Europe Trains Guide Forum
User Info
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
November 13, 2018, 12:01:41 am

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Forum Stats
2800 Posts in 513 Topics by 760 Members
Latest Member: EPPoland2019
Home Help Search Login Register
Europe Trains Guide Forum  |  Profile of tUt  |  Show Posts  |  Messages

Show Posts

* Messages | Topics | Attachments

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Messages - tUt

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 83
Getting from Lille to Brussels airport is relatively easy, since Lille is connected to Brussels by numerous high-speed trains (TGV, Thalys, EuroStar), so it actually takes <40 minutes to get to Brussels. Those trains arrive to the so-called Brussels-Midi train station, so you'll need to make a quick train change there for the local train that will take you (ride will be about 20 min.) directly to the airport. At the end your whole journey will be slightly more than an hour of time in total.

It's still too early to book train tickets for next September, but you can check app. timetables & fares on Belgium railways website -, while when the time will come you will be able to book your ticket there as well

What would be the nearest city in Switzerland from Milan? Not really bothered which city in Switzerland we can see as long as we can save more time.
Well, nearest interesting (and relatively big) one is probably Lugano, you can then just make like a day trip there (it's only an hour away from Milan) and then come back to Milan to catch a cheap flight to the Netherlands. Or, alternatively, just continue from Lugano to one of the major Swiss airport (Geneva, Basel, Zurich), thus anyway end up traveling through the Switzerland by land (quite an experience itself, btw).
Also can I just book the tickets to Venice and Florence when I get there or do I need to purchase them in advance?
The thing here is that buying in advance allows you to get much cheaper (=discounted) tickets, while before departure you'll end up paying full standard fare price (=might be times higher than the cheapest discounted tickets). The only category of trains in Italy where you can disregard "early bird=cheap" rule is the regional trains, but those are somewhat slower compared to the high-speed one for which you can get good deals when buying in advance.
I could scratch off Florence from our IT and replace it with any country on the way to the remaining countries(Switzerland,Amsterdam, France) any suggestion on this?
Hmm... Florence is anyway on your route from Rome to Venice, so purely logistically it makes sense to stop there + it's a very beautiful city. But if we do speak about the alternative destination, what are your preferences? Old towns? Nature sightseeing (e.g. mountains, lakes)? Something else?

Well, it is possible to squeeze in 1 more destination, however it all depends on your sightseeing practices & interests. If you are not that much into museums and places far from the city centers, then you can more or less manage to see majority of attractions in two days per city. Obviously one can spend much more time in each of those, but for the first visit it might be ok itinerary (at least it will definitely give a good feel of what you like in Europe & to what kind of places you would prefer to come back :)

Rome to Florence: easy & cheap. If you ok buying discounted (non-returnable) tickets in advance, then you can get good deals for as low as 9 euro per person. There are two big railway companies serving the route - state owned Trenitalia & private operator - Italo, so you can check which one is cheaper for your preferred time.
Florence to Venice: more or less the same story as above, buying discounted ticket in advance can get you a very good price
Venice to Switzerland: here it kind of depends on where in Switzerland you want to go (mountains? Zurich? Geneva?), but in general you can start with the same TrenItalia website to see rough travel times & connections available (majority will be with change in Milan)
Switzerland to Amsterdam: it won't be very fast by train (at least 8-9 hours), so perhaps it might make sense to look into flights here (--> plenty of lowcost options, e.g. EasyJet directly to Amsterdam from Basel or Geneva for as low as 20-30 euro)
Amsterdam to Paris: probably won't be super cheap, but still relatively easy, since you have plenty of direct high-speed Thalys trains
Paris to Manchester: yet again, just like with Switzerland to Amsterdam, it is possible to travel the whole way by train with change in London (EuroStar Paris-London & then domestic train to Manchester), however it will take you >5 hours. So flying might be a good alternative option here as well

Yep, the overall logic in situations like this would suggest that "I" (or any other third option) should stand for mixed/indifferent or something alike, meaning not just M or F. However in the CFR version it indeed looks somewhat confusing

It's something I've never experienced, so it's a must do for me :)
Having no doors indeed looks and feels a bit weird at first, however this type of carriage is way more spacious than usual 6 berth couchettes somewhere in Europe, passenger can easily seat on the lower berth, bigger distance between the opposite berths, huge table, lots of space for luggage, etc. So in some sense, and especially if the journey is more than standard 7-8 hours overnight, platskartnyj might be more comfortable than 2nd class couchette.
Think I will just book the Chisinau - Iasi train when I get to Moldova. To be honest, I can't see how to book it only to Iasi, but it seems like I won't need to, anyway,
It's only two weeks in advance sale (i.e. today it's max June 15) and in the "Destinație" section you need to select blue "Iasi" & not "Iasi-Socola", then it's relatively straight forward (i.e. on the next page you enter name & passport #, while next comes the bank card details info)

I hope you don't mind me making this into a super-thread for my trip? But I have some questions about the Moldova and Romania leg, if I may?
Sure, why not )))

I would like to travel by train from Chisinau to Iasi, on a Thursday. How accurate is the Moldovan Railways site? It states that a train runs every day (105, the Chisinau to Bucharest train), from 16:56 - 22:21. Do you have any feeling if this info is right, or more or less right at least? :D
It looks a bit weird indeed, but if one knows how to use it, then it's possible to extract all the necessary info. Regarding the overnighter Chisinau-Iasi-Bucharest info is correct, it's basically a flagship train for Moldova Railways.
I assume that I will be able to buy some sort of ticket a day or two before?
Actually it's possible to purchase ticket even online on their website (however the interface is either in Moldavian/Romanian or Russian). Since this train is kind of expensive option for locals (frequent minibuses & buses are much cheaper) you hardly will have any problems buying your ticket at the counter already in Chisinau.
And do you know if the train has the classic Eastern Europe set-up (every carriage a sleeper)?
Yep, it's pretty short & only sleepers (i.e. 2nd class 4 bed compartment ("kupe") or 1st class 2 bed (SV/Lux)), you can see the price difference yourself (see link above).
I think this train goes to Iasi station proper, and the weekend train only goes to Iasi Socola - am I right?
Yes, it's related to the fact that weekend DMU runs on wide gauge, while with 105 they change the bogies to 1435

the link for Moldovan Rail schedule on the main page is broken (no problem to click through from the main site though) just FYI and maintenance.
Thanks for pointing it out, fixed it
I know you said that the Lviv to Odesa route sold out quickly in summer, but ALL the decent (i.e. not aisle) 3rd class berths sold out by 9 am on the day of sale. Crazy!
Well, that's what happens when you have super cheap rail tickets & summer peak season. Which date you are looking for? There might be a few tricks in order not to hunt for a good tickets right after the sale starts

When booking via the official site, which are the bottom bunks in 3rd class? I think it is probably 1 and 3 etc. (with the line under the number). Am I right?
Yep, odd numbers designate bottom beds in both 2nd class (kupe) and 3rd class (platskarnyj) carriages, in 1st class (SV/Lux) it's only bottom ones, no upper beds at all

8 is invaluable to us Aussies as even travel agents are unable to assist inless you are booking a tour with them.
Well, most travel agents only know how to sell you the most expensive option anyhow :) So I don't think you lost much by not doing your bookings via agencies, maybe besides your time, but in this case point-to-point tickets bought from the actual operating rail companies would save you a lot of money, so your time=savings ;)

Depart London for Brussells (we will not be doing Amsterdam now)
This one is very easy, just make sure you purchase your tickets either via Belgium railways (NMBS/SNCB) or Eurostar websites, since the agencies (like Rail Europe) tend to overcharge unexperienced travelers on routes like this.
Brussells to Heidelberg
Again, Belgium railways (NMBS/SNCB) website is your choice here, otherwise it won't be much different from buying Amsterdam-Heildeberg from the Dutch railways
Vienna to Salzburg   (is there a scenic route for this or for
Salzburg to Lucerne
Vienna-Salzburg... not really, however with Salzburg-Lucerne both routes (or via Bavaria or via Innsbuck/Western Austria) are rather scenic scenic, with the later its a lot of mountains, while with the former you'll get to see a bit of Lake Constance and some mountains
Is there a train from Veroma to Ljubljana?  Or do we do a bus?
No direct trains, but direct buses (e.g. FlixBus) are available (4:30-6 hours depending on connection/bus company)

Most places we are staying 2 nights and some 3 nights.  I have tried to work out so travelling in day time only and arriving before dark.  So may mean early wake up.  The accomodation booked is near the train station for conveince...your ideas are again welcome and whether this is too much or doable.
Sure, especially with your plan to have roughly 2-3 days stopovers without traveling, making a day long trip afterward won't be very tiring. Plus it's not like you'll be doing 10+ hours journeys or something like it, your longest trip would be <7 hours, which is ok on more or less decent trains

I hear and read about strikes on the rails.   Will any of my itinerary effected?
Well, big paralyzing strikes are more a thing for Romance-speaking Europe (i.e. France, Spain, Italy), while with Germanic speaking countries (e.g. Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and nearest neighbours it's not very likely, especially with fancy international connections. Imho, don't think with your itinerary you should worry much ;)

As we are travelling between 24th November in UK to 23rd December through Belguim, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland to Slovenia is the snow something that can delay trains?
It might, but essential delays happen only in the extraordinary snow situations, so you should get very lucky to end up in one of those. With shorter weather related delays you shouldn't really worry much, it won't be a problem, since it will be railways' job to exchange your ticket, get you as soon as possible to your destination and so on.

What other things do we have to be aware off?
In the touristic cities it's mostly about rip-off money exchange points (i.e. make sure you know the correct exchange rate), unworthy expensive city tours/restaurants on the main squares or the walking steets and, in some countries (e.g. Italy), pickpocketing, so just be careful with your wallet, passports & cellphones

Heidelberg to Nuremberg: it's the journey within Germany, so it's kind of logical to use already mentioned multiple times in the previous post German Railways (DB) website for purchasing your tickets. The distance is not very lengthy here (around 3 hour travel), so it will be pretty easy to get the discounted tickets for as low as 19 euro per person or, in case you want to be more adventurous and don't purchase your tickets in advance, then DB passes for regional trains (Happy Weekend Ticket (Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket) or Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket) are your best option.

Nuremberg-Prague: well, if your stopover in Nuremberg won't be very long (<48 hours), then you can actually do a small ticket trick - purchase one through ticket Heidelberg-Nuremberg-Prague (starts from only 24,9 euro) with the intentionally forced intermediate stop in Nuremberg for up to 48 hours. If the journey is longer, then you can buy a separate Nuremberg-Prague ticket (with DB bus it's from 14,9 euro, while with FlixBus or RegioJet companies it might be even cheaper). Also possible to go the entire route by train, but it will take much longer and won't be cheaper.

Salzburg to Lucerne: as was already mentioned earlier, in this case you should first of all decide whether you want to travel to Switzerland via Bavaria (Munich, e.g. Munich to Luzern discounted ticket start from 29 euro or you can travel with the so-called Bavaria Lander Ticket=regional pass for entire Bavaria and then Swiss SuperSaver ticket) or throughout entire Western Austria (i.e. via Innsbruck, discounted tickets start from 34 euro per person). With the later option your number one website would be the Austrian Railways (OeBB) , while with the journey via Bavaria the German Railway (DB) website would be of help.

Lucerne to Chur: domestic Swiss trips are easy, link to the Swiss Railway (SBB) was already given earlier, cheapest option would be also mentioned earlier SuperSaver ticket

Chur to Tirano: well, if you necessarily want to take the Bernina Express train, then it's , but you can travel the very same route on the regular (=less touristy) trains for much cheaper (in this case once again SuperSaver Ticket bought from the Swiss Railways website are your best option)

From Tirano  is there maybe 2  nice village or town, that has a train stop, you could suggest on the way to Ljibujana that we could stay overnight please. other than Milan, Lake Como or Venice.
Hmm... it kind of depends on your preferences (nature, mountains, old towns, etc.). Getting out of Tirano by rail only means going westward to Como area first, so if you don't want to make this detour, then maybe it makes sense to use the bus to Edolo and switch to train there? Otherwise nearby interesting town is Bergamo (most people skip it, but it's very nice actually), then there is obviously Verona (touristy, but still), already mentioned earlier Triest is also very nice place. If you want more nature & mountains, then South Tyrol might be your choice (however it's not super convenient to get there from Tirano)

Any idea why a two-berth sleeper is 392 UAH compared to 592 for the later train? Is it just a question of distance?
It's not about distance in this case, since it's almost the same (with 107 it is 526 km, while with 13 it's 553 km), and not about train category (both seems to be "Night Fast"), but probably about UZ "brandedness" divide of trains or even separate cars, meaning that ticket for a newer (or just in better shape) car would be sold with a higher coefficient to the base price. Sometimes it's very funny when within one and the same train you might take one and the same car category, but actually pay a different price, because one of those cars will have higher coefficient

Are there any timetable changes in Ukraine, or will these trains run unchanged in July?
Some time ago UZ switched to the European trend of changing train timetable during the second weekend of December, so with the regular trains there shouldn't be any changes. However, on some routes UZ tends to add seasonal trains during summer or holidays, so there might be some extra trains available actually

As you guys seem particularly knowledgeable about this route, may I ask a couple of more questions?
Sure :)

Do you know how it works on the SK / Ukraine border (bearing in mind that I won't take the sleeper from Kosice, but will take the 'shuttle' train over the border)?
Keep in mind that you'll need to change trains in Cierna nad Tisou (Slovak border station), since there are no direct seating cars from Kosice (only passengers from sleeper cars don't need to switch cars in Cierna), otherwise everything is easy and smooth, that border crossing is not very popular, so on Cierna-Chop leg you might end up like the only passengers or only with a few fellow travelers.
From what I've read, Slovak formalities will be done on the train.
Yep, but it's not done at the Cierna station, the train departs as usual, but then in the middle of the field closer to the border there is a sort of improvised border checkpoint stop where Slovak officials would enter and check your passports (might take it for a check to their cabin outside) and maybe luggage by the customs official.
Then, once I am in Chop, I will go to some special border desk and get the entry stamp, which should take just a few minutes? 
Here your train will just stop at the platform next the station building, you get out and go inside (usually there are couple border guards showing you the way and making sure you enter the right door). Inside there is a huge room with a few border guards cubicles for passport check, you go there first and after there will be the customs officers next to the big tables, but they might not even stop you. You will walk from the door beneath the white timetable. The ticket desk (first international & next domestic) will be on your right, you can see it on the photo as well (beneath the Soviet mosaic or whatever that is)
Then, can I leave and collect my ticket
Hmm, I think for both trains (107 & 13) you can actually print your ticket yourself at home. The pdf after the purchase will say if you need to print it at the ticket desk only (usually it's for some irregular/seasonal trains and not a year round/regular ones).
wander around the station / go outside? It seems like I should have plenty of time to connect trains - do you agree? (I will be catching the 3 o'clock-ish train from Kosice).
The train station isn't very interesting (unless you are a fan of the late Soviet architecture), so you can take a walk (next door there is local trains station, it kind of even looks like it's bigger than the long-distance trains one) or just go to the store to buy some food (there was kind of a small supermarket on the left from the station square or some cafes/shops on the square next to the local trains station, which is on the right from the long-distance trains station square). Anyhow, you have plenty of time till 20:35/20:56, nothing to worry about.
I am still not sure which train I will connect to: either the 20:35 or 20:56. Any preferences? We (2 of us) did want to take a 2-berth sleeper, but that seems only bookable on the 20:56 train.    I suppose it would be best to arrive in Khmelnitskiy at 8 am rather than 6:30 am...
Maybe Maxy, as a local, can confirm it, but it seems like 13 indeed will be a better option in your case
And is it fine to collect my pre-bought Chop-Khmelnitskiy ticket at Chop station? I'm not gonna be penned in some customs waiting area am I?
No, no, UA officials usually are rather friendly (obviously unless you are Russian national), so would be surprised if you spend more than 10 minutes on all the checks on UA side. Regarding the ticket printing, as was already said earlier, you might not need to go to the ticket desk at all

Maxy already did a great job in explaining your options, but perhaps the only thing which makes sense to add here is that maybe you don't really need to travel all the way from Amsterdam to southern Italy by land, which is way too time consuming. Imho, in your situation it seems to make more sense to fly half way and then use an overnighter, in this case you can depart on the afternoon on May 13 and be in Naples already next morning. Most obvious choice would be to fly to Northern Italy (Turin or Milan or Genoa) and then take one of the direct Italian domestic overnight trains to Naples (most likely will look something like this). Or, if you want some adventure, you can fly to some place like Vienna and then take an overnight train from there. Or do a reverse, i.e. use an overnighter first and then fly to Naples.

Ok, so lets take a look at each leg and see what options you have:

Amsterdam to Heidelberg via Koblenz: very easy & relatively cheap (from 29,90 euro) if you would purchase your tickets in advance either via German Railways (DB) or Dutch Railways (NS) websites. The only inconvenience is that during your 5-6 hours long trip you'll have to make a few train changes, but in Europe it's an ordinary procedure, so nothing really to worry about

Heidelberg to Prague: again, easy and cheap (from 19,90 euro on German Railways bus or from 29,90 with a train section) with the so-called Sparpreis Europa offer. DB website is your helper here. In case you want to be adventurous/can't buy tickets in advance, then you can take a look a the offers like Happy Weekend Ticket (Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket) or Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (more info on our Germany page or DB website). Travel time about 7 hours, so you either will have to start in the dark or arrive after the sunset... December

Prague to Vienna: even easier & cheaper, since here you have a private rail company RegioJet, which competes with the Czech/Austrian State railway companies. Ticket for the direct trains (4 hour journey) start from only 15 euro. Might be helpful our page , it's the reverse route, but still

Vienna to Budapest: fast (<3 hours) and cheap, Austrian Railways sell discounted tickets for as low as 19 euro. Step by step guide on how to buy it - . Also might be of help

Budapest to Salzburg: with the direct train it's 5+ hours and either 29 euro (discounted ticket, in advance purchase required), or 45 euro ("Excursion (Tourist) Ticket" (in Hungarian it is called Kirándulójegy), can be purchased on the day of travel). Or, as a total alternative, travel with two separate tickets, i.e. Budapest-Vienna and Vienna-Salzburg

Salzburg to Lucerne via Munich or Innsbruck: in both cases you should start with the Austrian Railways (OeBB) website. If you plan to travel via Munich, then Salzburg-Munich is cheaper to do with the so-called Bavaria Ticket (again, see our Germany page). Then Munich-Luzern address already known to you German Railways (DB) website

Churn overnight??? You mean Chur?

Bernina Express and travel to Zermatt ?? Swiss Railways (SBB) since not very long ago offer this very cheap day pass offer - , so perhaps you can use it. In Switzerland it's not that important to ride those private scenic trains, you can easily enjoy traveling on the regular trains (run on the same lines & often even less crowded compared to the fancy tourists trains)

Verona via Lake Como: with in advance purchase on the same Swiss Railways (SBB) website you can get the so-called international Super Saver Tickets to Italy, it will be the cheapest option. Or, as an alternative (will depend a lot on your departure point) you can simply use regional trains

22nd ?? Well, Venice? Triest? Udine? Italian Railways (TrenItalia) website will give you a hint on prices & travel times, but in general the distances there are not very long, so you don't really need to bother with any in advance tickets purchase, just use regional trains & buy tickets before departure

Italy-Ljubjana: for Northern Italy-Slovenia options we recommend checking out our Slovenia page (see the last section) - , you can choose one of the options and simply do it in reverse order.

What sites would be best to book these tickets on please and how long before can they be booked?
Well, it should definitely be the official websites of the railway companies in each country (we already gave the links to all those above), since buying via agencies and other middle-man like resellers is a) more expensive & b) less reliable
Another question, would I be better to buy a pass?  If so which one would suit?
Doubt it, your itinerary doesn't really have any super expensive legs, especially if you ok buying discounted point-to-point tickets in advance.
I probably have a few more questions, but once I get the itinerary right, can ask then.
Sure, that's the usual way how we proceed. You check all the recommendations, websites, fares, etc. and then come back with the particular questions, which can clarify those point you aren't sure about ;)

Regarding the "itinerary right" ... as of now it looks a little bit zig-zag like, first east, i.e. Heidelberg-Prague-Vienna-Budapest, then back west Budapest-Vienna-Salzburg-Switzerland, then again east -Northern Italy-Slovenia. It can be done, but maybe simple geographic logic didctates to make it more straight, e.g. Netherlands-Germany-Switzerland-Northern Italy by train, then fly to Prague with one of the multiple lowcost airlines and finally make you way southeast to Slovenia via Vienna andBudapest. Or, if you want zigzags, then maybe at least don't do Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Vienna (all the trains from Budapest to Salzburg go via Vienna)-Salzburg, but instead Prague-Budapest-Vienna-Salzburg to avoid Vienna-Budapest part twice

In most cases, in most of Western Europe, is it accurate that short distance or slower trains do not require early purchase but long distance trains do?
It is always better to make such assumptions on the particular examples, however as a rule a) slower regional trains are cheaper when it comes even to the full tariff for the same distance when compared to high-speed trains; b) such trains don't travel for long distances, so you can't ride too much km to make your ticket price super expensive (unless you ride the whole day without stops, which doesn't seem to be your plan); c) often for regional short & medium distance trains there is either some sort of group pass or at least some offer/trick to make it not very expensive (and you don't necessarily need to purchase tickets far ahead).
Knowing that we have 3 weeks in July, do you have any thoughts on long distance train travel?
Well, in Western Europe in the middle of high season (i.e. July) using long distance train might not be the best idea financially, unless you are prepared to purchase discounted (mostly nonreturnable) tickets like couple months in advance or use long distance trains so often that Eurail pass will actually make sense (roughly you divide the price of your pass for number of days it's valid for and you get your "daily value", which is suppose to be less than your average daily point-to-point ticket price in the alternative scenario).
How naive is it to think we could see a lot if we continued to enjoy the train rides (stopping randomly)?
There is actually a legal trick on how you can achieve the flexibility of a rail pass, but pay much less. It works if you at least roughly know your route. You can read about it more here (last point). Basically you buy (e.g. in Germany or Switzerland) international SCIC-NRT ticket for French domestic route and later use it as a sort of rail pass for the predefined route of your choice by riding regional trains.
I don’t dislike night trains but they may defeat the purpose of what we would be doing.
Well, these days a) overnight trains in Western Europe aren't available that often; b) if they are available, then usually it's very expensive, since they are designed for making money from tourists and other types of passengers who doesn't really care about the price. So even using the overnight train as a hotel on wheels might not cover the difference between high price of the overnight train journey and discounted ticket for the day time trip on the same route. Sometimes you can purchase discounted tickets for the overnight trains as well, but it's usually more difficult to catch those comparing to the discounted for daytime trains. 

A possibility is to fly as far east as desired then “mosey” back on the train? Or train 2 different routes there and back.
Totally possible, e.g. fly to northern Finland and make your way down southwest via Baltic states-Poland-Czech Republic or Sweden-Norway-Germany. Or fly to Narvik/Bodo and then train your way via entire Norway, Western Sweden, Denmark and so on. In both case you can accomplish such trips predominantly by train

I'm unable to add up the costs of the individual train trips because I'm not able to get pricing because, apparently, I am an idiot that cannot figure out rail system booking.
Don't worry, sometimes it can be not so easy even for an experienced traveller, especially when certain websites actually force you to purchase tickets via agencies (=means extra commission) and not directly from the state railway companies. 
I think I need to see maps and routes to fully grasp it.  I am also looking for those, too.
We have links to the relevant rail networks maps on the top of the page of our country pages (i.e. France or Italy)   

Ok, so lets take a look:
1.  From Paris to Florence, I'd like to travel in a hop on/hop off sort of style and I know that doesn't exist.  Other than buying tickets from small town to small town, is there another way to do this?  Do people "make their way" to places or is that considered odd? (it won't change my mind, just wondering)
Hop on/hop off it's mostly a territory of rail passes or daily (group) passes. The former tend to be rather expensive (especially for non-Europeans) and basically your pass' daily value would most likely be higher than mid range point-to-point bought on the day of travel. The later aren't available in all the countries, so e.g. in Germany or in Austria you can enjoy super cheap (considering 4 passengers) group passes, but France or Italy aren't as "friendly" here. So, e.g. you can plan your Paris to Florence train journey via Germany & Austria and don't really bother with in advance ticket purchase at all
2.  When trying to create a "hop on, hop off" style of travel, and buying tickets for each leg is the only way, are these tickets that should be purchased ahead of time or will they be the same price on the day of departure?
Well, you can do it both ways, however rail companies (just like airlines) tend to lure passengers' money as early as possible by offering limited number of promo price tickets. These promo offers can be very cheap (like couple times cheaper than the standard tariff for the same ticket if you purchase it on the day of travel), however it is usually accompanied by certain limitation (e.g. you cannot return/exchange your ticket, make stopovers, etc.). So you, as potential passenger, have an option to buy your ticket early & pay less (while keeping in mind that change of travel plans would mean buying a new ticket) or buy before departure & pay, so to say, full price. 
  3.  Once we begin our journey in the motorhome,  we plan to use the heck out it.  Sleeping, eating, and driving in it.  We hope to say at free camping places.  Knowing we have a motorhome for 30 days, have to be in Madrid by the 10th of June, what are 2 or so routes that be most conducive to motorhome travel?  Criteria:  Western Europe.  It doesn't matter what we are interested in, our preferences will follow our route.  Then, on the last part of the trip, we will train or drive to whatever we missed.  I want to spend 10 or so days in Italy but understand that it's not a good place to take a motorhome.  We could drive through Southern France.  We could ferry to Croatia and drive North then to Madrid.  We could go Austria/Germany/Poland.  I want to know what works best with a motorhome. Once I have the route, I will make appointments to offer volunteer on site, print on demand photography to shelters, churches, etc.  We will do this for 30 days.  This is a service program I created and my kids help me.
It's a huge field for you :) For about 10 days in Italy I would probably consider driving from Florence to the seaside via Pisa. The best part about Ligurian coast is that it's full of little Italian towns (during the summer some are more crowded, some are less, but with a motorhome you have a good flexibility in terms where to spend the night or for how long to stay here or there. You can just drive by the seaside and if you like the town, then stop there for some time. In a couple of days (with must stops in La Spezia & Genova) you can actually change the scenery and go north to the mountains around Turin (very interesting city itself) & Cuneo. From there it's either go to the western Switzerland & Lyon (with the idea to get down south after Lyon) or directly by the coast via "French Riviera". Then it's obviously Languedoc-Roussillon and the good thing about it that you can rest from the coastal journey & focus on sightseeing with plenty of smaller and bigger cities/towns to see. Next you can do a detour to Andorra and then obviously Barcelona & coastal drive to Valencia.
4.  Once we drop the motorhome in Toddington, UK, we will need to find transportation to our next location.  Again, if this is a short route, do I need to purchase these tickets ahead?  We want to go to Scotland and Ireland.
Well, to give you a hint about prices & purchase in advance. E.g. London to Edinburgh ticket bought about one month in advance would cost you app. 30-40 british pound (adult), while ticket for the same route for tomorrow is 150. You can check this yourself using more or less good National Rail website -
5.  My kids want to ride the Caledonian Sleeper.  In all, I think it will be over 400 Euros.  They agreed to pay for their own ticket.
Again, same logic here - early purchase gets you better price + with tourist oriented trains during the high season it can actually make sense to buy ticket early, since trains might get sold out
6.  The rest of the trip, regardless if we stay in Scotland or continue to Ireland, will be by train.  We'd like to stop at Cornwall at the end of our time in the UK.  Volunteering job for 2 days.
Would probably recommend to take a ferry to Ireland, it can be quite an experience. While in Ireland for days when you plan to travel you can just go with the Family Ticket - . Ireland to UK is either a ferry & then a train or you can save time & money and simply fly. Ireland is like a heaven for low-cost airlines.
7. Then, we need transportation to La Baule, France where we will enjoy a week's complimentary stay from a friend.
If you would be in Cornwall, then the obvious choice is again a ferry, maybe even through Guernsey/Jersey, to Bretagne and a short train ride to La Baule via Rennes
8.  For the remaining time of our trip, we will either complete other volunteer work, location TBD, or choose a location to visit.  I'd like to get on a train and go, and go, and go.  And take photos, and play cards, and stop, and get back on, and so on.  But, we are waiting to hear if we are needed in a few locations.
You have a choice of plenty of destinations nearby (Nantes, La Rochelle and all the way to Bordeaux). With relatively short train rides you won't really need to buy tickets in advance, since it won't win you much money.
10.  Going back to time in the motorhome.  I think it's likely we could use the train during those 30 days as well.
Why not? Maybe on some scenic rail lines (e.g. in Switzerland or Liguria)

With numerous opportunities to use the train or drive, can you help me determine, with your knowledge and experience with rail transportation, how one or the other is recommended?  And if it is train travel, does it appear that I will be traveling enough to justify a pass?
To be honest, for now it doesn't seem like you will need a pass, at least not the expensive ones offered to non-EU citizens. Maybe on couple occasions it will make sense to buy your train ticket in advance, but rest of the time you can simply buy before departure or use some local/regional pass or family travel offer.

Anyhow, I think that's all for round one of discussion. So take a look, maybe you have some additional questions or want to make some changes, etc. Also you can always check our "Country" specific page - , it will give a rough picture on what kind of rail travel offers you can rely in each country.

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 83
SMF 2.0.15 | SMF © 2017, Simple Machines