Posted by Sarah
Last night, I was discussing the relative benefits of train versus air travel with some friends and colleagues. I have to say, I come down firmly on the train side – not just because of the environmental benefits, but because I do actually prefer travelling by train. Unfortunately, while a lot of my peers agree with me, their children do not – in fact, some of them said their children don’t actually see a holiday as a holiday unless they’re getting on a plane to fly to their destination!
This makes me a little sad – when I was growing up, getting on the train was as much of an adventure as taking a flight and, in many ways, much less stressful. Today’s trains might be much more crowded, prone to delays and seemingly more expensive, but there are plenty of ways in which you can make the most of rail travel, both in terms of cost and overall experience. Here are my tips:
1. Buy your tickets early! Train travel seems to keep going up in price, but I’ve found that if you buy tickets even three or four weeks in advance, you can make great savings. This applies to first class travel as well, which might be preferable if you’re travelling during peak hours. Plus, your kids will love the extra space and attention – and you’ll relish the free cups of tea.
2. Get a Family and Friends Railcard. Previously known as the Family Railcard, this offers you one third of adult fares and 60% off kids fares, when you buy a railcard at £24 for the year. And since it accommodates up to four adults and four children, it’s perfect for larger families and any friends that may come along for the ride.
3. Avoid travelling on weekends: you’d be amazed at how much calmer and more relaxed a train journey can be on a Wednesday afternoon compared to a Friday. If you’re travelling during the Easter or summer holidays, this is a much more realistic possibility too.
4. Get a sleeper train! One of my favourite train journeys ever was from London to Edinburgh on the Caledonian Sleeper, when my friends and I got a berth. Yes, it does take ages, but it’s surprisingly fun and comfortable, especially when you have a berth to yourself. It’ll make it more exciting for kids too!
5. Take the Eurostar to Paris instead of the plane. This is much easier to do when your journey starts at London, but even if you’re travelling in from northern England, Scotland or Wales, the benefits are immense. You just hop on the train and little over two hours later, you’re right in the centre of the French capital. And your kids will love it even more if you explain that the Channel Tunnel goes under water…
What’s more, there are plenty of ways to organise hotel and rail breaks, in the same way that you might book a hotel and flight package together – a service that will save you both time and money. In fact, the more research I do on train travel, the more I think that it’s the perfect way to travel during the economic downturn.
I’ll be sure to sample the train network around Berlin when I’m over there and report back. Until then, have a lovely Easter break!