After landing at LAX, we made our way to the FlyAway Bus to Union Station. The shuttle was easy to find outside baggage claim. We didn’t wait long, as the service typically runs every 10 to 15 minutes. I bought our tickets ($9.75 each, one way) on the FlyAway app. Children under age 5 can ride free with a paying adult. It was easy to find seats on the uncrowded bus. The FlyAway Bus doesn’t require booster seats; the same goes for Anaheim Regional Transportation buses, , which we’d take on the final leg of our journey. This allowed us to pack lighter and made maneuvering much easier with a child. (Checking car and booster seat rules before taking public buses with young children is always a good idea.)
At 11 a.m. on a Thursday, it took us 26 minutes to get to Union Station. It’s a 14-mile trip, but how long that takes with L.A. traffic can vary widely. We spent much of that time looking out the window, planning for snacks we’d buy at the train station and discussing how we needed to return to Los Angeles because there was so much to explore. My son sat patiently in his window seat, but as we neared the station, he became excited about the train and experiencing Halloween season at Disneyland. Once we arrived at Union Station, finding our platform was surprisingly easy. I worried that taking the train would be intimidating. I knew my way around an airport, but a train station was foreign to me. But my fears were unfounded; frequent signage made finding our way around easy.
With not much time to spare for our noon ride on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, we quickly grabbed snacks. Union Station’s central plaza has a Starbucks, a Subway and a convenience store. Our train boarded on time, and before we knew it, we were on our way to Anaheim with only three stops in between.
The scenic train ride was short but offered us stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the rolling hills of Southern California. I thought about how freeway traffic would have spoiled the vista for us. The fastest freeway route would have robbed us of seeing the sparkling ocean. Plus, my son was so excited about his first train ride. He jumped and smiled giddily as the train arrived at the platform. We all exclaimed “choo choo” as we boarded and found our seats. I’d heard that sitting on the left side of the train would give us the best views of the water, and that was the right move.
Our coach seats were surprisingly comfortable and spacious and offered great Wi-Fi. Before boarding, I didn’t know what to expect about coach class. Was it like basic economy on an airplane? Stuffy? Uncomfortable? We could certainly see wear and tear, but the setting was adequate for the short ride. For a few extra dollars each, we could’ve purchased business-class seats. Still, we didn’t think the complimentary snacks and beverages, extra legroom and dedicated attendant were necessary. Ultimately, we paid $76 round-trip for the three of us, saving a few bucks with my husband’s military discount.
After we arrived at the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, we hopped on a city bus for the trip to our hotel. Tickets and bus schedules are available via the Anaheim Regional Transportation app. A one-day pass is $6 per adult, $2.50 per child, and a three-day pass is $16 per adult, $3.50 per child.
Like other so-called Disneyland good neighbor hotels, ours offered transportation to the parks and Downtown Disney. We found Anaheim more walkable than the area around Walt Disney World in Orlando. We spent most of our time on foot. We ate, shopped around Downtown Disney and walked to restaurants near our hotel. Our favorites were Roscoe’s House of Chicken n Waffles and Puesto, a Mexican restaurant.
We never felt like we were missing out by not having a car. Instead, we felt elated with our decision to skip the rental car and parking fees (daily parking at Disneyland is $30 these days).
While this was our first Amtrak adventure, it certainly won’t be our last.