Questions about getting to DC from Newark Airport

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Hello,

This question probably has been asked several times before but information seems hard to come by and I'd like to have updated info.

It will be my first time arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and it seems that there are two ways to get to Union Station in DC: (1) take the AirTrain from the airport to the Rail Link, then the Northeast Regional at EWR train station to WAS; and (2) take a taxi to NWK train station, then the Acela to WAS.

I will be travelling alone, and bringing with me 2 carry-on and 4 checked baggage (in airplane terms), none oversized. I will arrive early in the morning at the airport.

My primary concern is in getting certainty on how my baggage should be and will be handled in either of the options above:
1. I understand that there is no checked baggage on the daytime Northeast Regional and Acela trains. How / where does one stow away 2 carry-on and 4 checked baggage in the Northeast Regional and Acela trains? Are there additional costs?
2. Will buying a Business seat on the Northeast Regional or a First Class seat on Acela grant me more peace of mind on having the space for my baggage, and also that they won't be stolen?
3. Cost aside, will the AirTrain-Northeast Regional itinerary or the taxi-Acela itinerary be a more pleasant and easier experience?

My secondary concern is the amount of time I should set between my arriving flight (from Asia; I'm a foreigner) and the departing train. I don't know how it would take to get through immigration at EWR airport. Assuming I will arrive at Terminal B early in the morning:
4. How much time will be prudent to set aside for the AirTrain-Northeast Regional itinerary?
5. How much time will be prudent to set aside for the taxi-Acela itinerary?

Finally, considering other options and my baggage situation:
6. Will it make more sense to take a domestic flight to DC (DCA or IAD airport) from EWR rather than to take the train?

Thanks in advance,
Isaac
 
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With that much baggage a taxi might be better than trying to carry bags on the air train. Also at NWK you have a bigger selection of trains than at EWR as only a few Amtraks stop there.

It is always hard to predict how long immigration will take. Plus your plane could be late. Might be better to reserve your ticket once you have made it through and know how long you have. I know that means you can't take advantage of the cheaper advance fares.

Hate to say it but you might be better off flying to DC which if you make it a through ticket, your bags would be forwarded and the connection would be guaranteed
 
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Depending on your ultimate destination in the DC area, IAD (Dulles) might make things worse. Depending on which airline you are travelling, the connecting flight to DCA might be a very viable alternative, through ticketing and decent pricing a real possibility, worth a phone call for sure. Customs is unpredictable.
 
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The reality is there isn't a direct connection — as a foreigner I'll have to make my way through immigration and collect my baggage at the port of entry (i.e. EWR airport), and then check everything in again for a second flight. Given those hassles, and the costs of flying (money, time, environment), taking the train sounds like a great alternative.

Would you be able to give me some insight into the baggage situation in the Northeast Regional and Acela trains? I think this will be the deciding factor between the choice of train and airplane.
 

joelkfla

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Although there is no checked baggage on the NE Regional or Acela, there are a few intercity trains that run between Newark Penn & Washington which do take checked baggage. 2 bags are free, and 2 more can be checked for $20 each.

The southbound Silver Star #91 is scheduled to depart NWK daily at 11:22 am. The southbound Crescent #19 departs at 2:37 pm, but currently does not run on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bags must be checked in at least 45 minutes before scheduled departure.

These trains have been running pretty full, so seats may or may not be available on the travel date. If you purchase a "Flexible Fare" in advance, which runs around $206, you can get a full refund if canceled any time before departure. If you purchase a "Value Fare", which is slightly less, you can get a 75% refund. If you think you can make the Star, you might want to book a Flexible Fare and cancel it if it looks like you won't make it. If the Crescent is scheduled that day, you could also book a Flexible Fare on it and cancel it if you make it to the Star. Or just book the Crescent if you think chances of making the Star are low.

Be aware that you may have to wait an hour or more on hold to cancel a ticket by phone. I don't know whether or not non-U.S. residents can cancel tickets over the web or the app.
 
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Thanks everyone. I looked at some of the flights from EWR airport to DCA, and while there are limitations flying on United's Bombardier CRJ-550, it might be the best option considering the baggage. I'll consider the Amtrak in future trips (there are a few more later this year).
 
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I'm going to buck the crowd and say that if you can move with all of your gear at once, there is no problem in taking the train. Regionals have space at the end of cars for bags, and you can make it work if you have a mind to do so.

I have no issues with moving all the baggage as they link together (search for Tach Luggage). And that's the thing: I'm trying to understand where are the baggage stored in the Northeast Regional and/or the Acela trains, but truthfully, no one in the thread so far had given any insight except you.

Also, I'm not sure why can't anyone actually answer the six enumerated questions I had in my first post point-by-point. It's hard enough trying to figure things out.

Where are the baggage stored on the Acela trains? (This is part of the first question)
 

AmtrakBlue

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I have no issues with moving all the baggage as they link together (search for Tach Luggage). And that's the thing: I'm trying to understand where are the baggage stored in the Northeast Regional and/or the Acela trains, but truthfully, no one in the thread so far had given any insight except you.

Also, I'm not sure why can't anyone actually answer the six enumerated questions I had in my first post point-by-point. It's hard enough trying to figure things out.

Where are the baggage stored on the Acela trains? (This is part of the first question)
There is also the over-the-seat racks for luggage. The Acela's "racks" are like airline ones and that they have doors.

Here's a layout I found for Acela online.
1656434838526.png
 

Ryan

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I don't have enough experience on an Acela to answer, but know that there is sufficient space at the end of the cars on the Northeast Regional trains to capture your gear.

As for the rest of your questions, I don't think that Business Class would help in either of those areas.

Personally, I think that the AirTrain would be a better way to go - that's what it's there for. Acela isn't nicer-enough (in my opinion) to have to deal with the pain of a cab ride and getting out of the airport and into the train station with your bags.

Timing-wise, I'm not much help, as I've not arrived internationally at EWR. Do you have a good sense for how reliable your airlines arrival times are?
 
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I have checked and the flight I'm taking has an average of being 10-20 minutes late. The total in-the-air time is remarkably consistent. Of course, there are rare situations where a flight could be up to 1.5h late because it took off late. If I want to be really safe, I'd add 1 to 1.5h on top of the typical immigration and transit times.

Thanks for the information on the train layout. I was unable to find detailed maps of either Acela or Northeast Regional trains that point out where the storage areas are. Guess I'll only be able to find out in person.
 

Tom Booth

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I don't have enough experience on an Acela to answer, but know that there is sufficient space at the end of the cars on the Northeast Regional trains to capture your gear.

As for the rest of your questions, I don't think that Business Class would help in either of those areas.

Personally, I think that the AirTrain would be a better way to go - that's what it's there for. Acela isn't nicer-enough (in my opinion) to have to deal with the pain of a cab ride and getting out of the airport and into the train station with your bags.

Timing-wise, I'm not much help, as I've not arrived internationally at EWR. Do you have a good sense for how reliable your airlines arrival times are?
Ryan is totally right. There is a storage area at the end of each coach on the regionals as well as overhead racks running the length of each car.
 

joelkfla

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If that photo's an indication of a typical load, looks like the odds of finding space for 4 large suitcases mid-run would be pretty slim.

It was a different type of run and maybe a different car type, but on a day trip between Orlando & Tampa the luggage had overflowed into the wheelchair space and had to be moved by the car attendant.
 
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Six pieces of luggage is certainly well in excess of Amtrak's official policy (two carry on bags). But I have frequently exceeded Amtrak's limit and nobody has ever complained. Six bags may be pushing it though. I assume one of them is a "personal item" and that you are not actually bringing two full sized carry on bags on your flight.

Boarding at the Newark Airport station (or from Newark Penn) is from a high-level platform so you should not need to climb any steps to get onto the train. Access to the platform is through a manned fare gate. There are elevators from the AirTrain down to the Amtrak/NJ Transit platforms. When getting off at Washington, depending on the train you may have to climb down steps from the train. However, all trains either terminate at Washington or remain in Washington for 30 minutes for an engine change. So even if you have to take your bags off one by one, there should be enough time to do so.

I have put my full sized "checked" bags into the Northeast Regional overhead bins many times, and they generally fit, although it takes some pushing (soft sided bags) and they stick out a bit. I am not sure whether your bags would fit overhead. Doubt they would fit overhead on Acela.

So you will be trying to put everything in the luggage rack at the end of the car. If the train is empty it would be easy. If the train is very full it would be hard. You might have to put some of your bags in another car once you get on. You could also buy a business class ticket in hopes that the business class car will be less full. For Northeast Regional, business class is the last car on the train.

Customs at EWR can vary. Would budget for one hour (sometimes there are long lines, and baggage claim can take a long time).

At EWR, when transferring from AirTrain to Amtrak, you will have to pass through these fare gates to show that you have paid the airport surcharge:
Cheapest Fastest Way from Newark Airport to NYC Manhattan (see image at bottom)
The gates are still not capable of scanning Amtrak tickets (only NJ Transit). You will have to show your Amtrak ticket to the guy in the booth, and once he verifies that it is a ticket from "Newark Airport," he will open the gate for you.

In contrast, at Newark Penn, there is no fare gate.

Note that if checking bags on the few long-distance Amtrak trains, there is a 45 minute cutoff, so you would want to be at the station an hour in advance. I am not certain where the baggage check at Newark Penn is.
 

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You could also buy a business class ticket in hopes that the business class car will be less full. For Northeast Regional, business class is the last car on the train.
My picture was taken in a BC car (regular coach, not an LD coach) going north from D.C. It was taken after we left Baltimore, so there were 3 stops after D.C., including BWI airport. Since the OP will be boarding before or at Newark airport, unless the train is coming from north of NYC, the luggage rack may not be as full.
 
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This page has car layouts for Regional Business and Acela First. On the Regionals, the non-business car layouts are basically the same, there are just more seats. The luggage rack is at the top left in the grey box next to the restroom.

Thanks, I found that website the other day but it didn't really mention where the luggage areas are.


It looks really small, and I don't foresee being able to place my baggage there. For context, I'm using these luggages, 2 large, 2 medium, 2 small. The large ones are the max size allowed for checked luggage, and the small ones are max size allowed for carry-on. The medium is in between, and a set of three nests nicely in each other.
1656603542190.png


Six pieces of luggage is certainly well in excess of Amtrak's official policy (two carry on bags). But I have frequently exceeded Amtrak's limit and nobody has ever complained. Six bags may be pushing it though. I assume one of them is a "personal item" and that you are not actually bringing two full sized carry on bags on your flight.

Boarding at the Newark Airport station (or from Newark Penn) is from a high-level platform so you should not need to climb any steps to get onto the train. Access to the platform is through a manned fare gate. There are elevators from the AirTrain down to the Amtrak/NJ Transit platforms. When getting off at Washington, depending on the train you may have to climb down steps from the train. However, all trains either terminate at Washington or remain in Washington for 30 minutes for an engine change. So even if you have to take your bags off one by one, there should be enough time to do so.

I have put my full sized "checked" bags into the Northeast Regional overhead bins many times, and they generally fit, although it takes some pushing (soft sided bags) and they stick out a bit. I am not sure whether your bags would fit overhead. Doubt they would fit overhead on Acela.

So you will be trying to put everything in the luggage rack at the end of the car. If the train is empty it would be easy. If the train is very full it would be hard. You might have to put some of your bags in another car once you get on. You could also buy a business class ticket in hopes that the business class car will be less full. For Northeast Regional, business class is the last car on the train.

Customs at EWR can vary. Would budget for one hour (sometimes there are long lines, and baggage claim can take a long time).

At EWR, when transferring from AirTrain to Amtrak, you will have to pass through these fare gates to show that you have paid the airport surcharge:
Cheapest Fastest Way from Newark Airport to NYC Manhattan (see image at bottom)
The gates are still not capable of scanning Amtrak tickets (only NJ Transit). You will have to show your Amtrak ticket to the guy in the booth, and once he verifies that it is a ticket from "Newark Airport," he will open the gate for you.

In contrast, at Newark Penn, there is no fare gate.

Note that if checking bags on the few long-distance Amtrak trains, there is a 45 minute cutoff, so you would want to be at the station an hour in advance. I am not certain where the baggage check at Newark Penn is.

Thanks for this! It is very helpful. By the sound of it, I might have to fly after all. It will be expensive though, since each piece adds USD150 in luggage fees. In fact, I think the cost for the extra luggage will exceed the cost of the flight.
 

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Thanks, I found that website the other day but it didn't really mention where the luggage areas are.



It looks really small, and I don't foresee being able to place my baggage there. For context, I'm using these luggages, 2 large, 2 medium, 2 small. The large ones are the max size allowed for checked luggage, and the small ones are max size allowed for carry-on. The medium is in between, and a set of three nests nicely in each other.
View attachment 28739



Thanks for this! It is very helpful. By the sound of it, I might have to fly after all. It will be expensive though, since each piece adds USD150 in luggage fees. In fact, I think the cost for the extra luggage will exceed the cost of the flight.
Curious if you could ship most of it via UPS or FedEx or other shipper for less?
 

jebr

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With that amount of luggage, I would suggest taking a taxi to Newark Penn and checking in the bags. While the NERs and Acelas won't carry the luggage directly, they can be placed on the long-distance trains that go through the station. Checking the two largest bags and the two middle-sized bags should only cost you $40 above the cost of your ticket, and the two smallest bags could be carried on. (Realistically it's unlikely someone would stop you if you brought the two smaller ones plus one or two of the bigger ones, but it would technically violate Amtrak's baggage policy.)

The only issue would be that you likely wouldn't be able to immediately leave the DC area unless you book yourself on one of the trains that also carries luggage. You'd have to come back to the station once the luggage arrives and pick it up (Amtrak will compare the luggage tags to the receipts they gave you.) But it is an option, and if you're okay with coming back to the DC station later in the day or the next day you don't have to book yourself on the train that carries your checked baggage.
 

joelkfla

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With that amount of luggage, I would suggest taking a taxi to Newark Penn and checking in the bags. While the NERs and Acelas won't carry the luggage directly, they can be placed on the long-distance trains that go through the station. Checking the two largest bags and the two middle-sized bags should only cost you $40 above the cost of your ticket, and the two smallest bags could be carried on. (Realistically it's unlikely someone would stop you if you brought the two smaller ones plus one or two of the bigger ones, but it would technically violate Amtrak's baggage policy.)

The only issue would be that you likely wouldn't be able to immediately leave the DC area unless you book yourself on one of the trains that also carries luggage. You'd have to come back to the station once the luggage arrives and pick it up (Amtrak will compare the luggage tags to the receipts they gave you.) But it is an option, and if you're okay with coming back to the DC station later in the day or the next day you don't have to book yourself on the train that carries your checked baggage.
So you're saying Amtrak doesn't have a problem checking baggage for a passenger with a ticket on a train that does not offer checked baggage service?
 

jebr

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So you're saying Amtrak doesn't have a problem checking baggage for a passenger with a ticket on a train that does not offer checked baggage service?
Correct. So long as both stations have checked baggage service, the train you're taking doesn't have to offer it. The caveat is that it'll only go on trains with checked baggage service, so you'll have to come back and pick it up once it comes in.
 
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With that amount of luggage, I would suggest taking a taxi to Newark Penn and checking in the bags. While the NERs and Acelas won't carry the luggage directly, they can be placed on the long-distance trains that go through the station. Checking the two largest bags and the two middle-sized bags should only cost you $40 above the cost of your ticket, and the two smallest bags could be carried on. (Realistically it's unlikely someone would stop you if you brought the two smaller ones plus one or two of the bigger ones, but it would technically violate Amtrak's baggage policy.)

The only issue would be that you likely wouldn't be able to immediately leave the DC area unless you book yourself on one of the trains that also carries luggage. You'd have to come back to the station once the luggage arrives and pick it up (Amtrak will compare the luggage tags to the receipts they gave you.) But it is an option, and if you're okay with coming back to the DC station later in the day or the next day you don't have to book yourself on the train that carries your checked baggage.

I'll consider that. I'm also considering buying two seats on a flight under my name, since it's cheaper to buy a seat than additional baggage allowance.
 
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