Abby and Mackenzie
Nap time for Abby and Mackenzie

Planning my first Trip of 2019, Part 1

Wisconsin to South Carolina

It seems like forever since my last trip, but soon I will be back on the rails. I took a spring trip out West in the past, but I am going to the South this year. This article is on my trip planning for this trip.

This post includes my tentative packing list and list of trains.

This trip is for a few weeks, and I am breaking the adventure into three posts:

  1. Off to Charleston, SC (this post)
  2. Heading to Disney World
  3. Going back to Wisconsin

Let’s start part one

Baby Mackenzie
Mackenzie is off on her next adventure!

We are taking our first family vacation to the land of giant mice and fictitious royalty, aka Disney World.

Mackenzie, my niece, and I are the only ones in the family that have not been there. Mouse World has never been a priority for me, but an opportunity came up this year, and I decided to take advantage.

My folks, sister, and niece are going to Disney for two weeks while my brother-in-law and I take turns. He has week one, and I have week two.

The “interesting” part of the trip is that we all stay with my Aunt & Uncle in their RV.

Time with Abby

Hanging with Abby
Who doesn’t like a good high five?

The first part of my trip is puppy-sitting Abby (the Newfie) until her human dad returns.

Abby and I will enjoy our walks, the dog park, playing, and just enjoying a quiet apartment. I think Abby will appreciate this.

Since my niece was born in July 2018, Abby has been adjusting to the new sounds and excitement of a new baby in the home, and she may enjoy some quiet time away from little Mackenzie.

Okay, my favorite part of traveling is trip coordination

Me:

This trip has many moving parts because of the people involved, but I could make my rail travel work out.

I can leave for Charleston after playing the organ on Sunday morning. If you didn’t know, I am an organist for a church. Leaving at the beginning of the week will give me time with my sister’s family and more playtime with Mackenzie before they go. It will also provide a chance to get used to Abby’s schedule.

I am looking forward to this solo train trip. All of my train rides are solo on this trip. This trip’s first part includes three trains I talk about below.

Everyone else:

My folks are piling into my Aunt and Uncle’s motor home and heading for Florida from Wisconsin. Their 22-hour road trip starts on Friday of the week I leave.

Paula and her family leave that Saturday and meet up with everyone else later that day; it only takes them 6 hours to get there.

In part two, I will go over how I got to Florida.

Packing
Packing well can save you time and lighten your bag

What am I packing?

I include links for products I use, and if it is no longer available, I give suggestions of what I would consider.

Luggage:

Travel bag
My bag was packed, tickets ready, and my travel socks!

Travel tools

  • Packing Cubes (The brand I use is no longer available) 
  • Amtrak Comfort kit
    • Includes
      • Blow-up neck-pillow
      • Small blanket
      • Earplugs
      • Eyemask
      • And all come in a handy pouch
      • Available at some stations and café cars
  • Blow up pillow
    • I highly recommend this pillow
    • Compact size and easy to pack
    • Easy to inflate
  • Extension cord
    • For uses on the train
    • One of those things you always wish you packed
  • Electronics
    •  iPad (I have the mini)
      • Download with movies
        • You can often temporarily download entertainment if you have Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
          • Amazon Prime Video is part of your Prime Membership
    • Computer (I need a new one)
      • To work on the site
    • Extra cables and chargers
  • “3-1-1 bag” toiletries
    • Gotoobs filled with (silicone squeeze bottles; these are the best I have seen and used)
      • Bronner’s Soap
        • The traveler’s secret friend
        • Useable to wash all of you
        • Works for laundry soap, especially if washing clothes in your sink.
      • Mouthwash
    • Toothbrush
      • A new toothbrush is a great idea, especially if you are not traveling often.
      • Or clean it between trips
    • Toothbrush cover
      • A simple cover works well
    • Toothpaste
      • When flying, you can take up a 3 oz size tube in your carry-on
    • Deodorant
      • If your everyday deodorant container is 3 oz, you can pack it in your 3-1-1 TSA bag.
  • First aid kit
    • You can make you your own as well
    • Bottle opener (in case of emergency)

 Clothing

  • Quick-dry Clothing
  • Something for swimming (could be a pair of the shorts above with something to wear under them)
  • Jeans (often only one)
  • A quick-dry dress pants I usually wear these to the station
  • Socks and underwear
  • Athletic shorts for sleeping or swimming

Transportation

The second section of the journey is free because I used my Amtrak Guest Reward Points. For more information on how to do this, too, check out my article on how to save money with Amtrak.

My Trains

Hiawatha in MKE
The Hiawatha pulling into Milwaukee

My first train: The Hiawatha

  • The train goes from Milwaukee, WI, to Chicago Union Station
    • Traveling from Sturtevant Depot to Chicago Union Station
    • Run time: 66 minutes
    • Miles: 63
    • Single level equipment
  • This train does not have food or beverage service
  • Wifi is available
  • This train has unreserved coach seating
    • Meaning any seat open could be mine
  • I use this train more than any other Amtrak train
CUS Great Hall
Chicago Union Station’s Great Hall

Chicago layover

Union Station has several places for me to grab lunch or a drink, and because I have a room on my next train have access to The Metropolitan Lounge.

I could take Metra’s Milwaukee District North Line to Chicago, but I do not want to park my car in Fox Lake for that long or get a ride.

My second train: The Capitol Limited

  • I am traveling from start to finish, from Chicago, IL, to Washington, DC.
Views from the Capitol Limited
Views from the Capitol Limited Observation Car
  • Scheduled times
    • Departure: 6:40 pm
    • Arrival: 1:05 pm
    • Run Time: 17 hours 25 minutes
    • Miles: 780
  • Bi-level aka Superliner equipment
  • Train accommodations
  • Food on the train
    • Café Car
    • Dining Car (only for sleeping car passengers only on this train, click the link for more info)
  • Observation car
    • Anyone onboard can use this car
    • The Cafe is in the lower level
  • Highlights of the trip
    • Follows the old Baltimore and Ohio Route (B&O)
    • Potomac Valley
    • Harpers Ferry
    • The Allegany Mountains
  • I have been on The Capitol Limited every year since 2013!

    Washington, DC Layover

    Between trains is a 6-hour 20-minute layover at the beautiful and historic Washington (DC.) Union Stations. Weather permitting, there is time to see a few sites, and paid baggage storage is available. You can store your bag unsupervised in the Club Acela Lounge if you have a sleeper car.

    The Washington Union station has shopping and food available. Food can range from fast food to nice sit-downs and everything in between. I often forget about a food court in the lower area when hunting for food. Shopping ranges from high-end brands to souvenir shops.

    Post Office Museum
    Post Office Museum in Washington, DC.

    The US Postal Museum is across the street, and it’s a fun way to spend time between trains. The museum offers

    • Stamp research and display areas
    • Interactive displays
    • Gift Shop and a working Post Office
    • And my stamp of approval (okay, it’s a bad joke, but you groaned, chuckled, or it went overhead, either way, I had fun)

    I am trying to convince a friend to join me in DC to pass the time.

    The last train of this part: The Silver Meteor

    My final train for this trip

    Amtrak in CHS
    The Silver Meteor arriving at Charleston, SC
    • Train Runs daily from New York, NY, to Miami, FL
    • I am taking the train from Washington, DC, to Charleston, SC.
      • Scheduled Times for this section
        • Depart: 7:25 pm
        • Arrive: 4:51 am
        • Run time: 9 hours 25 minutes
        • Miles: 503
      • Single level equipment
    • Train accommodations
      • Coach
      • Sleeper accommodations
        • I have a Viewliner Roomette now
          • I upgraded from coach
    • Food
      • Café
      • Diner
    • Lounge seating is available in the café car
    • I have no highlights on this part of the trip because it will be dark.

    In closing

    I am excited that I will use the new Charleston Amtrak Station! It is not that often I use less than a year old stations. They were finishing the station up the last time I was there.

    After I arrive, my sister and possibly Abby (if she wants to wake up and go) will pick me up.

    Safe Travels!

    Kev

    For more information about traveling on Amtrak, check out my Amtrak series. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about traveling by rail or air. If you are interested in supporting TWK, here is how.

    Kev

    Kev has been traveling with Amtrak since 2012, celebrating his tenth year this year. Over those years, he has been on over 700 trains covering over 200,000 miles of rail. Kev enjoys helping others achieve their travel dreams by assisting them with support and information. Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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