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If you go: Train to Florida

Email|Print| Text size + By John Koch
Globe Correspondent / December 25, 2005

How to get there

Amtrak

800-872-7245

www.amtrak.com

The range for coach seats from Boston to West Palm Beach (changing trains in Washington) is $112-$245, usually depending on travel dates. The roomette charge adds an additional $176-$435 to the fare; typically, the lowest seat charge applies when booking accommodations.

What to bring

Maps

It's fun to see just where you're going, and a good road map of the region, such as those offered through AAA, can enhance the journey.

Business cards

The richest aspect of long-distance train travel is getting acquainted with fellow travelers in the easy, often quite magical, social atmosphere it creates. Even memorable connections are often transitory, no longer than a shared meal in the dining car or a coffee in the cafe. But you may want to stay in touch, and it's handy to have a card.

Adult beverages

Of course you can buy spirits by the glass in the dining or cafe car, but on a long trip it's a convenience and a savings to have a small bottle or flask of your favorite liquid refreshment on hand. Setups including ice, seltzer, and bottled water are generally available free for sleeping-car passengers.

Snacks

You'll be glad you brought some trail mix, nuts, or fresh fruit that travels well like apples or oranges. This is not just a matter of saving money; it's nice to be able to nibble on tasty, maybe even healthy, treats whenever you like without walking to the cafe car.

Ear candy

Perhaps nowhere is an iPod (or any portable sound source) more welcome than on a train. There are few experiences more relaxing than gazing out at the passing scenery from a comfortable seat while listening to your favorite music.

Be a pack animal

Whatever else you take along for your ultimate destination, pack one manageable bag for the trip itself, preferably a soft, expandable duffel-like piece that can be squeezed into a limited storage area. Break down the contents by category and put everything into pliant transparent plastic bags. Socks and underwear in one, T-shirts in another, your iPod and cell phone in a third, camera and accessories in another, etc. Luggage shops sell a variety of such containers, but you often get just this sort of clear plastic packaging free when you buy new linens or bedding. There are no drawers or other meaningful storage in the tightly designed sleeping compartments, and this organizing plan can save much frustrating rummaging.

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