For auto travel between Virginia and Florida, there is an alternative to driving 850 miles along busy I-95. Amtrak offers direct train service for travelers and their vehicles on the Amtrak Auto Train, Amtrak's only route that transports vehicles. With two engines and over 40 passenger rail cars and vehicle carriers, this unique train is the longest passenger train in the world. The boarding platform in Virginia is 1,480 feet long, which is longer than the height of Chicago's Sears Tower.
The car auto train can accommodate cars, vans, motorcycles, SUVs, small boats, jet-skis, and some other recreational vehicles. Reservations are required and are only available to those who are traveling with their vehicles.
Station in Lorton, Virginia
The Auto Train's northernmost station is in Lorton, Virginia, just 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. The station's proximity to many northern, major metropolitan areas makes it a great location to attract those headed to Florida as well as Floridians looking to visit our nation's capital and surrounding areas, including Alexandria, Virginia, or Baltimore, Maryland.
Station in Sanford, Florida
The southernmost stop ends in Sanford, Florida, which is 25 miles north of Orlando. This puts you within easy reach of some of the area's many attractions, such as Walt Disney World, Daytona Beach, and Tampa.
Amtrak Auto Train Cost and Travel Time
Accommodations and corresponding price levels range from coach seats to bedroom suites with private bathrooms. There are also special accommodations for families and those with disabilities. As with all routes, look for special sale fares. Auto Train tickets have been seen on sale for $95 for coach seats. The cost of your vehicle is an additional charge that can bring the total up to at least $200. The nonstop trip takes 17-and-a-half hours and departs daily, compared to a 12-hour trip across 850 miles if you were to drive it without any stops or delays, which is very unlikely.
Even though it's technically faster to drive, with the Amtrak Auto Train you can sit back and relax, sleep in your own bedroom, and eat meals that are all included in the ticket price.
Tips for Traveling on the Auto Train
Before you book the tickets, make sure to plan ahead and read the fine print to make sure it's the best option for you.
- You must obtain your Auto Train tickets before you board the train, whether you opt for e-ticketing or paper tickets. If you decide to get physical passes, it's a good idea to pick them up in advance if possible. A photo ID is required to get your tickets and on the day of your departure.
- Make sure you have a clear understanding about your required check-in time and allow plenty of time to arrive early. Check-in times vary depending on the type of vehicle you have.
- Pack a small carry-on bag for your overnight on the train and remember to take everything you will need from your vehicle before checking your car. There is a limit of two carry-on bags per passenger, but less is better with limited space on the train. (That said, many frequent Auto Train travelers recommend taking your own comfortable pillow and a small blanket, especially if traveling in coach.)
- Because there is no baggage checking on the Auto Train, all other luggage must remain in your vehicle, which will be restricted from access throughout the trip. Valuable items should not be left in your vehicle.
- Car alarm systems should be deactivated to avoid the risk of a dead battery upon arrival in the event your alarm goes off during the trip.
- Meals (dinner and breakfast) are included in the price of your ticket, and snacks are available for purchase in the lounges. You are also allowed to bring your own food and beverages, if you wish.
- Once you arrive at your destination, retrieving your vehicle can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours, so plan your itinerary accordingly. For an extra $60, you can upgrade to a Priority Vehicle Offloading ticket to speed up the process.