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Europe Trains Guide Forum  |  General discussion  |  Travel plans, routes and timetables  |  Family trip to Europe.
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Author Topic: Family trip to Europe.  (Read 18068 times)
FAM5
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« on: October 11, 2011, 01:07:22 pm »

Hi,first of all i'd like to say how good ths site is thanks.

We are planning a European train trip next year (around late August- Sept 2012).
We would like to start in Paris then travel to Lyon,Nice,Basel,Munich,Salzburg,Venice,Florence and Rome.
Can you help me with what ticket would suit?
Is the Eurail pass the easiest?
Should i buy each ticket once we are at each city?
Not really sure the best way to do this.
I have had a look at several websites but really they are all confusing.
My family consists of 2 x adults and 2 x children ages 10 and 13.

We want to do this once in a lifetime trip without blowing the budget so keeping the cost down is important.

thanks again.
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tUt
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2011, 03:53:38 pm »

Is the Eurail pass the easiest?
Actually it might not be the easiest option, since besides obvious overpaying for the pass itself, you also will need to deal with additional seat reservations, which is compulsory for quite a number of trains on your itinerary. Thus pass doesn't actually save you from going to the ticket counter or getting your reservations online  ;)
Should i buy each ticket once we are at each city?
Not really, since in most cases buying right before departure means that you will pay full standard fare price for your tickets, which isn't best option either. So in our opinion for your case best (both in terms of money saving and hassle with purchasing) works a mix - for some segments it will be best to pre-purchase in advance discounted tickets (it will assure best point-to-point fare possible), while in other cases you might go with local offers. So let's go segment by segment:
Paris-Lyon: here it makes sense to purchase your tickets online in advance from SNCF website (www.tgv-europe.com/en), there you can catch tickets for as low as 20 EUR per person, and they will be already with seat reservation included. Best to buy such tickets > than a month in advance. For instance, you can check on your own that today it's not a problem to catch discounted tickets for mid November with such fares.
Lyon-Nice: totally the same trick works for this connection as well
Nice-Basel: though the distance here isn't that big, but actually traveling by train can get a bit expensive, thus cheapest option will be actually to fly. There is low-cost airline EasyJet which flies rather cheaply on from Nice to Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport. But in case travel by train is a must, then you also have few options: a) purchase in advance discounted international tickets, here we have same idea as with segments above, but just input Basel. International tickets on such route is more expensive than the domestic within France, but not a big choice; b) get back to Lyon using already mention discounted tickets, then take a local train to Geneva (since the distance isn't that essential here, full fare ticket here bought any time cost 25 EUR), while from Geneva you can already use Swiss domestic offers, like SuperSaver ticket (more on our Switzerland page).
Basel-Munich: here again you have two major options a) either purchase in advance discounted tickets from DB website (http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?newrequest=yes&protocol=http:&), start from 39 EUR; b) German Railways offer a number of the so-called group/family daily passes, which allow up to 5 passengers travel unlimited throughout whole Germany. And since part of the Basel is basically in Germany, then no problem to use such group ticket from there. Those are called Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (can be used on weekdays) and Schönes-Wochenende -Ticket (for weekends). You can read more about it on our Germany page. Such group tickets will allow all 4 of you travel from Basel to Munich for as low as 39 EUR for all and only one train change will be needed. And what is great is that you don't need to purchase anything in advance, you can do it already in Basel.
Munich-Salzburg: here your pretty much only option is again DB group ticket, but in this cases it will be Bavaria Lander ticket - 29 EUR and all 4 travel directly from Munich to Salzburg. And again, such ticket you can buy even 5 min. before departure.
Salzburg-Venice: easiest option here is to go with discounted tickets offered by Austrian railways website - https://ticket.oebb.at/bin/frame_ticket.pl?ticket=jticket.pl&LANG=EN . And again purchase in advance allows you to get the cheaper fare.
Venice-Florence: once again two key options a) purchase in advance discounted tickets from TrenItalia website (www.trenitalia.com), offer called "Mini"; b) use regional trains, then you can buy your ticket even 5 min. before departure and it will cost around 15 EUR all the way till Florence (at least one train change is necessary).
Florence-Rome: same as above - either purchase in advance discounted ticket for high-speed train or use slower regional train for which you can buy your tickets (17 EUR per person) any time.   

So at the end we advise you just to take a look at proposed options, check it yourself on official websites, count pros and cons (compare sum of the fares to Eurail pass etc.). In case you have trouble with something or additional questions - we are happy to help.

p.s. most of the European railway companies doesn't start ticket sale (including discounted offers) like 90-60 days in advance, thus that is as far as you can check usually. As result you won't be able to go as far as next summer, but instead just go with dates around end of November or early December, then you will get an idea what to expect in case of ticket purchase month-two month in advance.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 11:20:21 am by tUt » Logged
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FAM5
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2011, 10:59:37 am »

Thanks for your fast response to my post.
I will check out your advice and get back to you once i have checked it all out.
This advice has been great.
We have been to travel agents and checked out several websites and none of them have been as helpful and informative as you.
My family thanks you. :) 
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FAM5
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2011, 11:44:57 am »

Hi again,

We have slightly changed our plans.
We want to travel to Paris,Lucerne,Munich,Salzburg,Venice,Nice, Florence and Rome.
Not really sure which is the best order and most cost effective route to take but the places we would like to go to are mentioned above.
Originally we were thinking of going to Lyon purely to break up the train trip a little but we now think that there is really no point in stopping in Lyon.
We are thinking of staying (at this stage) in Paris 5 nights,Lucerne 3 nights,Munich 2-3 nights,Salzburg 2-3 nights,Verona 5 nights,Nice 4-5 nights,Florence 5 nights and Rome 5 nights.
The questions are-which route would you go?
would you add a destination to make the travel any easier?
or should we leave  a destination off to make it easier?
Bare in mind that we need to finish in rome no matter what way we go around as we have family in the south of Italy that we will visit after our tour.


After your response i will ask you more about trains and fares--thanks.
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tUt
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2011, 12:36:15 pm »

which route would you go?
Well, in case we have Paris, Lucerne, Munich, Salzburg, Venice (later you have Verona instead?), Nice, Florence and Rome and the task is travel purely by train, then we would probably do it like Paris-Munich-Salzburg-Luzern, then via Lugano-lake Como to Milan, from which it's cheaper and not very complicated to do a side trip to Nice, then come back to Milan and continue towards both Verona or Venice with later plan for Florence and Rome. The main trick in such itinerary is to avoid expensive leg from Nice to Switzerland by substituting it with a cheaper one Milan-Nice.
In such case you can get a real deal on Paris-Munich ticket (from 39 EUR if purchased on German railways website), while with Munich-Salzburg you already read our suggestion. With Salzburg-Switzerland it's also not a problem, OeBB website sells discounted tickets which is relatively easy to get. While with Luzern-Italy you can have a few options: a) first and cheapest is SBB SuperSaver tickets (in case they will be available for your date); b) you also have a chance to buy discounted tickets directly from Luzern to Milan.

But in case you are ok with using airplane for segment Nice-Switzerland (like the cheap low-cost one, which will give you better price comparing to the rail option), then Paris-Nice-Switzerland-Munich-Salzburg (or Salzburg-Munich)-North Italy-Rome also will work fine, imho.

would you add a destination to make the travel any easier?
If you worry about total travel time between destinations, then, imho, you won't really need any additional stops, since in most cases either the distance is not very long itself or you'll use high-speed trains (like TGV for Paris-Munich), thus you hardly spend more than 6 hours on the road at once.
Bare in mind that we need to finish in rome no matter what way we go around as we have family in the south of Italy that we will visit after our tour.
In any rail itinerary variations Rome anyway is the most distant point, so it's totally logic to have it last ;)
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FAM5
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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2011, 01:39:42 pm »

Hi again

More questions!

1.could you please provide me with the names of the main stations (or the codes used when searching for these on all the websites) for the above mentioned cities.
2.when searching through all the European train sites should i be selecting first class rather than second class?
3.with these cheaper options that you have found,does this mean that the trains are also of a cheap quality?
4.could you please map out for me exactly which site to book from and from which city and how far in advance to book.
5.could you also guide me through each website as to how to get through the site to get to exactly where you have indicated ie;super saver passes etc.

We like your suggestion of Paris-Munich-Salzburg-Lucerne-(via Milan)onto Nice-back to Milan-Veice-Florence-Rome.

as this is our first family trip overseas we want to make sure that we understand fully the ins and outs of train travel in Europe so please bare with me and all my questions.
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tUt
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« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2011, 08:35:58 pm »

1.could you please provide me with the names of the main stations (or the codes used when searching for these on all the websites) for the above mentioned cities.
Actually departure/arrival also might depends on type of trains you choose, so even on the same route different categories of trains might depart/arrive from different station, but nevertheless. As of today, from Paris you will need Gare de Paris-Est (Paris East station). All the ICE/TGV and even overnight CNL train depart from there. In Munich there is one central station - Munich Hbf., you will arrive and depart from there. Salzburg isn't that big, so it's again only one choice - Salzburg Hbf., same thing with Luzern, the station is called simply "Luzern". While with Milan it's a bit more complicated: all the international trains (including those from Switzerland) arrive to Milan Central station (Milano Centrale), but in case you will decide to make a change in lake Como (station called "Como S. Giovanni") in order to catch local train, then you'll arrive to the station "Milano Porta Garibaldi". Trains towards French-Italian border depart from Milano Centrale station, same in direction to Venice. In Venice you'll need "Venezia St.Lucia", while in Florence it will be "Firenze S.M.N.". In Rome all the train go via central station - Roma Termini, but regional also stop at Roma-Tiburtina.
N.B. but take into consideration, that this is today's info, while in a year something might change (like one of the station will be on renovation or some trains simply change dep/arr. station etc.)
2.when searching through all the European train sites should i be selecting first class rather than second class?
Well, in case of Western Europe difference in terms of comfort isn't that essential, imho. Maybe in Italy with non-EuroStar trains the gap is bigger, but still in our opinion there is no need to overpay for 1st class.
3.with these cheaper options that you have found,does this mean that the trains are also of a cheap quality?
No, it's not like aviation with difference in service between low-cost and regular. It will be the same train, same carriage and same seats, just your neighbor payed full fare, while you was smart enough to purchase you ticket in advance and pay less.
4.could you please map out for me exactly which site to book from and from which city and how far in advance to book.
Ok, let's start: Paris-Munich ticket easier to purchase via German Railways website (http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?newrequest=yes&protocol=http:&), just enter stations you need, then it will show you few option (including the ones with change required), while on you right you will see column "Savings fare" and "Standard fare" and purchase button under, you obviously need the first one. Read attentively rules of the offer and only then purchase. DB sells tickets from 92 days in advance.
With Munich-Salzburg don't bother at all until you in Munich, then just find ticket machine (they are common there) and purchase "Bavaria Lander Ticket" (more info here under Bayern (Bavaria) - http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/prices/germany/laender-ticket.shtml ).
Salzburg-Luzern better to purchase via Austrian Railways website (https://ticket.oebb.at/bin/frame_ticket.pl?ticket=jticket.pl&LANG=EN ), just enter you stations and date, on the top of the page which will appear you'll find standard fares, while below that there will be fare marked by green clover leaf, that is the discounted ones you need. Again read the rules of the offer and only then purchase. Same timing of ticket sale - 3 month in advance.
Luzern-Milan: SBB website (https://www.sbb.ch/ticketshop/b2c/pipSchritt_1.do ). Standard 2nd class offer cost 47 CHF (and it will show up at the bottom, while above you'll find discounted available for chosen date, then you click on day you need and it will show you for which connection the discounted ticket is available.
Milan-Ventimiglia-Nice: currently there is no direct train, but it's almost as simple to do with one change at the border station Venitimiglia (check google maps). So go to http://www.trenitalia.com/, enter Milano-Ventimiglia, it will show you the list of connections. Fastest one are direct InterCity (IC) trains, pick the one you want and click 'continue', on the next page in the column "Selects a price" choose "Mini" (also remember to read rules of the offer), that the discounted ticket you need. While regional trains from Ventimiglia to Nice depart like every 30 min during the day and no need to bother about ticket in advance, just get off train Milan-Ventimiglia and buy your Ventimiglia-Nice ticket at local station, it cost a few euro. Same thing on you way back - separate cross-border ticket Nice-Venitmiglia + another one Ventimiglia-Milan. With Milan-Venice, Venice-Florence and Florence-Rome do the same thing as with Milan-Ventimiglia, since the discounted offer will be the same ("MINI"). Also remember that in case you don't want to bother with TrenItalia website and purchase all your Italian tickets in advance, then you can easily avoid it and just go without ticket to Italy. While when already there just use, as we already noted before, regional trains for which you purchase ticket before boarding the train you need. Traveling with regional trains is a bit slower, but gives you more flexibility.
5.could you also guide me through each website as to how to get through the site to get to exactly where you have indicated ie;super saver passes etc.
We tried to describe maximum above, so, as we already suggested, just try it on your own - a test run. Look at website, follow steps from schedule to purchase etc. Then, in case you'll have some trouble or problems with something, we will be ready to help.
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FAM5
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« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2011, 12:45:20 pm »

Hi Tut,

I have been looking over all the info you have given me and have been trying to take it all in.(a lot of info!)   

First of all your suggestion was to go PARIS,MUNICH,SALZBURG,LUCERNE,NICE-via MILAN & VENTIMIGLIA,then back to VENICE via VENTIMIGLIA & MILAN,FLORENCE and ROME.
What we are thinking is PARIS,MUNICH,SALZBURG,VENICE,LUCERNE,NICE-via MILAN & VENTIMIGLIA,FLORENCE via VENTIMIGLIA & MILAN and ROME.
Is it possible to travel from SALZBURG to VENICE then LUCERNE etc,etc.
As we travel from LUCERNE to NICE via MILAN & VENTIMIGLIA,will it be much of a wait at MILAN or do we just transfer straight away?
At the moment i am thinking that for all of the Italian part of the trip we just book on the spot (no need to pre book in advance) do you think this is ok?
As you can see i am trying to keep it all as simple as possible especially with the booking for each trip.
For the parts of each trip that will require pre booking, what do you recommend--do i purchase tickets with credit card and print the tickets myself or get them sent out via post?

SORRY to be a pest with all the questions but you are the best person for this -even better than travel agents who really have no idea!!!
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tUt
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2011, 01:03:35 am »

Is it possible to travel from SALZBURG to VENICE then LUCERNE etc,etc.
Yes, it is possible. There is even a direct overnight train from Salzburg to Venice that you can purchase online discounted tickets for.
As we travel from LUCERNE to NICE via MILAN & VENTIMIGLIA,will it be much of a wait at MILAN or do we just transfer straight away?
It all really depends on particular connection, but usually you won't be spending a lot of time between trains. Just as an example, in case you start from Luzern in the morning and arrive to Milan around noon (like direct train 8:18-11:50), then next trains towards Genoa->Ventimiglia leaves same Milan Central station at 12:10, next at 13:10
At the moment i am thinking that for all of the Italian part of the trip we just book on the spot (no need to pre book in advance) do you think this is ok?
Here everything depends on choice of trains for all your Italian segments. In case you prefer faster EuroStar/InterCity trains, then it makes sense to purchase your ticket via TrenItalia website, since you can get rather big discount (as of now like up to 60%). But if you go with option of Regional trains, which might be slower (but not necessarily), then you can easily buy all the tickets already in Italy before each departure, since anyway the fare is always the same. The later option also kind of gives you more flexibility, while with former you are a bit stuck with particular trains and non-refundable ticket, thus any change of plans or you miss your connections and you'll have some trouble.
At the moment we would probably recommend just to wait for the new Italian timetable (apparently it's not yet out), then specifically look at every segment (regional vs. high-speed options) and make your final choice, maybe for some longer connections you decide to use faster train(->purchase discounted ticket in advance), but for connections with tight change time or shorter distances regional will work fine etc. 
For the parts of each trip that will require pre booking, what do you recommend--do i purchase tickets with credit card and print the tickets myself or get them sent out via post?
First of all, not always both options available ;) Also there might be third (rather common in Western Europe) option of a code you get after the purchase, then already at the station you just print your ticket via ticket machine by entering that code. Honestly, not very big difference between those three major options, so there is definitely no need to overpay by paying postal fee, since at the end you get basically the same thing
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FAM5
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« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2011, 01:33:54 pm »

Hi Tut,
I have sent you an attachment of a spreadsheet of all the advice you have given me.
Could you please check it out and see if i am getting there with it!
Please feel free to check and change anything.

PS.let me know if you didn't get the attachment and i will try again.
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« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2011, 02:01:09 am »

FAM5, we will be glad to review your spreadsheet, but before please check your private messages  ;)
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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2011, 09:01:15 am »

Thanks for looking over my spreadsheet.

I will now wait until closer to the time to start looking at booking.
Still not sure how to go about booking once it is time.For example the trip from PARIS to MUNICH can be booked 90 days in advance.
Should i book using credit card or is there another way?I know you say they may give me a code for the ticket pickup (at some places)but is this the way to book -by card? Sorry but can you go over this part of the booking again for me?
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« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2011, 01:41:06 am »

Still not sure how to go about booking once it is time.For example the trip from PARIS to MUNICH can be booked 90 days in advance.
First of all, it's 92 days for ticket purchased via DB website, but let's look precisely at each step here:
1) You go to DB website, enter Paris--> Munich, 2) then you'll see proposed connections for which "Savings offer" fare is offered (here it's from 39 EUR), 3) pick the one you like, I've decided to bring example of the morning one; 4) select "Europa-Spezial Frankreich", since it's the whole point of purchase in advance, you'll get redirected further to page like this; 5) first choice is reservation, here it's obligatory for segments France-Germany, then comes seat choice - select whatever you like, after "Ticket delivery method", in this particular case you can just print your ticket right away at home, next column is insurance, you don't need that extra, so just skip it 6) next comes page with personal date and payment details, that is easy and obvious (you don't have any local cards like "bahn.bonus Card, BahnCard" etc., so your thing is just regular "Credic card" option), rest is pretty much the same as in any regular online payment with card; 7) final step is payment, then you just receive your ticket in pdf and print it.
Should i book using credit card or is there another way?
Well, about "other option"... not really. Usually railway companies in Europe doesn't accept any kind of Paypal or other alternative payment options. Sometimes happens something local (like via local internet bank directly or something like that), but that is not your option either. Maybe you have anything particular in mind about that "another way"?
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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2012, 11:21:28 am »

Hi Again,

i was wondering if you could please update you last example you left for me?At the moment when you go to the links-that you underlined "morning one" and "this"the web site says that there is an error.I just wanted to check the example you left and i think it has timed out.I also was trying to find the "Europa-spezial Frankreich"are.
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« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2012, 12:18:20 pm »

Ok, let's go step by step:

Next follows

Afterward

While next following steps are easy and basically you just pay for your ticket, so shouldn't be a problem.

Regarding the offer itself you can find general info about Europa-Spezial here, while particularly for Germany-France connection only in German, but anyway it's pretty much the same as general rules for all Europa-Spezial offers.
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