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Questions about travel from Orlando to Vegas, Niagara Falls, weekends, etc.

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snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
Hi Everyone!!!

It's been over a year since I have posted anything here. I don't know if anyone remembers me. My husband & I have been living in Orlando, Florida for a year now. We love Florida!

Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up on April 16, 2021. We are trying to figure out where to go on Amtrak for our anniversary where we won't have to quarantine so I have a few questions that I would like to ask you guys since the website is confusing at times.

We have been talking about going to Vegas. Does the train go to Vegas from FL? If not, then where would we have to transfer? If we have to transfer in Chicago, would we have to quarantine if we are only transferring from one train to another?

Does Amtrak go to Niagara Falls in Canada from FL? Is the Canadian border open yet?

If we decided to stay in FL, where would you suggest we take the train to for a weekend getaway?

How is it on the train & the train station these days during the pandemic? Do they follow CDC protocols? What would my husband & I need to take with us besides our facemasks & hand sanitizer? Is the cafe car open for food? Is anything open in the train stations?

My husband just got both of his vaccines since he is 73 years old. However, I have to wait to get mine since I am 44 going to be 45 soon. I do have an underlying condition. I have sleep apnea. My husband uses a power chair so we have to do things that are accessible for him.

I don't know if anyone here also lives in the Orlando area but can we buy our tickets at the Orlando Amtrak station ticket window? I have over 10,000 points from the surveys I do for AMTRAK. What can I get with that?

That is all the questions I have for now. I thank you all for your help since you all seem to be more helpful than any of the AMTRAK workers.
 

Cal

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
395
Location
SoCal
Hi. Congratulations on your marriage!

Please note, I don't know much, but I will tell you what I know.

1. Amtrak does not serve Las Vegas by train. I believe they offer thruway motorcoach (bus) service there, you would transfer in Kingman, AZ after hopping off the Southwest Chief.

2. The only routes that Amtrak has from Florida is from Miami or Sanford to New York City or Lorton, VA. You would have to transfer to get to Niagara Falls. Border is not open.

3. I'm not familiar with Florida, so not sure about day trips. Do note that the only Amtrak services that go to Florida are long distance ones, which are all 30+ hours long overall. That increases the chance of delays. I believe the ones in Florida have a good on time performance though. (Also the one that leaves out of Sanford is not an option as it is nonstop to Lorton).

3. Masks are mandated on trains and at stations. It's enforced pretty well. Some stations are open, some have closed. Cafe should be open.

4. Okay, personally, I would advise you not to travel. Cases are still high, and it'd be much better to wait. Amtrak will be able to accommodate your husband. About your underlying condition, not sure.

5. No idea.

Please don't take any of this as fact! These are just what I believe. I'm sure more will comment in the morning and provide you with accurate information.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,077
Location
Washington State
No rail passenger service to Las Vegas, NV since 1997 from Florida or anywhere else. There is a middle of the night shuttle van transfer at Kingman, AZ from points east.

The Canadian border is closed and has been since March 2020. As of now the closure is "official" until February 21st, but expect it to be extended. Both countries have been extending the bilateral closure on a month to month basis since the initial three month closure expired on June 21st. For planning purposes, treat the closure as indefinite. You can get to Niagara Falls, NY, but cannot cross the border and the Canadian side is the better side.

There is food services on trains that had food service, although the "flexible" dining prepackaged heat and eat meals that replaced "traditional" dining is not well loved. Take a look at the Amtrak Dining thread here. Cafe cars continue to operate as well. No cash transactions, all onboard purchases require a card. As for COVID, Amtrak has capacity controlled coach seating, requires masks at all times.

Most stations other than very big ones like Chicago or New York don't have food service available and that predated COVID by decades for the most part. You can't pop off the train and grab a sandwich. There are exceptions, I recall vending machines in Minot, there's a snack bar in the Albuquerque station, and the famed Burrito Lady in El Paso.

Amtrak moved to almost exclusively eticketing several years ago. You do not need to visit a ticket office, you can use the PDF boarding pass they'll send you with a confirmed reservation made via the website or a phone agent. Since Amtrak practices yield management you will not want to wait until the last minute to make reservations. With that said, Orlando is a staffed, full service station and you can pick up a boarding pass there from an agent if you like.

You can't combine points and cash on a single reservation. You can break your trip into multiple reservations and use points to pay for one of them. Do not do this at a place you will change trains the same day, though. They won't have a record of a through trip and an otherwise guaranteed connection won't be. This means Amtrak won't take care of you if you miss the connection due to a late train and you will be treated as a no show with no refund and no transportation for your connecting train. Make sure all same day connections are on the same reservation.

Point redemptions are now based on cash fares, so they vary with the yield managed fares. You can use a "points" option on the Amtrak.com website, so play around with phantom reservations there to see what you can get.
 
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pennyk

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Jul 5, 2009
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Orlando, FL
If we decided to stay in FL, where would you suggest we take the train to for a weekend getaway?
From Orlando, I have traveled to Deerfield Beach a few times (mainly to visit an aunt to lived in the area). There is a Doubletree that is walking distance/shuttle distance from the Amtrak station (maybe not walking distance in a power chair since there is traffic at the I-95 intersection). There are also hotels at the beach, which is very nice and not as crowded as other beaches. However, I did not travel on weekends. I always traveled during the week.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
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Messages
3,668
I'd go along with Savannah or an overnight to D.C. in a sleeper in the Handicapped room. Savannah station is out of town so you'd need transportation. DC is less of a problem as Union Station is right in town. You might stick with outdoor activities or check online when and if sites are open.
 

niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,515
Be aware that while Amtrak does not directly serve Las Vegas, Nevada the closest train to it (the Southwest Chief) goes right through and stops at Las Vegas, New Mexico - a small town of about 13,000. For planning purposes, it's easiest to see where Amtrak goes and doesn't go on this map: https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/Maps/Amtrak-System-Map-1018.pdf

I'm afraid your 10,000 points won't get you very far. Each dollar is worth about 25.5 points. F'rinstance, the cheapest (low bucket) ticket for you and your husband in a Bedroom on the the Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Chicago would be over 16,600 points. But you and he could get to Jesup, GA for 9,869 points if you picked a low bucket date!

Don't want to be a wet blanket, but a quick estimate tells me your very cheapest train trip to Needles, CA (the closest station to Las Vegas, NV)...

• Silver Star or Meteor ORL to WAS in a Bedroom
• Capitol Limited WAS to CHI in a Family Bedroom and
• Southwest Chief CHI to NDL in a Family Bedroom

...would be about $2600 (66,000 points). A Handicapped Bedroom on those last two trains might be best for your husband, but I've no idea how much they cost - you'd have to see or call an agent.
 
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Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,704
Location
Gator Country Florida
When you say "weekend" do you mean leave on Friday and come back on Monday or leave on Saturday and come back on Sunday?

I ask because the departure/arrival timing of the trains do not match well with anything north if you are having to limit your trip to a day-trip or even overnight.

If you can make it a long weekend, Savanah or even further north would be nice.

If you could leave on Orlando on Thursday and get back to Orlando on Tuesday you could make New York. The train would leave Thursday @7:30 PM and get to NY around @7 PM Friday evening. It would leave NY @11 AM on Sunday and get back to Orlando @10 AM Monday. That would give you Friday and Saturday nights in NYC

It does not appear that the H-rooms are available that weekend. (although you could call and see if one really is available) A round trip to NYC from Orlando would run @ $3,000 for two in a bedroom and @ $1800 in a Roomette ... not sure either of those would work for someone with a power chair.
 
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Alice

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Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Messages
1,006
Location
California
H-rooms and H-coach can both be booked online. Where it asks adult, child, etc, say two adults then under discount section, choose one with disability and one companion. H-room is priced like a roomette but you get the disabled discount. The discount used to be on both base rail fare and the room but I've heard some people say it is now only on the rail part of the price.
 

niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,515
I think BoulderCO's suggestion about Reno instead of Las Vegas has much merit if for no other reason than (shown in 24 hour clock time):

• At Needles Kingman AZ (where a transfer van shuttles back & forth to any of three places Las Vegas NV), the SWC arrives from and departs to CHI at 2328 and 0130hrs
• At Reno, the CZ arrives from and departs to CHI at 0836 and 1606hrs

Other than that, I know little or nothing about the towns.
H-rooms and H-coach can both be booked online.
Must now be broken. I get looped back to the same Tell us about yourself window when clicking the Find Trains button.

Something else that's broken is the reverse travel direction arrows between the stations. Up until about a week ago, when you clicked on the arrows, the station codes would switch places within a few seconds. They don't switch places now, but if you go ahead and click Find Trains the next page will show them switched.
 
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niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,515
In lieu of any additional information from the OP, the following itineraries were churned up using the current 3X a week Covid timetables for getting from ORL to either KNG or RNO and minimizing overnight stays at any of the train transfer points:

• Depart ORL for Las Vegas, NV on Tu at 1335hrs on the SM
• Arrive We at either WAS at 0707hrs or at NYP at 1100hrs
• Depart We from either WAS at 1100hrs on the CARD or NYP at 1540hrs on the LSL
• Arrive Th at CHI either at 1000hrs on the CARD or at 0950hrs on the LSL
• Depart Th from CHI at 1450hrs on the SWC
• Arrive Fr at KNG at 2328hrs
• Depart KNG on Fr at 2350hrs on the connecting van (#8003)
• Arrive at any of three places in Las Vegas NV at 0310 hrs (or thereabout) on SA with no overnight stays required

But getting to RNO on Amtrak requires at least one overnight stay unless daily service is restored. And were I to do it, I'd spend the night in WAS just because there's a fairly decent looking hotel just across the street from the station. The itinerary for this one could be:

• Depart ORL on Fr at 1932hrs on the SS
• Arrive WAS at 1438hrs on Sa
• (Overnight stay in Was. DC)
• Depart WAS on Su at either 1100hrs on the CARD or at 1605hrs on the CL
• Arrive CHI on Mo at either 1000hrs on the CARD or at 0805 on the CL
• Depart Chi on Mo at 1400hrs on the CZ
• Arrive RNO at 0836hrs on We
 
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Willbridge

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
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Mar 30, 2019
Messages
729
Location
Denver
I've gone to both Reno and Las Vegas on Amtrak and I'd recommend Reno for your purposes. The Kingman<>Las Vegas Thruway bus is a well-run service; I've enjoyed riding it. However, it is stuck with departure and arrival times that don't mesh well with hotel check-in and check-outs and I am not sure how they would do in carrying a motorized wheelchair. Also, the Kingman bus operates out of the Las Vegas airport, which may or may not be handy. The Amtrak Reno station is right downtown.

Both Reno and Las Vegas have good bus systems if you want to include an informal sightseeing trip and there are regular sightseeing buses, too (all info subject to pandemic measures). A trip to Lake Tahoe is a popular side-trip from Reno.

P1040764.JPG

P1040766.JPG
 

niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,515
The Kingman<>Las Vegas Thruway bus is a well-run service; I've enjoyed riding it. However, it is stuck with departure and arrival times that don't mesh well with hotel check-in and check-outs and I am not sure how they would do in carrying a motorized wheelchair. Also, the Kingman bus operates out of the Las Vegas airport, which may or may not be handy.
According to Arrow, there are three different locations in Las Vegas to choose from for bus/van service from and to KNG.
las vegas van stops.png
But whether or not that's really true . . . . . . .

[And the only time I've ever been to downtown Las Vegas was nearly fifty years ago for a few hours when TDY to Nellis AFB for a Red Flag exercise.]
 
Last edited:

Willbridge

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
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Messages
729
Location
Denver
According to Arrow, there are three different locations in Las Vegas to choose from for bus/van service from and to KNG.
View attachment 20716
But whether or not that's really true . . . . . . .

[And the only time I've ever been to downtown Las Vegas was nearly fifty years ago for a few hours when TDY to Nellis AFB for a Red Flag exercise.]
I've been at all three locations. It's gotten simpler with the discontinuance of the LAX<>LVT Thruway route.

However, there is a San Joaquin Thruway bus from Bakersfield to LVS and LVT. This results in some looney itineraries from Southern California.

The LVS location is the old Greyhound station, 200 S. Main Street at the (Union) Plaza Hotel, which was handy to the Amtrak train station. For readers who come across this in the future, re-check the location of the station, as Greyhound Lines is looking for a cheaper site.

The Kingman Thruway bus serves the LAS site, which is the charter bus lot at the International Airport.

All of this could be cleared up if there were a train station at the Plaza Hotel as there once was. Trackside palms and a platform are vestiges. See photos.

P1040753.JPGP1040754.JPG

P1030792.JPG
 
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snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
Hi. Congratulations on your marriage!
Thank you!

Please note, I don't know much, but I will tell you what I know.

1. Amtrak does not serve Las Vegas by train. I believe they offer thruway motorcoach (bus) service there, you would transfer in Kingman, AZ after hopping off the Southwest Chief.[/QUOTE]

Would I have to transfer in Chicago to get the Southwest Chief?

2. The only routes that Amtrak has from Florida is from Miami or Sanford to New York City or Lorton, VA. You would have to transfer to get to Niagara Falls. Border is not open.
Whenever the border does open, where would we transfer from to get to Niagara Falls?

3. I'm not familiar with Florida, so not sure about day trips. Do note that the only Amtrak services that go to Florida are long distance ones, which are all 30+ hours long overall. That increases the chance of delays. I believe the ones in Florida have a good on time performance though. (Also the one that leaves out of Sanford is not an option as it is nonstop to Lorton).
I know all about the long distance trains & their delays. We used to take the Lakeshore Limited from NYC to Chicago, then transfer in Chicago to Denver on the California Zephyr. We have even taken the train from NYC to CA once. We have also taken Southwest Chief from Raton to Kansas City. We are just not too familiar with traveling from FL to other states or other parts of FL. We are only familiar with the Orlando area.

3. Masks are mandated on trains and at stations. It's enforced pretty well. Some stations are open, some have closed. Cafe should be open.
If we had to transfer in Chicago & there is a layover, where do we get food if the food court is closed? Would we have to quarantine if we are just transferring? What if we missed our train & had to put us up in a hotel like they have in the past?

4. Okay, personally, I would advise you not to travel. Cases are still high, and it'd be much better to wait. Amtrak will be able to accommodate your husband. About your underlying condition, not sure.
We travel safely by Lynx & Sunrail. We also eat inside restaurants & have even gone to the movies. We have gone to Disney Springs & Universal. We also go to Walmart all the time so we feel safe doing these things.

5. No idea.

Please don't take any of this as fact! These are just what I believe. I'm sure more will comment in the morning and provide you with accurate information.
Thank you for giving me your best answers.
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
No rail passenger service to Las Vegas, NV since 1997 from Florida or anywhere else. There is a middle of the night shuttle van transfer at Kingman, AZ from points east.
How do we get to Kingman, AZ?

The Canadian border is closed and has been since March 2020. As of now the closure is "official" until February 21st, but expect it to be extended. Both countries have been extending the bilateral closure on a month to month basis since the initial three month closure expired on June 21st. For planning purposes, treat the closure as indefinite. You can get to Niagara Falls, NY, but cannot cross the border and the Canadian side is the better side.
Understood. We went there for our 1st Anniversary & it was beautiful. It was even snowing when we were there.

There is food services on trains that had food service, although the "flexible" dining prepackaged heat and eat meals that replaced "traditional" dining is not well loved. Take a look at the Amtrak Dining thread here. Cafe cars continue to operate as well. No cash transactions, all onboard purchases require a card. As for COVID, Amtrak has capacity controlled coach seating, requires masks at all times.
I don't think the flexible dining is for everyone, it's only for the sleeper cars? We would get something from the Cafe car anyway since it's cheaper. We would be taking coach. We find it very relaxing as my husband would be remaining in his chair.

Most stations other than very big ones like Chicago or New York don't have food service available and that predated COVID by decades for the most part. You can't pop off the train and grab a sandwich. There are exceptions, I recall vending machines in Minot, there's a snack bar in the Albuquerque station, and the famed Burrito Lady in El Paso.
What happens if there is a layover & we want to eat? The food court is not open? Would we have to quarantine? That would be nice to have a Burrito Lady everywhere. I love burritos.

Amtrak moved to almost exclusively eticketing several years ago. You do not need to visit a ticket office, you can use the PDF boarding pass they'll send you with a confirmed reservation made via the website or a phone agent. Since Amtrak practices yield management you will not want to wait until the last minute to make reservations. With that said, Orlando is a staffed, full service station and you can pick up a boarding pass there from an agent if you like.
We actually moved here to Orlando from Denver a year ago & we took AMTRAK. We bought our tickets from the ticket agent as it is easier for us. My husband is 73 years old & can be old fashioned when it comes to certain things.

You can't combine points and cash on a single reservation. You can break your trip into multiple reservations and use points to pay for one of them. Do not do this at a place you will change trains the same day, though. They won't have a record of a through trip and an otherwise guaranteed connection won't be. This means Amtrak won't take care of you if you miss the connection due to a late train and you will be treated as a no show with no refund and no transportation for your connecting train. Make sure all same day connections are on the same reservation.
You think it's best to use the points on a shorter trip & not on a trip where transfers happen?

Point redemptions are now based on cash fares, so they vary with the yield managed fares. You can use a "points" option on the Amtrak.com website, so play around with phantom reservations there to see what you can get.
Thanks for your help!
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
Not many choices there...
Perhaps somewhere between West Palm Beach and Miami?
I would like to see The Florida Keys. My husband wants to take me to the Everglades at some point. We are trying to avoid the beaches in April because of the Spring Break crowd but I do want to visit Miami sometime.

If you will leave the state, the nearest tourist destination may be Savannah...
A friend suggested Savannah as well. What is there to do there?
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
From Orlando, I have traveled to Deerfield Beach a few times (mainly to visit an aunt to lived in the area). There is a Doubletree that is walking distance/shuttle distance from the Amtrak station (maybe not walking distance in a power chair since there is traffic at the I-95 intersection). There are also hotels at the beach, which is very nice and not as crowded as other beaches. However, I did not travel on weekends. I always traveled during the week.

Does it get crowded during Spring Break?
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
I'd go along with Savannah or an overnight to D.C. in a sleeper in the Handicapped room. Savannah station is out of town so you'd need transportation. DC is less of a problem as Union Station is right in town. You might stick with outdoor activities or check online when and if sites are open.
We would like to go to DC at some point but we don't think it's safe because of what happened with the riots. There is also a fence around the Capital building & The White House. When we take the train, we don't take the rooms because they would be too tight for my husbands chair.
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
Be aware that while Amtrak does not directly serve Las Vegas, Nevada the closest train to it (the Southwest Chief) goes right through and stops at Las Vegas, New Mexico - a small town of about 13,000. For planning purposes, it's easiest to see where Amtrak goes and doesn't go on this map: https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/Maps/Amtrak-System-Map-1018.pdf
Thanks for the map. It can be a little confusing.

I'm afraid your 10,000 points won't get you very far. Each dollar is worth about 25.5 points. F'rinstance, the cheapest (low bucket) ticket for you and your husband in a Bedroom on the the Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Chicago would be over 16,600 points. But you and he could get to Jesup, GA for 9,869 points if you picked a low bucket date!
We would be riding in coach.

Don't want to be a wet blanket, but a quick estimate tells me your very cheapest train trip to Needles, CA (the closest station to Las Vegas, NV)...

• Silver Star or Meteor ORL to WAS in a Bedroom
• Capitol Limited WAS to CHI in a Family Bedroom and
• Southwest Chief CHI to NDL in a Family Bedroom

...would be about $2600 (66,000 points). A Handicapped Bedroom on those last two trains might be best for your husband, but I've no idea how much they cost - you'd have to see or call an agent.
Thank you for your help.
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
When you say "weekend" do you mean leave on Friday and come back on Monday or leave on Saturday and come back on Sunday?
Good question. We are flexible.

I ask because the departure/arrival timing of the trains do not match well with anything north if you are having to limit your trip to a day-trip or even overnight.

If you can make it a long weekend, Savanah or even further north would be nice.
What is there to do in Savannah? Where do you suggest further north?

If you could leave on Orlando on Thursday and get back to Orlando on Tuesday you could make New York. The train would leave Thursday @7:30 PM and get to NY around @7 PM Friday evening. It would leave NY @11 AM on Sunday and get back to Orlando @10 AM Monday. That would give you Friday and Saturday nights in NYC
That would work for us, however, I think NYC still has a quarantine thing. We don't want to quarantine for 10 days.

It does not appear that the H-rooms are available that weekend. (although you could call and see if one really is available) A round trip to NYC from Orlando would run @ $3,000 for two in a bedroom and @ $1800 in a Roomette ... not sure either of those would work for someone with a power chair.
We would be riding in coach.
 

snljamie0518

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 29, 2016
Messages
131
Location
Aurora, Colorado
In lieu of any additional information from the OP, the following itineraries were churned up using the current 3X a week Covid timetables for getting from ORL to either KNG or RNO and minimizing overnight stays at any of the train transfer points:

• Depart ORL for Las Vegas, NV on Tu at 1335hrs on the SM
• Arrive We at either WAS at 0707hrs or at NYP at 1100hrs
• Depart We from either WAS at 1100hrs on the CARD or NYP at 1540hrs on the LSL
• Arrive Th at CHI either at 1000hrs on the CARD or at 0950hrs on the LSL
• Depart Th from CHI at 1450hrs on the SWC
• Arrive Fr at KNG at 2328hrs
• Depart KNG on Fr at 2350hrs on the connecting van (#8003)
• Arrive at any of three places in Las Vegas NV at 0310 hrs (or thereabout) on SA with no overnight stays required

But getting to RNO on Amtrak requires at least one overnight stay unless daily service is restored. And were I to do it, I'd spend the night in WAS just because there's a fairly decent looking hotel just across the street from the station. The itinerary for this one could be:

• Depart ORL on Fr at 1932hrs on the SS
• Arrive WAS at 1438hrs on Sa
• (Overnight stay in Was. DC)
• Depart WAS on Su at either 1100hrs on the CARD or at 1605hrs on the CL
• Arrive CHI on Mo at either 1000hrs on the CARD or at 0805 on the CL
• Depart Chi on Mo at 1400hrs on the CZ
• Arrive RNO at 0836hrs on We
This is a confusing itinerary because I am not familiar with all the abbreviations or the times. Can you please explain it to me better. I was in special Ed when I was in school.
 
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