For some, a holiday is all about the destination, but for others, the joy is in the journey, and rail travel offers a trip free from the stress of driving, allowing you to relax, sit back and take in the ever-changing view.
If you're planning an epic journey by train, here are a few tips for a smooth-running trip.
For the ultimate rail adventure, the confident traveller can simply buy tickets as they go, giving them the advantage of as much or as little time to explore towns and cities along the way. Some long journeys can be broken up with stopovers too, although it's essential to check whether your ticket allows you this freedom. You can, of course, book seats for specific times and dates well in advance for pretty much anywhere in the world, and if you're a first-time rail traveller, this might be the best option.
Take your time
Rail journeys afford travellers the joy of seeing the countryside pass by, so why rush? Slower trains as opposed to express services are often cheaper, particularly in Europe where tickets on the slower trains are often half the price of their express counterparts. This means you can fully take in the fabulous views as well as save cash. Overnight sleeper trains are also a great money saver since you won't need to pay for a hotel. And the gentle rocking motion is surprisingly comforting as you drift off to dreamland.
Struggling on and off trains with heavy luggage isn't fun for anyone, so try to travel as light as possible. Pack a small suitcase with wheels, and be prepared to buy a few essential items as you travel. Not only will it save your back, it'll give you a great opportunity to try local shops. Remember to keep your baggage close by, preferably within eyesight, when you take your seat on the train though - unfortunately thieves sometimes target tired travellers.
Unless you're travelling on the Orient Express, where the fine dining is all part of the experience, the quality of food and drink aboard trains varies greatly, and is likely expensive for what you'll get. So consider buying a food and drink from a local shop, and enjoy a tasty meal that won't cost you the earth.
There are plenty of holiday firms that offer packaged rail journeys, which allow travellers to enjoy a stress-free trip anywhere from around Europe to the Canadian Rockies. Some, such as Railtrail and Great Rail Journeys, offer escorted tours, while others, offer more freedom. The InterRail pass, for instance, sell single country tickets across Europe, with a variety of flexibility levels and discounts for children, seniors and students.
Though you'll need to read the terms and conditions of your train ticket carefully (some require validating at the station before you board), a rail trip is a wonderful way to explore and experience foreign lands, so why not take a load off and enjoy the journey?
Have you recently holidayed by train? What advice would you give to others? Leave your comments below...