Amtrak’s auto train is the only one in the country. It originates from Lorton, VA or Sanford, FL. The concept is simple, travel from Virginia to Florida with your car but you don’t have to do the driving. There are coach seats and roomette. It’s an overnight trip with dinner and continental breakfast in the morning. You are assigned one of three dinner times based on your arrival time.
There were 38 cars on our ride down with 15 of them being for passengers. There were 452 passengers with 181 cars. I didn’t get the numbers on the ride back because I wasn’t paying attention and our kids were too excited in the sleeper car. In total, they can transport up to 300 cars per trip.
We choose to ride coach on our way to Florida. The ride was very smooth and seamless. Our car wasn’t full so the kids were able to spread out and it definitely made for a more pleasant experience. The seats recline to a comfortable angle and we had plenty of space for backpacks and snack bag. There is overhead storage as well if needed.
Dinner was good both ways and the kids loved the coffee cakes for breakfast. If you are traveling with someone that can not get to the dining car, you can order your food for delivery.
It was cheaper for our family of four to take the train with our van than flying to Orlando and renting a car.
We enjoyed the experience. The kids had a blast and enjoyed the sleeper car much better than the adults.
The food was actually not bad. The customer service is great. The staff on board are engaging and information is shared as we pass different locations.
This can go either way: you get to bond with your kids. We played board and card games. Yes they wanted electronics after a while, but you can’t play board games on a plane. There is free WiFi on board. Keep in mind that it will be spotty because of the cell towers. It’s stronger in the lounge car which is where we spent lots of time.
It takes a long time. The ride is 16 hours. Always overnight 4 pm to 8 am. Arrival depends on rail traffic. Leave some wiggle room in your schedule to allow for late arrival. We didn’t arrive to Sanford till 9 am.
There are no security checkpoints. This was on my mind because of the climate society is in. However, I didn’t let it damper the experience.
Overall, this is definitely a way to travel to many Florida attractions and we will do it again. There are other train vacations options available but doesn’t include taking your vehicle.
Is this a mode of transport you can see yourself utilizing?
Contact me for more details on booking your next family getaway. Check out my Facebook page for videos and more pictures.
There have been at least three major stories of vacationers being attacked and killed under known and unknown circumstances in the news. It is also summer time and most of us will be traveling to places outside of our normal environment and I thought it will be great to point out some safety tips for us all to consider.
1. Remember that you have to ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. Vacations are meant to be carefree times but we aren't supposed to be careless to the fact that there are bad people everywhere. Be aware of where you are, who is around you.
2. Know how/where to get help especially if you don't speak the language. Do you have your embassy's phone number? The address? The resort/AirBnB/hotel you are staying at?
3. Don't overshare your information. We always get asked, "how long are you here for?" Most of the time, it's just conversation, other times, it's not. Don't give your information to the wrong person that might mean harm to you.
4. Stay with a group if possible. This is a hard one because sometimes you might be traveling solo or just want some alone time while with a group. Let someone you trust know where you are going and for how long. If you are not back in contact with them in the designated time, they should be aware to ring the alarms immediately.
5. As with being at home, don't stay glued to your smartphone. Yes, you can use it while traveling but if you are deep in it, you will not know where you are.
6. Check The State Department travel advisory before making your plans. I know that sometimes this is listed for an entire country even though it's sections of the said country that might be problematic, but it's still a good resource to check.
7. For health reasons, you should check if you need vaccines for a country. There may be a strain of a virus that may not be covered by your regular vaccine.
8. Don't pack your most expensive electronics/jewelry. I know the electronics part is hard because we like to stay connected and the average digital camera is now an investment. If you have to take expensive things with you, make sure you have a way to secure them when they are not in your persons.
9. We are always looking for a "good" deal, don't travel too cheap and put yourself in dangerous situations.
10. I always stress my clients purchase travel insurance. I wrote another post about this. Most insurance protects your items and can get you home when needed.
I hope these help as we all travel this summer. If you haven't booked your vacation, drop me an email and let's chat.
As I mentioned last week on my Facebook Live, a client had to cancel her cruise that was sailing this week at the last minute due to business commitment. They weren't happy about it but were relieved to know that by purchasing the travel protection they will only be losing out on a minimal amount of their investment.
Most people think that purchasing insurance is a waste of money. Those same people also think that nothing can go wrong before or during their vacation. As with any additional costs when traveling, you have to weigh the pros and cons. So let's look at some of the general things that are covered under a travel protection plan. Keep in mind that there might be some differences in what coverage you will need for cruises versus land vacations but the general idea is, it doesn't hurt to have it.
What does the insurance cover?
Trip cancellation: This is the base insurance. In most cases you will be able to get your money refunded to you as long as you have the correct proof of the reason you are cancelling.
Stolen/Lost Luggage: This is pretty self-explanatory and mainly it’s for big electronic items. You get a reimbursement for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage but don’t expect it to amount to the headache that you would have acquired from the experience.
Trip Interruption: Full or partial reimbursement for a trip you need to cancel prior to departure, a trip that gets cancelled because a tour company or resort goes out of business, or a trip that gets cut short for a wide variety of reasons
Emergency Medical: This basically covers the medical care you will need if you were to get sick while on travel.
*Side note: While we were in Tennessee last year, my husband ended up in the emergency room the second day we were there. Imagine if we were out of the country and he needed medical care? That cost alone is enough to make you sicker.
Just because you have health insurance at home does not mean that it will cover you on your trip. You need to check the ins and outs of your particular health insurance policy. It may cover you while you travel, but many do not. In fact, some insurance policies don’t even cover health emergencies experienced on foreign-flagged vessels - which is what most cruise ships are. Check with your provider, ask me for suggestions, and of course direct any insurance-related questions to the provider
Emergency Evacuation: Imagine you are enjoying an excursion in an exotic location and you hurt yourself. You have to be transported to the nearest facility/town. That, my friends, is where this comes into play. You most likely would not have a say as to which treatment location you are taken to because it’s stipulated by the insurance company, but it will pay the coverage for that transport and to get you home. This is also for disaster, dangerous weather, and political emergency.
Pre-Existing Condition: This isn’t always offered so it’s best to shop around or have me as your agent know ahead of time that this is a concern. If you think you will need care while in a different country, it is important that we make sure you purchase the correct coverage. Don’t assume that you will be covered.
What isn’t covered by insurance?
Please note that there are more things that can be covered by the insurance coverage you decide to purchase, however, note that you cannot claim inconveniences. Things happen when you travel and sometimes we end up not having a good time. Those are not reason enough to file a claim.
How much does it cost?
That is the first question I get from my clients. I actually will only send quotes with insurance already quoted. I let my clients review the policy and decline if they so desire.
There are several types and levels of insurance. The main items that factor into the price are, the length of the trip, cost of the trip, who is being covered, and which coverage you choose. Third party companies charge roughly between 5% and 7% total cost of your trip. I also advice to purchase it during your booking process. It could make a difference if you don’t qualify for the reasons above if you are able to recoup any money/credit back.
So, you still want to know if you should purchase insurance?
Weigh the cost of the trip with the cost of insurance. If you just bought a $79 ticket for a quick weekend in Chicago - is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. If, however, you’re headed out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that you’ve been saving for for months, travel insurance is likely a great idea.
If you’re looking to maximize your fun and minimize your risk, travel insurance might be just the right option for you. Take your time, ask tons of questions, and find what works best for you and your family.
Have questions about insurance – or any other travel-related topic? I’d love to sit down with you in person or over the phone and get to know you and your travel plans better. To get in touch, just click here.
My husband and I had an impromptu kid-free weekend with no plans after my business trip fell through last weekend so we decided to take a quick trip to New York City. We've been there many times before but never kid-free.
The decision to get on a bus was pretty simple since neither of us wanted to drive. My husband had never ridden the bus to NY before so I had to give him a full report on all of our options. We ended choosing the one that got us there the earliest as the best times were sold out. We didn't have breakfast before our Lyft arrived to pick us up because sleeping without kids is quite good and we overslept. Well since we didn't read the fine print that it was an actual express bus that didn't make stops, we were starving by the time we arrived in NY. The ride in itself was not bad, so I'll recommend it.
Our goal for this trip was to eat at places we haven't tried and to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I would say we succeed in both.
Our next target was to figure out the NY subway system without calling in a life saver to get to the Brooklyn Bridge. We were successful in navigating the subway and the streets thanks to our handy phone maps. I tell you when you are venturing to new places, it's great to have a plan but sometimes winging it is just as good. Now I must be honest, my husband and I are great at traveling but we almost always disagree in following the same route. We had two options of stations to get off to walk to the bridge, my map was saying one thing, his "research" said something else. After a friendly discussion on the train, we decided to get off at his stop. It did end up being further away but we were right down the street from the 9-11 Memorial so WIN on his part. We decided we'll go on another day, but he captured this beautiful picture.
The walk was easy and there were lots to see since it was St. Patrick's Day weekend and there were lots of characters out and about. I had no intention on walking all the way to Brooklyn from the Manhattan side of the bridge because I've had knee pains lately but once you start walking with the crowd and chatting with folks, you find yourself on the other end. It's an easy walk just stay out of the bike lane if you don't want to be trample on (seriously). If you want those poster style pictures of you on the empty bridge, plan on being there early or late. I'd say we captured our fun walk without too many people in the background.
We had dinner at The Cecil Steakhouse in Harlem. It's an upscale restaurant that has a jazz bar attached next door.The food and service was great on a very busy Saturday night. I was happy we didn't have to make reservations by getting there exactly at 8 pm AND there was no dress code. When taking a quick weekend trip, I didn't want to pack dressy clothes or shoes, so this place was perfect. I didn't like the loudness of the "birthday" music though and there were plenty of birthday celebrations happening.
We topped the night by going back downtown to Time Square for more walking and M&Ms because, why NOT? We had breakfast the next morning and didn't have to rush to get back to the bus. We of course pick up lunch (remember express bus) to take on the ride and I wanted to tour a hotel to recommend to my clients but that fell through as well but I won't go into details here. All in all, the trip was great, it was fun, we got in our steps (hubby's counter kept track for us) and we enjoyed a much needed kid-free weekend.
What do you do when you find yourself kid-free? What quick getaways are in your area? Do you have recommendations for other places for us to check out? Leave a comment below.