amtrak - D.C. to NYC

Old Mar 15th, 2003, 03:44 PM
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amtrak - D.C. to NYC

We are a family of four planning to take Amtrak from DC to NYC on a Sunday in mid-June.

I have explored the Amtrak website and am trying to understand the differences in the types of trains.

What is the best way to travel this route economically without having to worry about getting seats? Is there a special timeframe on a Sunday where the train will not be as crowded?

We will have one piece of luggage each. Any help from those of you experienced on this route is appreciated!
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 06:39 PM
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The Acela and Metroliner trains are more expensive because they are faster trains. When you look at the Amtrak website you will see an "Accommodations" column. Any train that has a U (unreserved seating) will be cheaper. Sunday can be fairly crowded. If you click on the train number under "Service" it will tell you if the train originates in D.C. I would recommend taking one that originates in D.C. so you can get to the station early and board early so you can get seats together.
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 07:09 PM
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Gothampc,

Thanks, I did check out the trains and can see which ones originate in DC.

Would you suggest early travel on a Sunday to avoid crowds?

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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 07:25 PM
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DeeDee,

Gothampc is correct, except that in the "Accomodations" column you will notice that some of the regular trains (any train other than Acela or Metroliner), there is an "R" which means reserved. You can buy a ticket on one of these trains for the same price as the unreserved train and be guaranteed a seat. On the reserved train you are not given a specific seat as you would on a plane. It's analagous to Southwest, just pick a seat when you board.
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 07:35 PM
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Thanks, DavidDJ.

There is a train originating from Washington DC with unreserved seats on the date we wish to travel.

However, there are no "reserved seat" options that day on trains that originate in DC.

Opinions, anyone on the best option here for getting seats together for our family of four. Do we go early and take our chances on seats together on the train that originates in DC? Or...do we book reserved seats on a train coming into DC from somewhere else and HOPE that there will be seats together?
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 07:47 PM
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DeeDee,

Your welcome.

What day in June will you be going to the city? I just checked the Amtrak website for Sunday schedules in June, and there seem to be 3 "reserved" trains on each Snday leaving Washington, DC (7:30AM, 11:25AM, and 1:25PM) If you cannot get a ticket on a reserved train for the day you will be traveling, the best option would be to buy an "unreserved" train ticket and get in line early so that you can find seats together. Of course, you would also have to do this if you had a "reserved" ticket being that there is no assigned seating.
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 08:17 PM
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DavidDJ,

Thanks for your reply. We are planning this for June 15.

I see the reserved seat trains on the Amtrak website. However, all these reserved seat trains ORIGINATE somewhere besides DC. Gothampc had suggested finding a train that originated in DC so that we could arrive early and enter a train that wasn't already full of passengers.

So...what do you think?
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 08:26 PM
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Well, there should be people getting off in Washington to free up some seats. Getting in line early to board the train is the best way to make sure that you can get 4 seats together. I would probably take an earlier train since it will be less crowded.
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 08:33 PM
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DeeDee,

It appears that the 7:30AM "reserved" train on June 15th (Train #54) originates in Washington, DC, the other two "reserved trains do not. I know that 7:30 is early, but that would be your best option.
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 09:09 PM
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Thanks DavidDJ.

I actually hadn't noticed that early one the first time I checked the Amtrak website since I had been entering 11 am as departure time.

Thanks, that is undoubtedly the best one for availability of seats.
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Old Mar 15th, 2003, 09:14 PM
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DeeDee,

Glad I could help. Have a great time in NYC.
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Old Mar 16th, 2003, 07:56 AM
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DeeDee,

If I can stick my two cents in. If all four of you are traveling together, it may be cheaper and easier (somewhat) to rent a car in DC and drop it at the airport in NYC (I would recommend LaGuardia). On a Sunday, parking on the street shouldn't be much of a problem, even in Midtown. Just read the signs or ask the doorman. This way you can drop off all your stuff at the hotel and have the car to play around with in Manhattan on Sunday. Do something fun, like picnic at the Cloisters or the New York Botanical Gardens, maybe Coney Island. Any of which can be a pain to do on Public transportation because of the time involved. Then one or two of you can drop the car off at the airport later that night or early the next morning, returning back to Manhattan on public transportation (I would do the early am next day. Riding the subway at Rush Hour can be a trip, if you've never done it before or there isn't a subway where you're from).
If you are travelling with small children then this might not be a great idea. Public transport back from LaGuardia with tired little ones won't be fun.
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Old Mar 16th, 2003, 08:38 AM
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Just so you know, reserved seats still does not guarantee that the four of you will be seated together. A reserved train only guarantees you get a seat.
Having said that, a 730am train should be quiet.
Also note, if interested, in my experience, a weekday mid-day train is usually quieter than a Sunday mid-day train.
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Old Mar 16th, 2003, 09:58 AM
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I would say base it on how well your family travels. It will not be impossible to get seats together in the late morning or afternoon trains, you will just have to arrive at the station earlier to get ahead of the line. I have arrived 30-45 minutes early and always had a good choice of seats. Additionally I have seen the gate agents let families go first, but only sometimes, just depends on the agent.
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Old Mar 16th, 2003, 10:43 AM
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DeeDee, if you don't want to spend the extra money for the reserved-seat premium trains (Acela and Metro), you may still want to look into the "Business Class" option for the other trains. I believe that for a surcharge (I believe on this run, it's about $30), you get a guaranteed seat (although not an _assigned_ seat) in a special, dedicated car on an otherwise unreserved train. You also get free beverages and usually a movie (but bring your own earphones).

When you go to amtrak.com and pull up the trains between "WAS" and "NYP", look for the "B" in a box under accommodations -- if that's there, it means that special car is available.

When I did it for an 8:45am train, I got a fare of $72 plus $30 business class = $102 as opposed to $157 for the Acela.
 
Old Mar 16th, 2003, 02:23 PM
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Thanks to all for the suggestions and advice.

Driving would be an option, although I understand it would probably take longer, maybe by an hour or so (5 hrs).

Amtrak just today has a new special which gives us a total fare of $144 for four! I figure that would be tough to beat with a rental car and the cost of gas today. Plus, we have never driven along the Northeast coast, let alone New York City!! A bit intimidating!

We traveled all through Europe last June on train and had a blast.

Glad to hear that the 7:30 am train should be quiet. We will probably book that one or the next one with reserved seats that originates in DC.

Thanks for all the great help.
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Old Mar 16th, 2003, 07:07 PM
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You don't want to drive, trust me. This is not a particularly pleasant drive and you are nowhere near the "coast." So enjoy the train. I'm not sure you really have to get up so early to get that 7:25 train, although it'll certainly give you more time in NYC that day. But if you add on for the business-class car, you could conceivably take a later train -- such as the 8:20 or the 9:25, which may not even be all that busy anyway.
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Old Mar 17th, 2003, 06:41 AM
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If you want a better chance to be together, find a train that starts south of DC, and board the train in Alexandria. I know that the trains from Newport News (94/95,66/67) all stop for awhile in DC, where many passengers exit. You can snag those seats as they empty out, it's usually 1/2 hour or so before the new passengers are boarded, giving you time go find seats close by. If your kids are quite young, a conductor might even get you one of those 2-facing-2 seats, if they're occupied by passengers traveling solo.
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Old Mar 17th, 2003, 07:32 AM
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I don't think you need to go to Alexandria. If you're taking a 7:30 AM train on a Sunday morning, and you arrive at the gate about a half-hour early, you should be able to find seats together. When they let everyone through the gate, you or your spouse can go ahead and find four seats together. This way your kids won't slow you down. At that hour of day, I really wouldn't worry about it.
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Old Mar 17th, 2003, 10:32 PM
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Thanks for the helpful tips. Looks like there won't be a problem with seats.

One more question: Just what does the $30 extra for Business class offer you over a Reserved class? And I'm not referring to Acela or Metroliner trains which I understand are faster.

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