Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Airn

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#1
I am not an experienced traveler. I don't know many people who are. But I do know that many Chazzers travel and I thought you could help me out.

The SO and I (as well as Gwen, if the situation allowed) were going to go to Wisconsin this Christmas. SO's grandmother flies weekly and was going to use her frequent flier miles to book us flights to and from WI. From what she found out, she would only have enough miles to get us THERE and not BACK. Which is kind of important.

This still might be an option, depending on how persuasive she is or if she picks another airline. I'm really not sure. My SO and his family are awful at communication.

The second option we looked at was driving. Unfortunately I don't feel comfortable driving my little Cobalt all the way up there, especially in the middle of winter. So we looked into renting a vehicle.We wanted something mid size so Gwen would fit comfortably as well as our luggage. Holly hell, that's expensive. We assume this option is pretty much off the table, but if anyone has any (cheaper) ideas, go for it. (The cheapest was about $600...)

Our final and most realistic prospect is to go up there by Amtrack. I have never been on a train. I'm a bit nervous since it's something I've never done and it's an 8 hour train ride. I'm warming up to the idea but.. I'm a pretty nervous person to start with.

Since the train is the most likely mode of transport.... Those of you with experience on trains, particularly Amtrack, how was your trip(s)? I read that no dogs are allowed so Gwen won't get to come with us. (Disappointing but it's probably for the best.) We were thinking of renting a room (it looks like a tiny room with a bunk bed?) since it's pretty much the same price. (2 tickets for there were around $300. And the trip back was under $200.) There is one stop in Chicago and I'm a bit worried about missing our connection. Am I being a worry-wort? :p

Any advice/tips/suggestions?
 

*blackrose

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#2
My friend, my sister and I all took the train to Chicago for a concert. I had never travelled anywhere on my own before, so it was a completely new experience for me. We had a ton of fun! The train ride was boring, but uneventful. The station was easy to navigate and although we did get lost when trying to find our departing train for the trip home, signs, info booths, and employees were all very helpful. LOL
 

milos_mommy

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#3
Are you planning on flying there and taking amtrack back?

I only took the amtrack once, home from DC. I think it was like a 3 hour ride, so not too long. It was very easy to navigate. If you're nervous, just go a bit earlier so you have extra time in case you do get a bit lost.

I've traveled quite a bit within the country, and I've really never had any problems at all.
 

CaliTerp07

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#4
Frequent flier miles are tough, since airlines generally only allocate x number of tickets per flight to FF mile seats. They are often booked up 6+ months in advance. Over peak travel times (i.e. Christmas), tickets cost double the miles.

What cities are you driving to/from? I can look up rental cars and see if you can't find a better deal. You will pay through the nose to rent from one location and return to another, so it will likely be cheaper to rent the car and keep it the entire time you're staying with family. Realize too that almost all places have a "no pets in the vehicle" clause, so you'll want to either leave Gwen, or vacuum the heck out of the car and wash all the windows before you return it so you don't pay fees.

Train is relatively smooth and easy enough, just long. I wouldn't be worried about missing connections though. The train stations I've been in have all been well marked and easily navigated.
 

Airn

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#5
I hadn't thought of flying one way and taking the train or driving the other. That might be a good alternative.

We would be leaving from Bentonville, AR. The nearest airport that Southwest uses is in Tulsa, OK. And the nearest train station is in Kansas City, MO. And arriving at Fond du Lac, WI. The nearest airport and train station would both be in Milwaukee, WI. Leaving anywhere from the afternoon of the 25th or the morning of the 26th and returning the evening of the 5th or morning of the 6th.

I noticed that returning to a different location was more expensive. I wasn't sure if it was miles or getting the car back to the original location... They wouldn't look at the milage and be like "So... where'd you go?" It's hard to justify 1,000 miles driving locally. And I didn't know about the no pets rule. I was looking for that option. That sucks. :/ We might break the rules. That was really the upside of driving, since SO's family LOVES dogs and especially Gwen. It's like our kid.

I appreciate all the help. I think I'll be fine now. It's really just my SO and his family's lack of planning that is frustrating me. We're not getting along very well about this situation and his grandmother isn't answering my texts or e-mails. Either we spend two weeks in Wisconsin or we.. stay home. I feel like it's a lot to prepare for and it's definitely stressing me that SO is taking this so nonchalantly. Anyway, we'll figure it out. :popcorn:
 

CaliTerp07

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#6
They wouldn't look at the milage and be like "So... where'd you go?" It's hard to justify 1,000 miles driving locally. And I didn't know about the no pets rule. I was looking for that option. That sucks. :/ We might break the rules. That was really the upside of driving, since SO's family LOVES dogs and especially Gwen. It's like our kid.
Nope, just make sure the car has unlimited mileage. My parents have rented cars when they drive from Santa Barbara to Seattle because they don't want to put the mileage on their own car. When you rent them for a long period of time they can be pretty cheap.

I totally broke the rules last time I had to rent a car. Someone crashed into mine, so it was in the shop and I had a rental...but we already had vacation booked at the beach WITH Lucy. I was bringing her, rules be darned. I just laid towels over the back seat and made sure to vacuum/clean before returning it. No one said anything.
 

CaliTerp07

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#7
Kayak says you can get an intermediate sized car (though they claim a corolla or elantra is "intermediate"...) for $27/day. $293 total (plus cost of gas, of course). It's from enterprise, December 26th-January 6th.

Just to give you a ball park.

Good luck with whatever you choose! Remember to factor in the cost of a caretaker for Gwen if she doesn't tag along. That adds up quickly :(
 

Airn

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Kayak says you can get an intermediate sized car (though they claim a corolla or elantra is "intermediate"...) for $27/day. $293 total (plus cost of gas, of course). It's from enterprise, December 26th-January 6th.

Just to give you a ball park.

Good luck with whatever you choose! Remember to factor in the cost of a caretaker for Gwen if she doesn't tag along. That adds up quickly :(
Wow. That is SO much better. I'll follow up on that!

Thankfully I have someone that is watching my place, as well as Gwen if she stays. That was a big reason for wanting her to go as well, since last year her boarding was paid as a birthday present to myself.
 

JessLough

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#9
Kayak says you can get an intermediate sized car (though they claim a corolla or elantra is "intermediate"...) for $27/day. $293 total (plus cost of gas, of course). It's from enterprise, December 26th-January 6th.

Just to give you a ball park.

Good luck with whatever you choose! Remember to factor in the cost of a caretaker for Gwen if she doesn't tag along. That adds up quickly :(
Wow. That is SO much better. I'll follow up on that!

Thankfully I have someone that is watching my place, as well as Gwen if she stays. That was a big reason for wanting her to go as well, since last year her boarding was paid as a birthday present to myself.
Something to remember, is you're both under 24... may be an issue/price increase with car rental..
 

JessLough

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#11
Gah. That's why it was high when I was looking.

Unless I have my dad pick it up. Or something.


Why is this so confusing?
If your dad picks up the car for you, and you are caught driving it, the car can be towed and you can be fined, unless he tells them that you will be driving. Any drivers for a rental car needs to show their drivers license when being rented.

I would be very, very careful doing that. Personally, I wouldn't risk it.
 

CaliTerp07

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#12
Gah. That's why it was high when I was looking.

Unless I have my dad pick it up. Or something.


Why is this so confusing?
Oh boo. Do either of you have USAA? They'll wave the underage fees. Your dad can't pick up the car for you unless he's going to be the driver too. If either of your names is on the driver list, you'll pay the extra fees.
 

MisssAshby

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The company that I use for work will rent to you if you are under 21, but it's a $50 or $75 fee, which I still think is cheaper than what the other places charge. However, you have to show a passport when you pick the vehicle up...do either of you have a passport?

I just checked and for a rental (this includes all extra coverage offered) it would be $461.00. That was booked it on 12/26 and returning on 1/6. If you only wanted to rent it long enough to get back home I priced it out from 1/4 to 1/7 with a pickup at the Milwaukee airport and returning in Bentonville it would be $171.00 (again this includes all extra coverage offered).

My husband and I have taken a train a couple of times and never had an issue. We upgraded to one of the rooms and it good enough to have some privacy, but nothing over the top. We didn't have any issues with our boarding and everything was clearly marked with plenty of people to help you if it was needed.
 
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