I’m a total train buff – not so much that I have a miniature rail-road running through the living room of my flat (it’s a studio anyway, so not that much room), but I certainly always opt for train versus any other mode of transport when it’s a reasonable option.

But, sadly, train travel can often be a budget-buster. If not for the ticket, then for the overpriced on-board amenities (or lack thereof). Here’s 4 ways you can make the train a pleasant, enjoyable part of the trip – or perhaps the trip itself!

1) Look at the TOTAL cost

Make sure that you factor in all the costs of the train. Sometimes, it is more expensive because it’s saving you other costs – like a hotel if it’s an overnight train, or perhaps you can skip taxis and other unnecessary transport if the train can whisk you right to where you are headed. So don’t have sticker shock at first glance – make sure you factor in all the benefits and expenses.

One good thing is that most rail websites show you the almost-final price – I hate when you see tempting fares, only to see double digits more in your checkout screen. Without those airport fees or other weird taxes and “security” fees, most rail tickets are far more straightforward.

2)BYO

Some trains have policies on bringing your own alcohol on board, so be sure to check the rules, but in general, I would always ensure you bring on board some sodas or drinks, and snacks. Even on nice, mainline trains I’ve found the food and drink service lacklustre, or non-existent. Even if you have to buy in the station itself, it’s a better deal than on board, almost always. Make sure you’re on time so you can go shopping, because it is rare that trains have a full stop en route for you to have time to get off and get back on.

3) Just do a day trip

Can’t afford a longer train journey because of the time or the money? Then how about just enjoying a short rail trip as part of your holiday? Especially in big cities or even smaller towns in Europe or Asia, train trips can take you to some amazing places, without breaking the bank. Ask around to see what’s good and then book it!

4) Book Way Ahead

I’ve talked about buying ahead versus last minute for deals, but that advice was geared more for flights and hotels. Trains are typically a buy-early-and-save type deal. There are exceptions, but mostly, you should book your train in advance if you can. Train companies are a little more nimble it seems and so they’re good about filling up and selling out trains, more so than the airlines.

Do you like train tips?  What are your tips for taking the train and saving some coins doing so?

Photo by Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Thursday, December 15th, 2011 at 11:00
Category : How To...
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