Amtrak’s AutoTrain Economics – An Update

Several years ago I wrote an article comparing the costs of a typical road trip up the east coast from Central Florida to NYC versus taking the Amtrak AutoTrain back from Virginia to Florida.  The link to that article is here.  Overall the economics are pretty much the same from the drive versus AutoTrain standpoint but there have been some changes since the article was written.  The cost of taking the AutoTrain has gone up a little bit and the cost of gas has gone down a little bit (about 20 cents a gallon depending on where you live).  I plan on taking the AutoTrain up to the Washington DC area in a few weeks and thought I’d compare the costs.  The reason for taking the train isn’t all focused on economics –  my sinuses could use a break from the up and down of flying.

So here is an update comparing the cost of taking a flight to DC and renting a car versus taking the AutoTrain up and back and not having to rent a car. 

The total cost to take the AutoTrain roundtrip is $635.  Broken down this is the roundtrip cost of a coach seat (about $268 using a AAA 10% discount rate) and the  cost of transporting the car ($367).  The coach seat is just that.  It is not a compartment.  But it is equivalent to a business class seat on a plane with outlets to plug in cell phones, laptops, etc.  Dinner and a continental breakfast are included.  What you sacrifice here is time.  Even so, I find I can get quite a bit of writing done on the train that I can’t get done sitting in the cramped quarters of an airplane seat.  I also have to take into account that the mileage to the Amtrak AutoTrain Station in Sanford, Florida from my house is less than that going to the Orlando International Airport.

So what’s the cost to fly and drive to DC from Orlando.  I could take into account that I don’t have to leave the day before the flight would leave and arrive on a different day but there are no extra hotel days involved so hotel costs are the same.  Here we are just comparing overall flight, meal, car rental and airport parking costs.

  • Flight roundtrip to Reagan National Airport – $247 on USAir.  That is the cheapest flight that will accommodate my business schedule and closest to where I’m staying in Virginia (at least according to Kayak).
  • Checked Bag Fee: $25.  The AutoTrain doesn’t charge for checked bags since your bags are in the trunk of your car.  You can bring a carryon for the overnight.
  • Rental Car Costs:  $382 including tax using Avis.  This is for an equivalent size car to mine and doesn’t include the additional gas charges but I’m also assuming I will have to fill up my car while in the DC area. 
  • Airport Parking:  $49.
  • Food at Airport: $15.  Since flights don’t offer any food this cost has to be factored in.

Total: $718

A difference of about $83 more for the flight and car rental.  That may not sound like a lot to some people but I also know that when I go to this particular trade show I end up having to ship stuff back home because I can’t take it back with me on the plane.  That can add up to significant shipping costs that I won’t have to incur if I just stow the stuff in the trunk of my car on the way back.

Just something to think about if you want to take the AutoTrain on your own and think of it as too expensive.

Priscilla (one have of the Travel2some)




Orange County Regional History Museum – well worth the trip.

Ted Bundy's Name carved into Defendant's Table

The Orange County Regional History Center is a fascinating museum right in the heart of downtown Orlando.  A trip up the elevator to the 4th floor brings one back to the very early days of Florida. Tattooed, pierced and adorned with shells the Timucuan Indians were the first the Europeans  came in contact with.  Today one can find Floridians who are tattooed, pierced and adorned with shells. Sometimes it seems as much as things change they stay the same. 

 The 4th floor has interesting exhibits on the First Peoples, the European First Contact, Florida Seminoles, Pioneers, and Citrus and Cattle industries.  I learned some interesting facts. That no spot in Florida is more than 60 miles from the Gulf of  Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. That many of Florida’s 7,800 lakes are water filled sinkholes such as Lake Eola, Lake Apopka and Lake Conway. And to reduce the mosquito population, hang a dry hallowed gourd to attract mosquito eating Purple Martin birds. Who knew that late 19th century Kissimmee had the Country’s first “Ride-Up” drive through saloon where thirsty cowmen didn’t even have to dismount their horses to buy a drink.

The third floor includes Orange County’s old courtroom (the museum is housed in what was the old court-house).  It was educational to see the old style courthouse and see Ted Bundy’s name scratched into the defense table.  On this floor there is a transportation section with old train and steamboat exhibits, tourism before Disney, Central Florida through the wars, then Aviation and finally Disney: The Day We Changed. 

The second floor had a Road To Modern Orlando Timeline, an extensive African-American Heritage section, and houses the special exhibits gallery and changing exhibits gallery. There were “old school” video games. Pinball machines, Pac -Man and others that were enjoyed by all.  Exhibits on Jack Kerouac the famous writer and poet, Orlando Magic, Military, Disney and Tourism.

The museum is easy to reach, right off the I-4 highway, and parking is available in a public parking garage a block away and across the street from the Orlando Public Library. The museum is open Monday – Saturday, 10am -5 pm. and Sunday, noon to 5pm. Admission is $9.00 , seniors (60+), AAA, military and students $7.00, $6.00 for ages 5-12, and free ages 4 and under.  It is well worth the trip and all ages will enjoy it.

Art (one half of Travel2some)

Museum of Seminole County History

Lunch time at jury duty found me visiting the  Seminole County Museum that was close by to the Seminole County Courthouse.  I entered with low expectations and was pleased to see that the museum was very interesting. Packed in this small museum are  historical photos, artifacts, maps, documents and exhibits of early Central Florida. The St John’s River was the gateway to Central Florida from the Atlantic Ocean.  Included were exhibits on Native American artifacts, railroads, steamships, early settlements, agriculture and other industries and decorative arts.
The museum is at 300 Bush Blvd Sanford FL ( US 17-92 ) and is open   Tuesday – Friday  from 1pm-5pm  and Saturday  from 9am – 1pm.
Admission is only $3.00 and $1.00 for children 4-18 and students.
Art ( one half of  Travel2some)