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Train travel in Europe

Why I love the train.

I love traveling, however, I confess that flying is not my favourite thing to do and neither is driving long distance…  That pretty much leaves the train, which is why I love Europe!!  

Our rule of thumb is that if it takes more than 5 or 6 hours to train, then we fly; otherwise, we stick to the rails. Here is why:

Access

Train stations are in the city center, a cab, walk or metro ride away. Usually airports are in the outskirts of the city so it takes time to get there. Add two hours before departure and you have already been "traveling" for three hours before taking off!! Then comes the flight, the baggage claim, and another ride into the city. Suddenly a one hour flight turns into a very inconvenient four or five hour trip. Ironically, I am writing this from an airplane currently experiencing mild turbulence... This brings me to my next point: Comfort.

Comfort

Long distance trains are clean and comfortable. You can reserve seats so everybody can sit together. You can get up, walk, visit the cafe and usually charge your electronics. There is no turbulence- unless you get stuck with a crowd of 20 year old backpackers!!! This too can usually be avoided if you travel first class.

Kids on trainEurostar, London-Paris route

Flexibility

Most of the time trains run more frequently than planes do and they are usually not overbooked. It is easier to find a schedule that suits you. If you miss the train, there is always another one- you may loose your seat reservations but it is just a matter of looking for an empty spot.


The views

Unlike the milky clouds I am looking at as I write this post, the view from a train is ever changing and depending where you travel it can be breathtaking.

Kids on Bernina ExpressBernina Express, Switzerland

French countryside on the way to Paris

Food

There is usually a food cart on the train- and this is a favourite of the kids, even though the food is generally not the best.  Another option is to bring your own and eat on your own schedule.  Depending on what class of ticket you purchase, some of the trains include food service.

Breakfast on the Eurostar

Eurostar food service included in our fare

One thing to consider regarding food: if you are planing to eat at the station or purchase something to take with you, keep in mind that sometimes the stations are extremely crowded, lines for food can be long and finding a seat is nearly impossible. Give yourself enough time. We have had to have many picnic style meals on the station floor after waiting in long lines for food!

Train station picnicTrain station picnic

Family Friendly

The seats are more comfortable and it is easier for kids to curl up and sleep since there is no seatbelt issue. We also reserve the seats that face each other with a table in between. We can play cards, read, watch movies and it turns into down time for them. This is the time to catch up on some sleep, reading and blogging!  We usually purchase rail passes that give us flexibility in our schedule. They are also convenient since you don’t need to purchase individual tickets at the train station. Hence there is no line, you just show up, find your track and hop on! Just make sure you understand the rules of your pass, once you do, travel is literally a breeze!


6 reasons to love train travel in Europe