Sunday, January 19, 2014

Traveling Europe by Train

In a recent New York Times article, writer Daniel Klein talks about the joy he now derives from what you might call "non-travel."  Instead of darting about Europe, trying to see as many places as possible within a limited time frame as he did in his younger days, he now prefers to stay put.  One place, for a month or two or three, suits him just fine.

I agree with Klein's philosophy and will probably want to stay in one place, too, when I'm in my mid-seventies, but for the moment, David and I are still "darters," albeit slow-paced ones.  The trip we're planning for June is no exception.  We will be averaging at least four nights in most places and a week in the Alsace region of France, but we plan to visit four distinct regions in two different countries.
London's St. Pancras train station
To make sure we see as much countryside as possible, though, our transportation of choice between major cities or from one country to the next is always the train.  I've listed a few of the reasons down below, but the most important one is that, unlike airline tickets, we are always assured of getting sale prices by ordering as far in advance as possible--ninety days in advance for most tickets and 120 days in advance for the Eurostar--and the savings are considerable. We will almost always save at least fifty percent and often more.

Our London to Paris train trip in 2012 cost £56 instead of £112 because we bought Eurostar tickets four months in advance. (See the article about that purchase here.) A ticket from Paris to Amsterdam costs €35 if bought a couple months in advance or a whopping €130 if bought the day of travel, according to The Man in Seat Sixty-One, the best website about European train information.  So, the message is clear.  Buy early and take advantage of guaranteed low prices. 

And with the de-regulation of France's train ticketing system, buying inexpensive tickets has never been easier.  In the next post, I'll tell you all about the new ticketing site that makes train ticket purchasing a breeze.

Practicalities -

The advantages to train travel are many beginning with the starting point.  Rather than take a long taxi or bus ride to the airport, the train station will most likely be located in the center of town.  That means you can spend extra time in the city instead of a waiting room.  Even the wait time is less because trains require you arrive only  twenty to thirty minutes ahead of departure time, not an hour.

Take all your luggage with you without worrying about being charged for overweight bags.

Pack a lunch or grab a bite from the restaurant car.

Sit back and truly enjoy your trip because you'll have room to stretch your legs while viewing fascinating scenery right outside the window.

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