the difference?)

All passengers, regardless of service class, are offered dinner and a continental breakfast. You can access the most up to date menu (as of this post going live) here, as well as the Cafe Car menu here. Please only use these as a guide, as they look pretty out of date–the Cafe Car menu still has the Chase Amtrak card (RIP) on it!

Amtrak Auto Train to Florida - Dining

A view of the Auto Train dining car. Image courtesy of Ben Schumin via Wikimedia Commons.

We’ve had many questions over the years about smoking break on Amtrak trains. Both northbound and southbound Amtrak Auto Train services offer one smoking break in Florence, SC. Otherwise, smoking is prohibited at all other times.

Wi-Fi is available on the Auto Train, however, don’t count on its reliability. You also won’t be able to use data-heavy applications, like Netflix, so plan accordingly! A charged laptop and a kindle should get you through the 17 hour trip, no problem!

Using points for travel

It’s possible to cover your entire trip–room and vehicle–using points earned! Take for example this one-way “snowbird” migration:

Amtrak Auto Train to Florida - Points

For 17,492 points (16,617 if you have the Amtrak Guest Rewards World credit card), you can get a Superliner Roomette and a car. Using points saves you $496 dollars–which leaves you more money in your pocket for your time in Florida!

Amtrak Auto Train to Florida Conclusion

Arguably Amtrak’s most unique service, the Auto Train has been transporting people and cars up and down the East Coast for over 30 years. While not a quick as flying, you’ll have the luxury of sitting back and letting Amtrak deal with the driving. Hopefully this post was able to answer any questions you might have about the services offered on the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida.

Here are 4 tips if you want to take the Amtrak Auto train from Virginia to Florida

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