‘Flygskam’ the Swedish phrase meaning ‘flight shame’ has been in the news a lot in the last year or two. More and more people are interested in reducing the environmental impact of their travel and one great way of doing this is travelling by train instead of by plane for short-haul holidays around Europe.
But is it feasible? And what impact will it have on your holiday?
Going on holiday by train often means more planning, depending on your destination, and it means you will get a different experience out of your trip. You might stop off for the night at a city or town on your route and add that in to your itinerary. You might prefer to travel by night train or enjoy the views during the day. One thing is for sure, travelling overland changes your perspective.
Is taking the train more expensive than flying?
Often, yes – but there are deals to be found.
Do your homework, book in advance and you can find cheaper deals.
You can book up to six months in advance on Eurostar and London to Paris by train can cost as little as € 33 each way, while prices for the TGV from Paris Gare du Lyon to Milan start from € 29 each way.
As with flights check different travel dates to see when is the most affordable time / day of the week to travel.
When comparing prices with flights, remember to factor in door to door travel, not just airport to airport (or station to station), as well as extra airline costs like luggage, check in etc.
Is it more time consuming?
It can be, though much more relaxing than a low-cost flight! Enjoy the views, take some good snacks and enjoy a good book or film and you’d be surprised how quickly the time passes.
The beauty of slow travel is that you can stop off and see other places on the way to your destination and make them part of your trip. We have had customers travel across Europe from Scotland to Lake Bled in Slovenia, stopping off for the night in Trieste on the outbound journey and in Munich on the return. Just find a stop on your itinerary that you like the look of and book a night there.
Is it more comfortable?
YES. You have more leg room – especially on long-distance trains, and getting up and moving around is easier. It’s always worth looking at the difference in price between second and first class tickets; if the difference is minimal, which it sometimes is according to seat 61, then opt for first for more leg room and fewer people per carriage – sometimes they even throw in a meal too, so look at what is included.
Also, no queues; no check in queue (except at London, though it is quicker than checking in for a flight), no security queue, no boarding queue, and generally less waiting around. Trains also generally depart on time and don’t have to wait on take-off slots.
While you should check to see if there are any luggage restrictions on your journey, these tend to be much less stringent on trains than on planes, so you don’t have to worry about the size of your hand luggage and won’t risk it being boarded in the hold if there is no room in the overhead bins. That said don’t overcompensate, always try to travel light as you don’t know how much room there will be on the luggage rack, and nobody likes lugging heavy suitcases or rucksacks around. If you have a small case you can lift over your head to store on the shelf above that’s perfect.
What to take:
- Portable charger and fully charged devices
What about activity holidays?
Train travel is the obvious choice for city breaks, you arrive in the city centre and don’t have to factor in travel time to and from out of town airports.
But what about activity holidays which are often based further away from city centres, on the coast, in the mountains or in the countryside? This will obviously involve some extra planning, though the beauty of train travel is that you can usually get fairly close to your destination from main train stations, so it’s worth having a look to see if it's doable.
How to plan your trip
The first port of call for most people is the Seat 61 website, where you can find all sorts of tips and advice on travelling basically anywhere in the world by train, including best routes, times, and info about on-board services.
When it comes to booking your journey though, you can either use a site like Trainline.com where you can book your entire journey in one go, or book each leg separately via the operator’s website (Eurostar, Trenitalia etc). It is worth checking both to see if you can make any savings by booking separately, or find different journey times.
Check the booking conditions, are the tickets refundable/changeable? If you miss a connection due to a delayed earlier train can you just hop on a later train using the same ticket?
How to travel by train in Europe from the UK
Anyone travelling from the UK to mainland Europe by train will take the Eurostar from London St Pancras direct to Paris Gare du Nord. Travelling from other parts of the UK will obviously mean a few hours by train to reach London, so consider adding a night there to your itinerary, or taking a night train from Paris to your destination.
Tip: When planning connections remember that you need to check in at least 30 minutes before departure on Eurostar trains between the UK and France.
How to travel by train in Europe from Ireland
Anyone travelling from Ireland has a longer journey ahead of them, either taking the ferry from Dublin to Cherbourg in France (around 18 hours) or by taking the ferry to Hollyhead in Wales and a train from there to London.
TLDR; Tips for going on holiday by train:
- Plan your journey and book tickets as far in advance as possible.
- Check on the type of ticket and see what happens if you miss your train, can you take the next one?
- Leave enough time for connections.
- Make the journey part of the holiday, if your journey is a long one, which it likely is, stop off overnight en-route on the way and on the way back for a night or two.
- Make sure to have some entertainment for the trip in the form of a good book and/or a film or three, and take a picnic or at least your favourite snacks.
In short, if you can travel by train on holiday, then do. It keeps your carbon footprint down and enriches your trip, if planned well.
Here at ActivityBreaks.com, we don't include flights in our packages, so you are free to arrive however you like, from wherever you like. However if you need help planning your journey do drop us a line, we are here to help.
Lower carbon emissions
More scope for exploring along the route – make it part of your holiday
More laid back and comfortable
Often more expensive than low cost flights
Longer travel time
Main photo via Pixabay