When I made a day trip to Orlando last week to check out the new attractions at Magic Kingdom, I took the train up and flew back on Spirit. Any time I can trade the stress of flying for a leisurely train ride, I’ll do it. Roomy seats, no security lines, a lounge car, no charge for two checked bags, and no need to arrive more than 15 minutes early – there’s really no debate.
Cost: $38. Ride time: 9 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. I didn’t need a full day at the park, so the arrival time worked fine. I had a late flight back, departing at 9:40 p.m. Parking at the Fort Lauderdale Amtrak station is free, but I had to pay for a taxi from the airport back to the station.
After taking this ride a few times, I have some advice to pass on:
* If you’re going to Disney and don’t need to get a rental car, get off at Kissimmee, which is the stop before Orlando. It’s closer.
* Amtrak doesn’t issue e-tickets. You’ll need to print out your ticket at the station. I try to get to a station — it doesn’t have to be the one you’re leaving from — a day or two in advance. It takes only a minute, and parking is free.
* If you’re going to leave your car at the train station, you’ll need a free parking pass from a station agent. Get there 10 or 15 minutes earlier so you have time to stand in line for the pass, then walk it back to your car.
* The cashier in the lounge car takes a long break shortly after the train departs West Palm Beach. If you need coffee, get it by 10 a.m.
* Make sure your schedule has some flexibility. Amtrak has a lower priority than freight trains, and is frequently late. Towards the end of my trip, the train crept along behind two slow-moving freight trains and arrived about 20 minutes late.