Trip suggestions (CA<->FL)

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bmjhagen9426

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Apr 16, 2014
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North Sacramento, California
I currently live in Sacramento CA area and I am thinking about visiting my relatives in Florida in the near future (exact timing TBD). They live in Tampa/St. Pete area and I have researched some flight options to get there, but apart from a SFO to MCO on select days in August, there are no good options, and even if I were to fly that, I would need to ride the Capitols from SAC to EMY (then BART to SFO, similar to what I did in January), then ride the Silver Star from ORL to TPA (and finding my way from MCO to ORL Amtrak Station-which in itself is a challenge as I have never been to Florida). I thought that if that's the case, I might as well use Amtrak to get there all way (even despite the time and expenses, as well as the mask mandate, and of course, I will need to save up for it). What would be a great way to make the trip, and if I do decide to take an aerophobic trip (no flights) option, what would be the best routes to take, given my origin and destination? Also, should I consider spending a night between trains (at CHI and NEC-in NEC, where as well, given the tendencies of LD trains getting delays), which class should I travel in for the best experience given the distance that I will need to cover (I traveled CHI to SAC in 2019 in coachclass, pre-COVID without masks; as for this trip I will likely travel alone, or, more unlikely, with a partner), and when could be the best time of the year to take it (minimally disruptive from storms, fires, and hurricanes)? I would like to make the trip memorable, not just my time down there, but also the journey to and from.
 

pennyk

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In early December 2019 , I traveled cross country from Orlando and back. Because my travel times were between holidays, the fare was reasonable (thus the points cost was reasonable). However, I am guessing 2021 costs will be considerably higher than what I paid in 2019. December is a great time to be in Florida. During hurricane season, there is always a risk of trains being canceled.

I would take the California Zephyr from SAC to CHI. I would consider spending a night in CHI (which I did on my return trip in 2019). From CHI to WAS, I would take the Capitol Limited (train 30) and then connect to the Silver Star to Tampa (train 91).

Edit to add: I believe the above is the most direct route. I also think it is a scenic route.

Brandon, it is good to "see" you. It has been a while. I hope you are doing well.
 

bmjhagen9426

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What LD routes haven't you done?
I have done all LD routes west of CHI, save for the SEA-SPK Builder and Sunset+Eagle Combo (aka "Trains 421/422"). I have not done Sunset LA US-NOLA UPT either. As for east of CHI/NOLA, I have done LS Ltd NYC and Capitol Ltd. I have yet to travel on the Cardinal, LS Ltd Boston, or the Crescent. I have yet to travel on the Atlantic Coast/NEC south of DC or north of NYC (Haven't been on the Silvers or NER's, but I have been on Acelas-Speaking of Acelas, when will the old sets be gone, and when will new sets enter revenue service).
 

Cal

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Socal
Alright, if you want a memorable trip, I have three main ideas. Only one being direct.

1.
SAC-CHI #5 California Zephyr
CHI-NYP #50 Cardinal
NYP-TPA #91 Silver Star

2.
SAC-PDX #14 Coast Starlight
PDX-CHI #28 Empire Builder
CHI-NYP #50 Cardinal
NYP-TPA #91 Silver Star

3.
SAC-LAX #11 Coast Starlight
LAX-NOL #2 Sunset Limited
NOL-NYP #20 Crescent
NYP-TPA #91 Silver Star

Notes and possible changes:
-For 1 and 2 you could also do LSL Boston section, and spend a night in Boston.
-You could go up to Seattle on the Starlight and spend a night there before going on the EB.
-Could go from LAX to CHI and then go on the Cardinal/LSL
-I do not know connections between Eastern trains in NYP, might require spending a night
-Plan 3 requires a night in New Orleans
-Cardinal is most scenic Eastern train but has a crappy arrival into NYP
-Taking the Cardinal will require a night in NYP

The best experience would call for a bedroom, however I would say do coach for the Starlight, Crescent, Cardinal, and LSL. Sleeper for Silver Service (for the VII"s) and 2 nighters. If you want to add more I'd say sleeper for the Crescent or Cardinal.

I wouldn't go for hotels, that's an extra expense and I believe all of these connections are guaranteed. However if you do I would say spend a night in Chicago , as in case you miss your train they might send you on a later train out of Chicago if you book on the Cardinal. Hotels will probably make for a better experience, however, as you will be able to see a bit of the cities.

I would take any of these options, everyone of them will let you go on a new route. Each has pros and cons.

I would go the latest possible, as it's more likely that traditional dining will be back with real dinnerware. Eastern LD's should be getting traditional dining within a year, if that influences your decision as well.

Let me know if I made any mistakes.
 

bmjhagen9426

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North Sacramento, California
However if you do I would say spend a night in Chicago , as in case you miss your train they might send you on a later train out of Chicago if you book on the Cardinal. Hotels will probably make for a better experience, however, as you will be able to see a bit of the cities.
Not to mention that the Cardinal runs 3 days a week, as well as the Sunset, and will be, barring changes.
 
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Hepcat66

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Dec 22, 2018
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Salem, OR
In early December 2019 , I traveled cross country from Orlando and back. Because my travel times were between holidays, the fare was reasonable (thus the points cost was reasonable). However, I am guessing 2021 costs will be considerably higher than what I paid in 2019. December is a great time to be in Florida. During hurricane season, there is always a risk of trains being canceled.

I would take the California Zephyr from SAC to CHI. I would consider spending a night in CHI (which I did on my return trip in 2019). From CHI to WAS, I would take the Capitol Limited (train 30) and then connect to the Silver Star to Tampa (train 91).

Edit to add: I believe the above is the most direct route. I also think it is a scenic route.

Brandon, it is good to "see" you. It has been a while. I hope you are doing well.
This post prompted a conversation with my "railroad brat" wife (her father was a district claims agent for UP for many years). I suggested many adventurous young people would be (are?) interested in coast to coast rail travel. She disagreed, saying young people don't have the history of rail travel that we do. Wonder what the stats say?
 

pennyk

50 year Amtrak Rider
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Messages
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Orlando, FL
This post prompted a conversation with my "railroad brat" wife (her father was a district claims agent for UP for many years). I suggested many adventurous young people would be (are?) interested in coast to coast rail travel. She disagreed, saying young people don't have the history of rail travel that we do. Wonder what the stats say?
OP is a "young" person. I am not.
 

jruff001

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
268
I currently live in Sacramento CA area and I am thinking about visiting my relatives in Florida in the near future (exact timing TBD). They live in Tampa/St. Pete area and I have researched some flight options to get there, but apart from a SFO to MCO on select days in August, there are no good options, and even if I were to fly that, I would need to ride the Capitols from SAC to EMY (then BART to SFO, similar to what I did in January), then ride the Silver Star from ORL to TPA (and finding my way from MCO to ORL Amtrak Station-which in itself is a challenge as I have never been to Florida). I thought that if that's the case, I might as well use Amtrak to get there all way (even despite the time and expenses, as well as the mask mandate, and of course, I will need to save up for it). What would be a great way to make the trip, and if I do decide to take an aerophobic trip (no flights) option, what would be the best routes to take, given my origin and destination? Also, should I consider spending a night between trains (at CHI and NEC-in NEC, where as well, given the tendencies of LD trains getting delays), which class should I travel in for the best experience given the distance that I will need to cover (I traveled CHI to SAC in 2019 in coachclass, pre-COVID without masks; as for this trip I will likely travel alone, or, more unlikely, with a partner), and when could be the best time of the year to take it (minimally disruptive from storms, fires, and hurricanes)? I would like to make the trip memorable, not just my time down there, but also the journey to and from.
The most direct route would be SAC - CHI - WAS - TPA on the California Zephyr, Capitol Limited and Silver Star and vv. But connections would be tight (except in Chicago heading back westbound) so you might want to consider spending a night in CHI and/or WAS for peace of mind, if you have the time.

To lessen the risk of misconnecting on the same day in WAS, you could take the Silver Meteor instead of the Star, but that only gets you as far as ORL so you'd have to take a bus connection between ORL and TPA.

Time of year for disruptions is difficult to predict. Obviously Florida has the hurricane season in summer / fall, but there are winter snowstorms up north to contend with and spring flooding in the midwest which sometimes seems to cause problems for days or weeks at a time. I wouldn't plan around those things. One consideration also is that the days are much shorter in the winter so that limits viewing out the window if that is important to you.

Of course do a sleeper if you can afford it! Fares tend to be cheaper in the winter and the trains tend not to be as crowded so there is more availability (but see above about shorter days).
 
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IndyLions

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Brownsburg IN
If you choose the Cardinal, don’t hesitate to transfer in Charlottesville to a short Amtrak bus ride that will connect you to the Silver Meteor in Richmond heading to Florida. The other alternative is to try and make a tight connection in Washington, which may not even be guaranteed. Or as others already have mentioned, take the train all the way to New York and spend the night.

My wife and I avoid bus trips like the plague, but the short 60 to 90 minute trip on a dedicated Motor Coach allowed for an easy connection. And these days, the Silver Meteor is sporting brand new VLII sleepers if you are inclined to take a sleeper.

If you do, just don’t forget to read up on how to ensure that you will get a VLII sleeper. The short answer is to call and ask to be placed in the number 12 sleeping car.
 

daybeers

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If you do call to change your room or request a specific room, there is no extra charge for that, no matter how many times the agent, or even their supervisor, says. Call back and try again, or use the Guest Rewards # at 1-800-307-5000. The key word to use is "modify" the reservation, not "cancel".
 
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niemi24s

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Feb 11, 2015
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While the VL II cars and their Roomettes are newer, they don't have a commode in their Roomettes like the older VLI sleeper cars. There's no cost difference. And both the old and new VL Roomettes have a sink.

Your choice.
 
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