New Rail Access to Disney World? Brightline Plans Expansion to Orlando

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Brightline Plans Orlando Expansion
Credit: Brightline

Brightline Plans Orlando Expansion – A New Rail Option for Disney World Travelers

For many, the logistics of getting to and from Disney World holds the same importance as how they will get around once there.  And one factor often drives the other.  Alas, there is much to consider.  “I don’t want to drive to Disney, but I want a car there.”  “I like to fly to Disney World, but I don’t like being stuck there.”  “Is a rental car more trouble than it’s worth?”  “Why pay for a rental car and parking if I’m just going to be at Disney World the whole time?”  The questions seemingly never end.  Let’s dive into the Brightline plans for Orlando expansion and how it could positively impact Disney World (and other Florida) travelers.

The Orlando Plan

Brightline operates trains between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, although service is currently suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  However, Brightline is continuing its expansion to Orlando, planning to open its “South Terminal” at Orlando International Airport (MCO) in 2022.    Future expansion plans also call for Disney Springs and Tampa stations.  The below map reflects the upcoming plans:

Brightline Plans Orlando Expansion
Credit: Brightline

Brightline Service and Amenities

The American-made trains offer two classes of service: SMART, considered their business class option, and SELECT, a first class experience with all-inclusive amenities.  Free wi-fi is available onboard, plus each seat is equipped with multiple power and USB outlets.  Here’s a summary of the different classes:

Brightline Plans Orlando Expansion
Credit: Brightline

My Initial Thoughts

First and foremost, I see Brightline and its ongoing expansion as a significant “See Florida” option.  It enhances a vacation with increased transit options for those wanting to experience Disney World and see other parts of Florida.  But in and of itself, I don’t think it delivers any substantial value-added for those with plans solely focused on Orlando and Disney World.  Indeed, Disney World has a streamlined transportation experience from MCO airport to Disney resorts via Disney’s Magical Express.  We had an excellent experience on the Express during our trip last January and plan to use it again.

How useful Brightline can be to you truly depends on your travel goals and style.  If you are looking to see a variety of sights and locations in Florida along their line, Brightline seems like an easy win.  As a fan of trains, I’d love to take a ride on the fully-expanded version with a few stops along the way.  For us, a big, family trip to Disney World is enough, though; we’re not looking to tack on more Florida travel in the same trip.  But I’m sure many are and will be.  Brightline will deliver for you!  In general, I’m happy to see modern train expansion in the US, regardless of where it’s happening.

Another “Train to Disney” Option

We have experienced train travel with a Disney trip back in 2017.  We enjoyed Amtrak’s Auto Train, which operates non-stop between Lorton, VA (just south of Washington, DC) and Sanford, FL just outside of Orlando.  As the name suggests, your car loads at either location, travels with you on the train, and is available for use on the other end.  In essence, your car is a big suitcase on this Amtrak route.  Sleeper car service on the Auto Train is comparable to other long-haul Amtrak routes.  The views aren’t as amazing as other Amtrak routes (like the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, or Empire Builder), but there’s still plenty of scenery.  The Auto Train fit our travel style perfectly.

Brightline Plans Orlando Expansion – Conclusion

I was happy to hear about Brightline’s expansion plans to Orlando and beyond.  While experiencing the upcoming route isn’t a priority for me, I’d like to experience it eventually.  As I’ve said on multiple different topics, it’s always nice to have more options.  And in the US, which has relatively limited train options, I’m particularly happy to see some modern expansion.  What do you think of Brightline’s announcement?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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  1. It will happen just not in a timely fashion. They are already building the leg from West Palm Beach to Orlando. The Disney leg and eventual Tampa leg makes sense. Nearly 1,000 people move to Florida on average everyday but lets be honest the train is not being built for residents its being built for the 131 million people who visited the State in 2019….. also the use of Amtrak while a nice theory does not work in practice, service is once daily as it functions as a long distance train for the Atlantic Coast. Brightline will operate multiple trains daily. Amtrak is fun to take from Tampa or Orlando to NYC……

  2. Not gonna happen. I think Brightline is trying to drum up some PR to attract new investors. They have been out of operation all year, and financial partners are leaving (Virgin). There was some hype 2 years ago about the Tampa spur, with breathless articles about how a family of four could go from Tampa to Orlando for **only** $300-500 round trip for the family! Great, you just paid a premium to a limo, actually took longer to get there than driving and now you are in Orlando, one of the most spread out cities in America, without a car or a bunch of your hard-earned cash. I think there is a good chance they don’t resume operations in 2021, because they are never going to recover the capital costs on any of their lines and can’t hit up Congress for unlimited money like Amtrak.

    Every single “article”(advertisement) on the Tampa-Orlando line intentionally omits the fact that there is currently daily Amtrak service for under $50 RT, sometimes much less.


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