Indy-FL trip (how would you do it if you were me?)

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IndyLions

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Nov 6, 2016
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Need to be in Orlando/Tampa in mid-April. I haven’t been on the Silver Service since the Heritage equipment days - and I’m itching for a train trip.

Not looking for necessarily the fastest trip - so if it takes a couple days (or even 3 days) it wouldn’t phase me.

I’ll probably use a combination of points and dollars. Here are the options I’m currently considering - just curious what you all think.

Option 1 - Cardinal to Meteor - transferring in CVS-RVR via bus
Shortest distance. Any eastbound Cardinal option is the most restrictive - because I can only leave late Saturday night to make it work.
Leave Indy late Saturday, arrive Orlando Monday noon

Option 2 - Cardinal to Star - transfer/overnight in WAS
Two longer, separate train rides with a hotel night in between.
Leave Indy late Saturday, arrive Tampa Tuesday noon.

Option 3 - Cardinal to Capitol to Meteor - xfers in CHI & WAS
Three train rides this time.
Leave Indy Monday morning, arrive Orlando Wednesday noon.

Option 4 - Flight to Star - transfer in NY
Focus on one long train ride. This is the shortest & cheapest.
Leave Monday early morning, arrive Tampa Tuesday noon.

Regardless of how I get there, I’ll likely fly home. There is very little cost difference between the Star and Meteor, and I can rent a car in either Orlando or Tampa - so destination isn’t that critical. With the downgrade in food service - I’m going to make lemonade out of lemons and bring my own food cooler a la Richie Rich (with a lot less booze LOL). I’m also considering bringing my bike with - which makes an all rail itinerary more attractive.

Final note - when I say my departure station is Indy, it’s really Crawfordsville IN. The times and parking are more convenient, and the IND station is a disgraceful hellhole.
 
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Qapla

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Can't really speak for the first part of the trip as I am not familiar with the trains in Indiana

However, even though you say you will rent a car and can go to either Orlando or Tampa ... it may help if you decide which of these destinations you would "rather" as this can make a difference. If you decide Orlando is OK - you can take either Silver ... however, if you REALLY want to go to Tampa, only the Star goes there. That may help you narrow your options.
 

IndyLions

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Can't really speak for the first part of the trip as I am not familiar with the trains in Indiana

However, even though you say you will rent a car and can go to either Orlando or Tampa ... it may help if you decide which of these destinations you would "rather" as this can make a difference. If you decide Orlando is OK - you can take either Silver ... however, if you REALLY want to go to Tampa, only the Star goes there. That may help you narrow your options.
Good point. Right now it’s truly a toss-up. My business is in Tampa, and I’m meeting a colleague there - so a Tampa arrival would save a day or two of car rentals. OTOH - I’m also trying to talk my wife into flying down to join me for the weekend - she’d probably arrive in Orlando and there are more flight options home from there as well.
 

pennyk

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I have taken the Cardinal to CVS, bus CVS-RVR and Meteor to Orlando. The bus ride from CVS to RVR was not bad, but the long wait in RVR was pretty awful, so I likely would not do it again. If I had the time (and extra money), I would take the Cardinal to WAS, then Star to Tampa.
 

IndyLions

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I have taken the Cardinal to CVS, bus CVS-RVR and Meteor to Orlando. The bus ride from CVS to RVR was not bad, but the long wait in RVR was pretty awful, so I likely would not do it again. If I had the time (and extra money), I would take the Cardinal to WAS, then Star to Tampa.
Thanks for sharing your experience! Waiting around isn’t great to be sure. I’ve done several LSL business trips South Bend to Buffalo, and hanging out in the Buffalo Depew station for a few hours waiting for the midnight return isn’t fun.

In 2018 I did that itinerary to attend a 1pm Lions-Bills game, arriving Sunday morning and returning that same night at midnight. To avoid that interminable wait at Depew station, I went ahead and got an airport hotel room for a few hours. I relaxed and watched NFL Football, checking out about 11pm to catch a taxi to the station.

That worked really well - but it did feel strange checking out of a hotel room after only 4 or 5 hours. I did feel it was an effective use of hotel points.
 

Steve4031

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All of the trains that you are considering have extremely limited dining car service. Check out the menus and the threads about the new dining car service. The meal choices will be repetitive and poor quality imho. As much as I like trains i would consider flying on this particular trip.
 

IndyLions

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All of the trains that you are considering have extremely limited dining car service. Check out the menus and the threads about the new dining car service. The meal choices will be repetitive and poor quality imho. As much as I like trains i would consider flying on this particular trip.
As much as I enjoy true dining car service - I’m not going to avoid traveling by train because of it. I AM going to contact my Congressman regarding the ridiculous food mandate (good luck to me - I live in the least friendly state for rail travel that exists).

On this trip I’m going to give a legitimate effort to bring some of my favorite cold foods in a picnic environment to supplement the measly offerings. It will be a bit of an experiment - but we’ll see.
 

Steve4031

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As much as I enjoy true dining car service - I’m not going to avoid traveling by train because of it. I AM going to contact my Congressman regarding the ridiculous food mandate (good luck to me - I live in the least friendly state for rail travel that exists)

On this trip I’m going to give a legitimate effort to bring some of my favorite cold foods in a picnic environment to supplement the measly offerings. It will be a bit of an experiment - but we’ll see.
Great. I am glad you are aware of the changes.

I suggest doing the option where you spend a night in Washington, D.C. that eliminates bus rides.
 

niemi24s

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If you enjoy the scenery outside the window, I'd suggest scouting the route making special note of anything of interest. Here are some tools for this scouting so you don't miss anything you want to see:

• Amtrak Route Guides: http://testsite.itworksdc.com/amtrakconnect-acela/route-guides.php Don't rely on one being available on any train - bring your own.
• Google Earth: https://www.google.com/earth/ Lets you fly along the route at an altitude of your choosing to help spot things of interest.
• FRA Safety Map: https://fragis.fra.dot.gov/GISFRASafety/ Helps determine which particular route the train takes when multiple routes are seen on Google Earth - especially helpful in urban areas. Also lets you pinpoint locations of points of interest by the mileposts shown.
• Topographic Maps: https://www.mytopo.com/maps/ Makes certain geographic features easier to spot and includes names for places not shown elsewhere (for the Western routes, perhaps names of sidings located by long-gone ghost towns).

Locations of bridges and tunnels are always added to my lists as they help determine the trains progress down the list just by the different sounds they make. FWIW, my list for the SWC contains nearly 450 things to see along the way.
 

IndyLions

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Thanks for the help everyone.

I ended up going with a mixture of Air and Rail - and I’ll be saving my AGR points for another trip.

Early on a Monday morning in mid-April I’ll be flying via Southwest to BWI. From there, I’ll be making a rail connection to Washington Union Station, where I’ll pick up the Silver Star that afternoon. I’ve booked a roomette, and got what I thought was a decent price. I’ll be arriving in Tampa around mid-day on Tuesday. There I’ll likely Uber to my Tampa hotel - with my business starting the next day.

I still have to figure out which hotel I’ll be using for Tuesday night. I’ll be looking for something that is in an area where I can actually explore by foot.

My business wraps up Friday afternoon. My wife is flying down to Orlando Friday night to meet me. We’ll pick up a rental car there and head to a local condo for three nights. We’ll be park hopping at Disney Saturday or Sunday depending on the weather. Monday afternoon we fly home.

All in all, it is as close to a free trip as you can get. Work is paying for my air and coach fare - I’m just picking up the sleeper cost. My wife’s flight uses Southwest points. We had just enough Hilton points to pay for the condo. Chase Disney points are paying for the park hopper tickets and up to $150 in meals. And we also cashed in $600 in other Chase points to help cover other expenses.

In addition to tacking a much needed train getaway and Disney weekend onto a business trip - this also cleans out our points balances (except for Amtrak & Delta) so we can rearrange our credit card choices to maximize points centered more around our retirement travel needs in a few years. Disney points aren’t as high a priority now as they were when our daughters were little [emoji4]

Now I’ll move on to planning my Tuesday night in Tampa - and maybe more importantly my Silver Star supplemental picnic food. I’m thinking about a small bottle of wine, an appetizer, a decadent dessert, and a couple of deluxe pastries for breakfast...
 
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