The Man in Seat 61 on Train Travel in Europe as an Older Adult (Video)
One thing that I know about the women in our community is that we love to travel. Of course, we may not always get to jet off to exotic destinations, but, we take every opportunity that we can to see the world. This could include taking a cruise, traveling by train or just driving to see the grandkids in the next city.
As we reach our 60s, many of us have specific travel goals. Some of us want to retire in a warmer climate. Others have always wanted to travel across Europe by train.
Whatever your travel fantasy, there has never been a better time to get out into the world!
What is the Best Way to Travel Around Europe?
When I asked the women in our community where they would like to travel to next, Europe was at the top of the list. But, what is the best way to get around Europe? Should you take advantage of the many budget airlines, like Easy Jet, that operate in the region? Should you rent a camper van? Or, should you do what I did and set out to see Europe by train?
Obviously, there are tradeoffs with each of these approaches. That said, I have to admit that I am biased towards train travel. It is the only form of travel where the journey really is more important than the destination.
If you are curious about traveling in Europe by train, you are going to love my latest interview with train travel expert, Mark Smith. He runs seat61, one of the most popular train travel blogs in the world. I recently sat down with Mark to discuss how women our age can get the most from train travel in Europe. Enjoy the show!
Why is Train Travel Such a Great Option in Europe?
If you live in the United States, you are probably used to flying everywhere. While Amtrak does go to many cities, it doesn’t have the regularity or reputation of its European counterparts.
In Europe, the situation is completely different. In many countries, such as France and Switzerland, trains are the preferred method of transportation. As a result, their services are comprehensive and reliable.
I don’t know about you, but, the older I get, the less I enjoy going to airports. The security lines are a nuisance and you often spend more time in traffic, getting to the airport, than in the air. Most European train stations are in the heart of the city. This means that it is often just as fast to travel by train as by plane. For example, you can go from Paris, France to Zurich, Switzerland, by train, in just over 4 hours.
Perhaps more importantly, train travel is a pleasurable experience from beginning to end. The passengers are typically relaxed and talkative and the service is friendly. In addition, unlike on planes, where space it at a premium, trains always have plenty of room for your luggage.
When I talk with the women in our community, they say that they want the opportunity to see exciting new places and meet interesting new people. Train travel in Europe offers the opportunity for both.
What are European Trains Like?
While Europe is now more unified than ever, each country still maintains its own train service. This means that each train system has its own unique flare. In many cases, the food served onboard reflects the local culture and the trains are customized for the local conditions.
For example, many of the trains in Switzerland have special devices that let them “hug” the tracks. This allows them to climb up steep slopes.
I even found a train that goes from Bern to Zurich with a Starbucks carriage onboard. It was such a blast having a latte as I watched the countryside zipping by.
Of course, there are exceptions, but, in general, the trains in Europe are well-run and on time. All you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!
How to Save Money on European Train Travel
Mark’s first piece of advice is to take advantage of the budget fare model that many European train services are adopting. In other words, if you know where you want to visit, you can often save quite a bit of money by purchasing several months in advance. For example, as of the writing of this article, it is possible to travel from Amsterdam to Zurich, in a two-person sleeper-cabin, for around $90 per person. The trick is to do your homework and book in advance.
If you aren’t sure where you want to visit, buying a rail pass can be a good option. If you live in Europe, you can use Interrail. If you live in the United States, Eurail can set you up with a European train pass. Train passes allow you to visit a certain number of countries during your stay in Europe. This allows you to see as much as you want, without locking yourself in to specific dates and locations.
Finally, Mark recommends looking for scenic routes. For example, if you are traveling from Amsterdam to Zurich, you could take the high-speed train. Or, you could take a slower train, via Koblenz, and enjoy views of the spectacular Rhine River Valley. Similarly, you could take the fast train from Zurich to Milan. Or, you could take the Bernina Express that travels across the Alps and into Italy, via Torino.
As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of train travel, as is Mark. I hope that you found out conversation about how to get the most form European train travel useful. If you have a question for Mark or me, please add it in the comments section below.
Have you ever traveled through Europe by train? What was your experience? What tips can you offer the other women in our community about getting the most from train travel? Please join the conversation now.