Are you ready for an amazing adventure full of stunning scenery, romance, adventure, contemplative quiet and hidden gems, but not quite sure where to start? Luckily, with a Eurail pass, a little organization, and the right equipment, stress-free travel is just a few clicks away. To take advantage of your travel in Europe by train while staying comfortable and saving a bit of money, check out the five Eurail travel tips below and get ready for the journey of a lifetime!
Don’t Overbook Yourself
It can be extremely tempting to plan a five-country/10 day adventure – after all, with certain rail passes, such as a Eurail Global Pass, you can take as many trains as you want, as far as you want, at any moment. Europe has so much to offer! But even though travel in Europe by train is restful, you really don’t want to spend all your time looking through the window or rushing around Amsterdam in three hours.
To get the most out of your trip, narrow down your focus. If you have two weeks, plan to see six major cities through three countries. Don’t attempt to see ten cities or six countries with so few days as you will spend all of your time on the trains and be unable to truly experience what each unique destination has to offer!
Check out Eurail’s suggested itineraries based on the amount of time you have (suggestions from one week to one month), themes (such as ancient history, honeymoon trips, or Eastern European highlights), or particular countries (think Greece is only about Athens and the islands?! Check out the 5-city tour of this incredibly diverse country).
Plan In Advance
One benefit of train travel is certainly the ability to be spontaneous and take advantage of unexpected, unique opportunities. But plan out at least a loose itinerary before you head out as it will save you money and ensure you don’t try to overdue it. Sticking to a predetermined route for your travel in Europe by train means you can lock down prices of any reservation-required trains (since having a Eurail pass does not guarantee a seat!). Last-minute changes result in cancellation penalties or change fees – though not all, so don’t be afraid to make an impromptu change if you fall in love with a particular city and want to stay longer.
In general, all night trains in Europe and most high-speed trains need seat reservations, and also in the most popular countries like France, Spain & Italy. If you travel in Europe by train in the high season (June – September), book early as some trains have a limited number of seats available to pass holders. To find out if you need a seat reservation, click here. To avoid trains with seat reservations altogether simply go to the Eurail Train Timetable, enter your details and click the box for “Avoid trains that require reservations.”
Take Overnight Trains
Overnight trains are a fantastic way to not only save you some money, but more importantly, time. The general rule of thumb is that if you travel in Europe by train more than six hours, a sleeper train is the way to go. You can have dinner in Zagreb and breakfast in Zürich!
Overnight trains save you from paying for overnight accommodations and as long as your train departs after 7pm, the journey is only a single travel day on your pass. There are three sleeping options on overnight trains: economy, comfort, and premier. To get more information about what each option provides, click here.
Take note – if you are not going to the end of the line, set your alarm! No one will come around to wake you, so to ensure you don’t miss your stop, wake up at least 30 minutes before the expected arrival.
Think Outside The Box
Though travel in Europe by train is not the least expensive way to get around, it is the most enjoyable, and there are plenty of ways to cut costs and remain comfortable. Below is a list of money-saving tips:
- Take advantage of Eurail bonuses like free bus travel in some cities, hotel discounts, and restaurant coupons.
- Don’t buy passes for your kids – up to two children under the age of 11 travel free with each adult.
- nowadays second-class cars are as comfortable and classy as the first-class cars of yore, so there is generally no need to buy first class – second class is often a third to half the cost
- Explore less popular (and cheaper) destinations in Central or Eastern Europe – most people who travel in Europe by train see France and Germany, but what about Bulgaria or Romania? Imagine the unique adventures you will have and amazing stories you will collect
- book two to three months in advance for best rates – rail-passes must be shipped to you (not electronic) and are valid for six months
- travel with a friend – there are group discounts for 2-5 people traveling together
- choose scenic routes for daytime travel (the provincial non-reservation trains may take a little longer but pass through quaint villages and out-of-the-way hamlets) – travel in Europe by train is not simply a mode of transportation – it’s a romantic, quintessentially European experience (for example, try the Glacier Express route through the Swiss Alps!)
- purchase food at local markets (and stretch your non-verbal communication skills!) before boarding the train – you can also see your meal options when searching for a train schedule – click on the train number and then you choose your service class to view the “Meals & Concessions.”
Bring The Right Gear (But Not Too Much!)
For many, preparing for a grand travel adventure is almost as fun as the trip itself. You pour over maps, surf through stunning photos online, make lists – the excitement building with each new destination imagined. As your departure nears, you start thinking about packing.
Acquiring new travel gear is especially fun and anticipation-building, and while some pieces are essential, head this Eurail travel tip: don’t over-pack! Especially for travel in Europe by train – you will be moving around a lot, transferring yourself and luggage numerous times throughout your adventure, so efficiency and economy are the name of the game. Below is a list of the must-haves plus some extras for a little pampering:
- Hybrid luggage (medium-sized backpack with wheels) or wheeled carry-on and lightweight, specialized travel backpack like the Litepack Travel Backpack
- A quality seated travel pillow – the ultra-compact & portable Air Evolution pillow with a soda-can sized travel pouch will save your neck during all those on-board nap
- Pack in layers – weather changes constantly and drastically, especially on trains that traverse such diverse landscapes
- One thing you should over-pack – socks! Two great options are our super soft Scent-Infused Fluffy Socks and Bamboo Compression Socks
- Good shoes are a must. When you travel in Europe by train, you will walk a lot over old, cobblestone streets. You need one pair of shoes with strong support and cushion to be worn with socks, one light pair for the train (our Portable Pocket Flats offer a silky smooth, velvety hug for your tired feet), and one pair of open-air, stylish sandals
- Packing cubes to organize your bag – you don’t want to repack exploding luggage every day!
- To ensure you sleep well and wake up energized after night trains, don’t just throw on extra layers and roll up your shirt for a (bulky, uncomfortable) pillow – take along our Fold ‘n Go Blanket & Case (4-in-1 blanket, pillow, seat and lumbar cushion) made of luxurious French microfiber. The case is a soft pillow, seat or back cushion and the blanket is large enough (and light!) to offer full coverage.
- If you have extra room, consider a sleep mask like our Midnight Magic Sleep Mask with ear plugs
- Travel adapter – our 4-in-1 Universal Travel Adapter is perfect – super small and light – it works in all European countries (and 120 more worldwide)
Your Perfect Train Adventure Awaits With Eurail And Cabeau
When you travel in Europe by train, you will experience a glamorous, delightful and restful venture, cozily immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of Europe. To ensure that you are relaxed while gazing at the breathtaking vistas and stunning scenery through the train windows, follow the Eurail travel tips above and be sure to take along some of Cabeau’s Comfort Series travel products.