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Am I Nuts to Consider an Overnight Amtrak Journey from DC to Orlando?

Few weeks ago I wrote about my plans to visit Washington DC in spring of 2019. Nancy (my blogging partner) made an interesting comment on the post:

Hmm, I wasn’t really considering this option until she mentioned it.

I have a love/hate relationship with overnight trains. I vividly remember going on a long-distance train trip at the age of nine. It was the first (and only) time I met my grandfather in Russia. We took a train that started in Berlin and ended  in St. Petersburg (or Leningrad as it was called back then). It was the creme of the crop as far as Soviet trains go: clean bathrooms, decent bedding and even flowers in sleeping compartments.

On the other hand, I remember my overnight trips from Minsk to Grodno back when I was a college student. Ugh. It was a “milk run” train that departed at 1 AM and got to Grodno at 7 AM. You could barely get any sleep because the darn thing stopped every thirty minutes.

On top of it, the attendants were “angry babushkas” who kept shouting at you if you looked at them the wrong way. I remember  dragging my suitcase at midnight  to the train station, which was 1.5 miles from my dorm. You do NOT want to hang out at the train station at night. The folks there are usually not “creme of the crop”.

The thing is, my family took trains because we could not afford to fly. So, how ironic that even though I have more than enough points for a flight form DC to Florida, here I am, contemplating taking an overnight train on Amtrak instead.

The appeal

It’s all about the kids. I think they would love it and I want them to experience a night train at least once. Washington DC- Orlando route  would be an excellent option.

We could store our bags in a hotel till evening, and would save points by not having to pay for a third night. Assuming we end up in a category 3 Hyatt, that’s 12,000 points, which I speculatively value at around $125. The roomette has a tiny bathroom, which is a must for me. I’m a bit of a princess that way. We could book two roomettes for four of us at a  cost of 35,000-40,000 Amtrak points total.

Here is a review of roomette on YouTube to give you an idea on what to expect (if you are a subscriber and can’t see the video in the email, just go to the site):

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to spend several days confined with my kid in this “cozy” contraption, but one night is OK. I think.

Accumulating Amtrak points:

There are two ways to do it. You can transfer SPG points on 1:1 basis or apply for BoA Amtrak credit card. I like the second idea much better, given the fact I currently don’t have any SPG points.

You can get 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in 90 days and paying $79 annual fee on your Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard Direct application link (pays no commission) So both my husband and I would have to apply in order to have enough points for two roomettes. But considering the fact that it would otherwise cost us $1,200 in cash, the points alternative is definitely the way to go. Not that I would ever pay $1,200.

Legitimate concerns

There are quite a few.

1) We would have to wonder around Washington DC till 6-7 PM after checking out from our hotel. If the weather ends up being pleasant that day, it’s no big deal. If it rains, I shudder thinking what kind of mood my husband will be in.

2) We would have to get a shower on the train (twice). I’m guessing it’s not as well equipped as the one in the Hyatt Place. Did I mention that my husband is  a very large guy?

3) I doubt we would get much sleep at night. It’s a moving train! It will already be a short getaway, and both my husband and kids will have to go to work/school ( respectively) the next day. There will be no time to recover from our train adventure.

4) We will have to entertain the kids on the train till almost 1PM the following day. They may go out of their mind due to boredom. Like I said, we’ve never done this sort of thing before, so it’s impossible to predict how they will handle the ride. But they are both super restless kids, that I know.

5) Bank of America has instituted a new approval rule where you can only get four new BoA cards every two years. So there is a very real opportunity cost here. If I go for Amtrak card, it will eliminate another potentially lucrative BoA offer.

6) Cancellation rules for Amtrak award redemptions are not as flexible as the ones for Southwest. This is a concern for me, especially given the unpredictable nature of cherry blossoms.

What should I do?

Despite all the drawbacks, I’m seriously thinking about it. Amazingly, my husband is actually on board with the idea. He hates flying, that’s probably why. And it would be a good chance to try out this form of travel as a family.

Of course, we would have to get approved for BoA Amtrak credit card X 2, which is not  a guarantee. I also would have to take a leap of faith, hoping that 20,000 points will cover the cost of the roomette. But many things in this hobby (and travel in general) require a leap of faith.

And if things go wrong, I’ll just blame Nancy for putting this crazy idea into my head!

Guys, what would you do?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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21 thoughts on “Am I Nuts to Consider an Overnight Amtrak Journey from DC to Orlando?

  1. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this myself. My 6 yo would just love it!!! I imagine there is wi-fi on the train but even if there isn’t you could download some videos to a tablet just in case the kids get bored – that is what I would do anyway.
    I changed my gas/electric?? (forgot which) provider and earned 10,000 amtrak points so I have that and will probably try for an amtrak card soon as well – am trying to get below 5/24 and also might have some expiring alaska points I have to deal with.
    I am curious how the regular seats are though – not sure about that roomette.

    • @HML I bet your kid would love it! I agree, as long as you prepare ahead of time, you can probably entertain children on a train just as you would anywhere else. Nice score on getting those 10k Amtrak points. I hope you put them to good use. Personally, I would only consider a roomette for DC-Orlando route. If you are planning on visiting Disney, this may be something to look into.
      My biggest issue with the whole plan is wondering around DC till evening. This could turn into a nightmare due to bad weather. It’s a short trip, and I’m making it WAY too complicated.

      • Yeah, I would only do it if I had a good amount of time – otherwise it would seem like a waste of time.

  2. They lost me at the toilet. LOL. I don’t want to be sitting, sleeping, and just being in general that close to a toilet.

  3. Your kids might not be that bored. Since you board at night, it will be new and exciting and they can explore before bed. Then in the morning, you’ll spend an hour in the dining car for breakfast, and you can do an early lunch for another hour. Love it or hate it, it will be an experience you won’t forget.

    • @Nancy It does sound neat! Man, I just wish it was a longer trip (to DC, that is). Then again, my kids are not infants and can handle more stress. I know my son would love it. I’m on the fence on this one. Once I apply for BoA cards, there is no going back. I’ll have to think about it some more.

  4. I would skip the train only because I can’t handle no sleep with having to go back to work & school the following day. However, if you do decide to take the train, there are plenty of museums to visit to kill time if DC starts to rain..we visited The Capitol on the day it rained and it wasn’t busy at all. The train experience is fun, and I think every family should do it at least once, but I’ve only done 4 hours and it was perfect for us. Keep us posted!

    • @Stephanie Ugh, I was afraid you would say that! 🙂 The thing is, you and I are a lot alike. I agree, it would be more stressful than flying. I don’t think my husband realizes all that is involved. He has never been on a night train before. I’m thinking this may not be the ideal time to try it. I have some time to decide on whether to apply for BoA card X2. Stay tuned!

  5. I’ve done this trip but started in Philly and ended in Orlando. It’s a LOONG trip. The bedrooms are tiny and bathrooms aren’t too clean. Haven’t said that, it’s an adventure.

    If you can hold out, BOA normally has a 30,000 offer out in the summer. Good luck whatever you decide.

    • @Natasha Hmm… I’m a simple gal, but like a clean bathroom. Thanks for the tip on the card bonus. I don’t plan to apply right now, but it’s good to know nonetheless.

    • @Stephanie Yes, I saw this info few hours ago! I shared the news on Twitter and Facebook. It’s crazy that Hyatt started doing that. Makes it hard to trust the program.

  6. My wife and I did SF Bay Area to Denver, then NYC-New Orleans, then New Orleans back to CA as part of our honeymoon. That was in the golden days when you could transfer Chase points and the award chart was zone-based. I think it was over $3,000 of travel for like 70,000 points. Bedroom for the SF-DEN and NOL-CA segments. It was an amazing trip.

    But I have no idea what to expect with kids. I’d like to take ours someday, but that is a trip during which my wife will probably stay home. Personally, I’d wait and do it as part of a trip that doesn’t sound so stressful.

    The cars do rock and sway a lot during the night. Our sleep was okay.

    • Also, there are bathrooms in each of the roomette cars. You don’t *have* to use the toilet in your room. The shower room is also for all car guests to use.

      • @Ian Thanks for sharing your experience! I think you are right. It would be stressful, for sure. Maybe a better opportunity will come up where we are not so pressed for time. I’m leaning towards just doing hotel and flying both ways. But I’ll probably agonize over it some more!

  7. In my experience (and all kids are different from one another, for sure), the novelty of the train ride wears off rather quickly, and given the long trip there is a definite risk here, I would pass.

    • @Uri I think you are right! There is just too much that can go wrong when it comes to my plan. Maybe a better opportunity will present itself in the future.

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