Train travel in Europe is one of my favorite ways to get around because it’s easier, faster, more fun and usually cheaper then flying, Yes, there are cheap airlines, but it’s all the surrounding costs that balance it out, so think clearly and do a bit of math, or take my word for it because I have. And, read on to find out how to garner First Class Tickets for less than you think.
Top 5 Reasons I prefer train travel over flying around Europe
#1 – Train stations are nearly always centrally located in the cities you’re probably going to visit.
– Long cab rides from the airport can be expensive, so getting to a city by train is far easier. For example, going to Dijon (a very overlooked French city, BTW) has a great five star hotel a couple blocks from the train station – Hotel Le Cloche. Our room had 2 balconies overlooking the central square and the city metro, which was very convenient.
#2 – Trains save time.
– Take into account all the steps for flying – the cab ride to the airport, checking luggage, security check, waiting for the flight, boarding, flying, picking up the bags, cabbing to the new hotel, it all adds up. With the train, you might be able to walk to the train station, or a cab will be cheap. You board a few minutes before leaving and exit when you get there, that’s it! Do the math of the time spent for each, and you’ll see what I mean. I also recommend using my FREE Trip Planner (click on FREE DOCS) to work out some of the details, before you make any bookings. It’ll help you “think through” the details that often get overlooked – those “little things” that soak up time and waste travel dollars.
#3 – Trains are easier than flying.
– Trains can take a lot of the stress out of getting from one town to another. As I mentioned above, flights involve far more steps, and those steps take away of your “fun time” on your vacation. Waiting in long lines for security or boarding, etc. is not my idea of a fun way to travel … even with first or business class. You board a bit earlier and have bigger, better seats, but I much prefer a nice roomy first class seat on a train – no seat belts, no turning off phones, no lines, no security check, no baggage drop off or claim (or lost), etc. And, there’s scenery! And, using today’s high speed trains, you can get from Paris to Marseille in 3 1/2 hours, which is almost 500 miles.
#4 – Trains are more relaxing.
– Yes, flight times are shorter, but trains allow you to enjoy a meal, a snack or maybe a bottle of wine you picked up along the way. Remember a simple corkscrew, a necessity for French picnics and hotel charcuteries. In my 50 years of traveling in Europe on trains, I have never experienced loud people, unruly children or obnoxious people. Maybe it’s the first class cars on the trains I’ve taken. Oh, and when people get a cell call, they don’t stay in their seat to talk, they rush to a section between the train cars where there are often small seating areas to chat, so you don’t disrupt people at their seats. It’s very civilized.
#5 – Eurail passes save money.
– Train trips can be expensive if you purchase them after you’re in Europe, so we always get a Eurail pass way before leaving the US (you can’t get them after you are abroad). For example, a first class ticket on the TGV (France’s high speed train system) from Paris to Marseille costs about the same as 4 days of travel (first class) with a Eurail pass. They are definitely worth it. High speed trains are fast, and they are oh so smooth, and very quiet, even at 260 MPH! Italy has 3 different high speed trains, Germany has the ICE and the list goes on. You’ll find high speed trains in most all European countries these days. Generally, a 500 mile trip might take only 3-4 hours. Again, compare that to the flying time and all the steps involved, not just the trip time. And don’t forget how nice it is to sit in your first class seat, watching the world quietly pass by while you sip Champagne.
We usually go to Europe for a month each year and I purchase a pass for four or five days of travel for two or three countries, depending on our trip. For two people traveling together for about $500 – $700, we’ll get four or five FULL DAYS of travel, regardless of the number of trains you use that day. You have a 24 hour period to use the pass which counts as ONE day. If you plan your trip carefully, you can maximize the “day” of train rides to go longer distances. Or, you might opt for a few day trips by train. Going there and coming back still counts as one trip.
We usually fly from San Francisco, directly to a major hub in Europe, usually Paris. Big hubs usually have a train station IN the airport, so they’re easy to use. We gather our luggage from the flight and either use our “personal revivals lounge” (see the post here for details) or take the next train at the airport to get to the starting point of our trip. That’s where we’ll spend our first night on the trip.
Let me know any tips you have and I’ll give them a try!
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