I've brought my car on the Amtrak Auto Train over a dozen times. Here are 8 tips for first-time riders.

  • The Amtrak Auto Train transports passengers and their vehicles between Virginia and Florida.

  • Booking early can help you get the best deals and your pick of seating options.

  • Be prepared to wait for your car to be loaded and unloaded at the start and end of the trip.

The Amtrak Auto Train brings passengers and their vehicles on a nonstop journey between Virginia and Florida.

The train is a great way to save yourself hundreds of miles of driving and allows you to relax before reaching your final destination.

As someone who has taken this Amtrak train over a dozen times, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

Start planning your trip as early as possible

A phone screen with an Amtrak booking page open.
A phone screen with an Amtrak booking page open.

Book early to get the best rates and availability.Tada Images/Shutterstock

I recommend booking your trip as early as possible to ensure the best seat availability and lowest ticket price.

If you wait too long to book, you run the risk of the trip selling out. There are a limited number of seats and sleeper rooms available, and once they're all taken, you won't be able to reserve a spot on the train.

Consider your needs when selecting a seat 

Because coach cars in the Auto Train have two seats per row, there's no need to worry about getting stuck in a dreaded middle seat. However, because seats are assigned, you may be seated next to a stranger if you're traveling alone.

It's also important to keep in mind that it's a long trip that will require you to stay in your seat most of the time. If you want to get some rest or prefer privacy (which is especially helpful when traveling with young kids), it may be worth paying extra for sleeping accommodations.

Pay attention to ticket prices – and look for ways to save 

Unfortunately, you'll need to go through the entire reservation process before you can see the total ticket price. For example, the price you see for your seat(s) or sleeping car doesn't include the cost of your vehicle, which gets added on towards the end of the booking process.

Luckily, there are a few ways to save money. Amtrak's Share Fares program offers reduced coach fares for small groups of up to eight passengers. There are also reduced fares for children and potential discounts you can receive by subscribing to the Amtrak newsletter and/or enrolling in the Amtrak Guest Rewards program.

Anticipate wait times at both ends of your trip

An Amtrak train stopped at a station.
An Amtrak train stopped at a station.


Because it takes a considerable amount of time for the staff to load and unload all the cars at both ends of the trip, taking the Amtrak Auto Train involves some downtime.

You'll typically have to wait at least an hour at both the start and end of the trip, so bring a book or something else to help you pass the time.

If you want to make a (relatively) quick exit upon arrival, consider paying extra for priority vehicle offloading, which ensures your vehicle will be among the first 30 offloaded when you reach your destination.

Bring snacks and drinks with you

Guests in coach can choose to buy from a limited menu of snacks, drinks, and pre-packaged food in the café. Passengers in the sleeper car, however, receive a complimentary dinner.

If you're in coach and don't want to spend extra money on food, I recommend bringing your own snacks and drinks on the train with you.

Make sure you remove anything you need from your car 

Once you hand over your car keys and your vehicle is loaded into the transport carriers, you won't have access to it until you reach your destination.

Think about anything you might need (or anything you might not want to leave in the car for 18+ hours) and keep those items with you.

Read the original article on Insider