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Riding Florida's Brightline Train in Premium and Basic, Upgrade Worth It – Business Insider

Since their inception in 2018, the Brightline trains in Florida are arguably some of the most efficient sources of public transport to be introduced to the state. 
With operations in six cities, including hotspots like Miami, West Palm Beach, and Orlando, Brightline stands as a paragon of efficient and enjoyable train travel. 
The passenger train offers two ticket options: smart and premium, both offering riders a different experience. I rode the train from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale with a smart ticket and rode premium from West Palm Beach to Miami
Here’s how both of the fare classes compare, based on my experience.
The most obvious difference between Brightline’s smart and premium options are the ticket prices. 
Smart fares start at $10 one-way, and premium tickets often start at $27, depending on the time of travel and route being taken.
For a smart ride from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, I paid $17 one-way. My premium ticket from West Palm Beach to Miami was $37 each way. 
The difference in price between smart and premium can be significant even when comparing options on the same route. For example, riding the train from West Palm Beach to Miami can be $15 with smart or $37 with premium. 
I’ve found the closer you buy your tickets to the date you plan on riding the train, the higher the price will be, so plan ahead if you want to save money.
Brightline offers passengers in both classes access to a lounge where they can comfortably await their boarding time. It’s perhaps the biggest selling point when deciding whether or not to upgrade to a premium ticket. 
The lounge for premium-ticket holders includes an array of delectable snack offerings, like cheese and fruit, plus refreshing hot and cold beverages, like coffee and soda.
After a busy morning that involved skipping breakfast to make the long drive to the train station, having some small bites to satisfy me until I reached my final destination was convenient. I was pleasantly surprised by the many options offered and how much of a difference complimentary food and drinks can make when you’ve been traveling.
Upon request, Brightline also offers adapters and chargers for premium-ticket holders and access to a scanner, printer, or conference rooms in the stations.
The smart lounge doesn’t offer as much as the premium one, but it’s still very comfortable.
One con is that, depending on which station you’re at, the lounge can get crowded as there are likely to be more people in the smart class than the premium. I found the crowds in the smart lounge to be a bit overwhelming, but the space emptied out fairly quickly as people went to board their train.
Both the smart and premium lounges have ample seating space, free Wi-Fi, and charging ports to use as you wait to board, so the main thing you’re missing out on lounge-wise with the smart ticket is the complimentary drinks and snacks. 
If you show up to the train station just in time to board your train, the lounge experience won’t really matter — but it may be worth having a premium ticket if you have to be at the station for a notable amount of time before your ride.
Preferred seating on the train is available for premium passengers. Before purchasing your ticket online or at the station, you can select where you’d like to sit on the train. When choosing, you can see which seats face the rear or are next to a window or aisle. 
While riding in the premium class, I was traveling with another person so we chose to sit together on the train in a double-seat row. 
I rode the smart class alone and was assigned an aisle seat that was rear-facing and in a quad-seated arrangement with a full table in the middle. Thankfully, I was the only one in the section and the train was fairly empty.
I imagine it would’ve been awkward to sit facing a stranger for an entire train ride … or maybe it would’ve been a great opportunity to meet someone new!
Premium-ticket holders are among the first to board at the Brightline MiamiCentral and West Palm Beach stations, with smart-ticket holders able to board shortly after. 
I don’t think priority boarding is that enticing because, in my experience, the boarding process for Brightline trains is exceptionally smooth for smart passengers. Once the barrier separating the lounge from escalators that lead to the train tracks is lifted by a Brightline employee, passengers simply make their way to their seats. 
If boarding the Brightline train had the same stress levels as boarding a plane, priority boarding might’ve enhanced the travel experience, but it’s a perk for premium fare that I don’t think is a high selling point.
Seating on the Brightline Train includes single, double, or quad seating depending on where you sit in each car.
Typically, smart seats are 19 inches wide, and premium seats are 21 inches wide. Aside from that, I found there aren’t many differences between seats in smart and premium. 
Both fare classes have free onboard Wi-Fi, charging ports at every seat, tray or full-sized tables, and a great amount of legroom if you’re seated in a single or double seat.
Legroom may only be an issue if you are traveling alone and are placed in a quad seat with someone seated in front of you. 
Overall, I felt very comfortable traveling in both of the fare classes, and found the seating was of similar quality in both
As if the free snacks and drinks at the lounge weren’t enough, Brightline premium riders are privy to complimentary food and drink service while on the train. 
After a staff member verified my ticket and greeted me with a revitalizing lemon-scented cool-packaged towel, I received a breakfast snack pack with Belvita biscuits, apples, cheese, and a bottle of orange juice. 
On the ride home later that evening, I got to choose some snacks and a beverage to enjoy during the trip. 
Smart-ticket holders don’t receive complimentary snacks and drinks — instead, they can purchase from an established menu
On my smart ride, I purchased a beverage and a snack from the menu. Buying the food and drink I wanted still cost less than upgrading to premium would’ve. 
My smart ticket was $17 one-way. I purchased popcorn ($3) and hot tea ($3.25) for a total of $6.25. This felt a bit overpriced seeing as how I could have gotten the same snack and beverage combo for the price of just one of those items elsewhere.
Still, my snack, drink, and smart ticket still cost less than premium fare. Riders can also bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks on board in either class, which is even more cost-effective. 
One of my favorite perks of being a premium-ticket holder was taking advantage of Brightline’s partnership with Uber, which gives premium passengers a free Uber ride anywhere within 5 miles of the station.
This service can be used for going somewhere once you arrive at your destination or getting to the station if you’re within a 5-mile radius. You book it when you buy your premium ticket. 
When I arrived in Miami, my first stop was for brunch at the Little Hen, about 2.6 miles and a 12-minute drive from the station. Without this premium perk, the Uber ride would have cost about $11, so receiving it for free already made the premium ticket worth it for me as a tourist. 
The premium option on the Brightline train outshines the smart one with its complimentary food and drink services and Uber ride, which significantly enhances the experience. 
However, I had a pretty seamless experience when riding with Brightline in both classes. The smart option will ultimately get you to the same destination for a fraction of the price.
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