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Old 03-23-2015, 01:15 PM   #21
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Did you notice that for some things children under 15 travel free with parents?
I didn't notice that but I'll have to pay attention!

I'm in the middle of planning this summer's 7 week trip through Mexico. It turns out kids are half price on most of the luxury intercity bus lines from what I've seen. I thought traveling with 3 kids would add ~300%+ to the cost of just me and DW traveling, though it's turning out to be quite a bit less.
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Old 06-24-2016, 02:46 PM   #22
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Back to train travel planning in Europe with Captain Train*!

Capitaine Train has merged with a British company, and their site address is now captaintrain.com

I've been looking into buying tickets at French SNCF machines for local travel on regional trains (TER) with non-reserved seating. You hear various reports of machines not taking US issued credit cards, and not taking bills (coin only). Reports are really all over the map and seems to be a roll of the dice kind of a thing of whether someone can get their credit card to work - PIN or not.

If you buy a ticket from captaintrain.com for the regional TER lines, it will be a print at station ticket. But you can buy it online just a few hours in advance, and then go to the ticket machine to print it. You don't need to use a credit card at the self-service machine. You simply enter in your booking number. Just select English, select booking, enter booking number, select pre-purchase ticket(s) - that's it!

And non-reserved-seating TER tickets are valid for any time of the day* on the exact same route and types of trains (TER), and are valid for seven days after the first date. So you even have flexibility of which day.

Anyway - I think I'll be using this technique quite a bit on our upcoming trip, as we'll probably decide the day or evening before where we'll travel the next day. In Avignon our hotel is a block away from the train station and we have several local train trips we'll likely make, so I'll have lots of chances to try it out.

*There are some discounts that require travel off peak times. So if you want full flexibility pay the small extra for full fare tickets.
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Old 06-24-2016, 02:57 PM   #23
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You can try the Voyages-SNCF app for iPhone and iPad.

It looks like it will let you pay with a credit card.
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Old 06-24-2016, 03:07 PM   #24
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You can try the Voyages-SNCF app for iPhone and iPad.

It looks like it will let you pay with a credit card.
Oh I'd much rather use captaintrain - I really like how they work. E-tickets for long trips. It's been painless. I have their app on iPad and iPhone and use their web site.

I know US folks haven't been able to buy tickets online with Voyage-SNCF because they get sent to raileurope.com subsidiary which is quite limited and often more expensive, and if they fool Voyage-SNCF by selecting some other country, still have trouble using US-issued credit cards.

And if they are print at station tickets rather than e-tickets you have to have your credit card with PIN that you used online to print them from the machine, or go to the SNCF counter if you don't have the card or can't get it to work in the machine.

It's just much easier using captaintrain.com - just use your booking number, no card needed.

Now DBahn I haven't had trouble with buying directly online and printed them at home, although I did have to show the credit card I used to buy the tickets online.
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Old 06-24-2016, 03:17 PM   #25
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I've always gone directly to the rail site, SNCF, TrenItalia, Renfe ES, etc.

I haven't always prepurchased online though. Some places require you to put in your credit card at the web site ahead of time before using the app.

There isn't always an advantage in prepurchasing tickets in advance. Exceptions were Dutch rail from Amsterdam to Paris and then the Eurostar from Paris to London, because those tickets, at least Eurostar, started at around $100 and went up if you purchased them last minute, like airline tickets.
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Old 06-24-2016, 03:47 PM   #26
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I've always gone directly to the rail site, SNCF, TrenItalia, Renfe ES, etc.

I haven't always prepurchased online though. Some places require you to put in your credit card at the web site ahead of time before using the app.

There isn't always an advantage in prepurchasing tickets in advance. Exceptions were Dutch rail from Amsterdam to Paris and then the Eurostar from Paris to London, because those tickets, at least Eurostar, started at around $100 and went up if you purchased them last minute, like airline tickets.
I buy all my long distance high speed train tickets ahead of time as you can get some pretty great deals if you book a couple of months in advance. Usually at least half full fare. Sometimes even better. I don't usually buy the non-refundable Prems which disappear very quickly, but the Flex tickets that give a good discount but are still exchangeable and mostly refundable depending on the timeline.

Captaintrain has a nice feature where you can book a ticket including reserved seats, but not have to pay for it for 10 to 14 days depending on the type of ticket. This lets you work out a bunch of stuff before committing to the purchase.

And they issue e-tickets whenever they can which means you don't even have to print your ticket at home (although I usually print a backup) but the conductor reads the Q-code on your phone or iPad. That's what we did last year, and it worked great. In fact they didn't even check our IDs if we had the e-ticket on our personal device.

But yes, in this case I'm just figuring out alternatives for buying tickets a day or few hours ahead of time and not having to go to the ticket counter or get stuck having trouble buying (versus just printing) at a self service machine with a long line of people behind me.
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Old 06-24-2016, 07:37 PM   #27
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We'll take a train if it doesn't exceed 3 1/2 hours, however the advent of budget European airlines allows to travel from point A to B really cheap. And I won't think of traveling by train in Summer, as their a/c is often not very comfortable.

RailEurope is just a consolidator, and many experienced travelers stay away from them. Many use bahn.com and Trenitalia.com to book their trips. I've never booked a train in France, however the Eurostar from London to Paris is very popular--2 1/2hrs. The Paris to Barcelona fast train is also very popular @ 6.5 hours--as fast as getting to/from the airports.

And point to point tickets are the way to go vs. Eurail tickets. Italy really does trains well. they're inexpensive, and you can get the big discounts at 120 days out.

I tried to book a train into Prague (from Vienna), however the computer wouldn't take my credit card. I'll often run into the train station after I hit town and buy tickets leaving for my next stop. If one train's full, there will be anther going to the same place in an hour or two.
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Old 06-24-2016, 07:49 PM   #28
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We'll take a train if it doesn't exceed 3 1/2 hours, however the advent of budget European airlines allows to travel from point A to B really cheap. And I won't think of traveling by train in Summer, as their a/c is often not very comfortable.
The flights may be cheap, but getting there is a PITA! Trains leave from city center, and arrive at city center. When you add in the travel time to and from the airports, plus security, etc, I would still take trains.
We got on a train in Wengen in the Bernese Alps, and arrived in Monte Carlo 12 hours later. We loved the trip, as the segment from Geneva to Nice was on the TGV. It was very comfortable, no problem with luggage and security, and we could enjoy looking at the countryside.
YMMV
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Old 06-24-2016, 07:59 PM   #29
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We're doing one flight in Europe this year - Amsterdam to Lyon, 1hr 35mins. And both AMS and Lyon airport are easily accessible from the city. Otherwise the high speed train (Thalys) is 6.5 hours with a transfer, and some routes have you doing the dreaded transfer across town in Paris.

Once we get to Lyon though, all the rest is by train. It's not that easy to get from Nice to Barcelona by train. Nice has a nice airport and quick flight to Barcelona I'm sure. But the trains happen to visit a couple of cities of interest, so we're breaking up the trip to stop is a couple of interesting places, including Carcassonne.

We do love the European trains. DB asked me why were weren't taking Thalys, and I just explained how much longer it took to go from Amsterdam to Lyon compared to the lovely direct Amsterdam to Paris Thalys (3 hours 20 mins).
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Old 06-24-2016, 09:29 PM   #30
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I'm doing flights between Athens and a couple of the Greek islands. Also ferries between the islands.

Have to pay for checked luggage on the flights.

I've been on a 4.5 hour train trip, but it involved a change. My suggestion is to get a data plan for you iPad and/or load up movies and TV shows on your iPad. Even with a data plan, the coverage isn't good in a lot of areas the trains go through.

Or better yet, try to take a nap. Much better odds of getting some sleep on a train than a LCC flight within Europe.
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Old 06-24-2016, 10:42 PM   #31
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I'm doing flights between Athens and a couple of the Greek islands. Also ferries between the islands.

Have to pay for checked luggage on the flights.

I've been on a 4.5 hour train trip, but it involved a change. My suggestion is to get a data plan for you iPad and/or load up movies and TV shows on your iPad. Even with a data plan, the coverage isn't good in a lot of areas the trains go through.

Or better yet, try to take a nap. Much better odds of getting some sleep on a train than a LCC flight within Europe.
How about looking out the train windows and enjoying the scenery?? After all, that is why you travel, and you cannot do that from an airplane.
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Old 06-24-2016, 11:14 PM   #32
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Actually I take pictures and geotag them all so the trajectories of the planes or trains are logged.

One of the best short flights was from Queenstown to Auckland earlier this year. Queenstown airport has the Remarkables mountains as a backdrop for the runway. Then fly past the town and over the lake and over the mountains nearby and on the way over, the Cook Straits.

Took lots of pics.
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Old 06-25-2016, 08:22 AM   #33
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The flights may be cheap, but getting there is a PITA! Trains leave from city center, and arrive at city center. When you add in the travel time to and from the airports, plus security, etc, I would still take trains.
Have you ever been in a full train compartment with malfunctioning air conditioning and the stranger sitting next to you was asleep and leaning on you? And shall I say he smelled like a Tirolean goat farmer.

We were on a local train coming into Rome one morning standing, and it was so crowded that my wife said she could feel change in others' pockets. If someone fainted, they'd have not even fallen.

I don't always find trains that pleasant to travel in, and that's why I limit my time on them to 2-3 hrs.
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Old 06-25-2016, 08:37 AM   #34
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Have you ever been in a full train compartment with malfunctioning air conditioning and the stranger sitting next to you was asleep and leaning on you? And shall I say he smelled like a Tirolean goat farmer.
Have been on a train from Zahedan, Iran, to Quetta, Pakistan, where they loaded sheep into the compartment.
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Old 06-25-2016, 10:46 AM   #35
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Have you ever been in a full train compartment with malfunctioning air conditioning and the stranger sitting next to you was asleep and leaning on you? And shall I say he smelled like a Tirolean goat farmer.

We were on a local train coming into Rome one morning standing, and it was so crowded that my wife said she could feel change in others' pockets. If someone fainted, they'd have not even fallen.

I don't always find trains that pleasant to travel in, and that's why I limit my time on them to 2-3 hrs.
Standing on a train is no fun. We go for reserved seating if available and usually first class as it is usually not much more. Easier to find places for luggage, etc. France is good because all they're long distance trains have reserved seating.

We often get "duo" seating reservations - across from each other with table in between. Otherwise side-by-side. No one else to mash against us.

The short runs - doesn't matter so much and we are usually without luggage.

If you are just slightly mobility impaired though, public ground transportation in Europe is not friendly.
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Old 06-26-2016, 08:36 AM   #36
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We have had good luck with Trenitalia. We use maninseat61. In the UK we like spottedredhanky.

We very much like Trenitalia. We travel with carry on only which makes train travel a breeze. We do use discount airlines in Europe but often find the bottom line pricing of the popular routes on the major airlines very competitive.
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