September 22, 2023 was a historic day for rail in the United States. That was the day Brightline trains began departing from the brand new station at the Orlando International Airport. Now, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura, and Miami are directly linked via “high-speed rail.” We were there on opening day to test the full 7 hour round trip along this new Orlando-Miami route. All aboard!
Orlando Station Experience
At the Orlando International Airport, next to the new C Terminal, is the “Train Station” which connects Central Florida to Southern Florida via the Brightline.
Once past the station entrance, you will find ticketing, bag check, and guest services. Between Orlando and all other stations, the first checked bag is $25. Find all fee info here.
Brightline’s Orlando station has lots of comfortable general seating. The station is warmly lit and could be used to relax for a decent interval while waiting for a train.
Premium travelers have their own lounge inside the Brightline stations. A premium ticket from Orlando to Miami ranges from $149-$269 per person each way as of September 2023.
The premium lounge at Brightline’s stations offers an assortment of waters, sodas, alcoholic beverages, cold cuts, pastries, snacks, and more! We recommend buying premium only if you’re planning to wait at the station for a while and maximize these benefits.
Time to Board!
At long last, our 8:30AM train from Orlando to Miami began boarding. Visible is the “Visit Orlando” sponsored wrap adhered to our train. We were not fans of the wrap, as it obstructed views out of all passenger-accessible windows throughout the trip.
SMART ticket (base ticket) travelers are seated in a 2 – 2 configuration. Two seats per row on each side of the SMART car.
The Premium cabin on Brightline seats passengers in a 2 – 1 seating configuration, with single person seating on one side of the Premium car.
All Brightline cabins come equipped seats which face each other with a table in between. This is a great option for families and friends traveling together.
The Premium seats on Brightline are more comfortable in materials and recline compared to the SMART cabin seats.
Brightline offers a variety of sodas, alcoholic beverages, and snacks for sale during the train ride. In Premium, these food and beverage offerings are free. The full menu can be found here.
Premium travelers are often provided a breakfast, lunch, or dinner “basket” consisting of pre-packaged foods and sometimes specially made items.
Orlando to Miami Travel Time
Our 8:38AM departure train bound for Miami arrived to the Brightline Miami station at 12:16PM. The total Orlando to Miami travel time is 3 hours and 38 minutes on Brightline. This result is from our real-world test of the service on September 22, 2023.
Layover in Brightline’s Miami Station
Once the 3 and a half hour first half of our round trip was complete, it felt good to stretch our legs! Now it was time to enjoy the premium benefits at the Brightline Miami station.
The Premium Lounge at the Miami station is excellent. Look at this view!
I had several of these. Yummy!
Heading Back to Orlando
Now it’s time to hop back on our train and return to Orlando to complete this round trip.
Here was the rather subdued “lunch” spread for Premium travelers.
Miami to Orlando Travel Time
Our 12:46PM departure train bound for Orlando made quick work of the stops in South Florida. However, the train slowed significantly as we headed north from West Palm Beach. Brightline employees on board said this was due to us traveling during hours where school was getting out, creating slow zones. Despite the explanation, we traveled just as slow on the SR-528 segment of track, which has zero at grade crossings. The total Miami to Orlando travel time on Brightline was is 3 hours and 56 minutes. This result is from our real-world test of the service on September 22, 2023.
All in all, I had a great time! The train was smooth, the premium seats were a joy to travel in, and service was decent. Does this train stack up with the cars and planes it’s competing against? In many cases, yes. Cars are prone to traffic jams, planes come with all the hassles of the airport. Brightline makes speeds similar to car in ideal traffic conditions with comfort and amenities neither can match.
We would highly recommend this service for single passengers or couples looking to do a day trip between Orlando and Miami. We suggest you try the $79 SMART ticket and see how you like it before splurging on premium. For families, a car becomes more economical than the train as the per-person cost of Brightline tickets adds up. Brightline does offer package rates and other discounts for families, so be sure to look into that here if you’re interested.
That was our opening day experience on board the Brightline train from Orlando to Miami and back. Thanks for reading!