Like many women in our community, I love trains. In fact, I enjoy traveling by train more than any other form of transportation. I love the conversations that trains encourage, the stunning vistas that they offer and the opportunities for reflection and personal growth that they support.
Over the years, I’ve learned several tricks for finding the best deals on train tickets. I’ve learned to book my adventures months in advance, check for senior discounts and take the scenic route, where possible.
That said, no matter how much my understanding of train travel has grown, it is nothing compared to the encyclopedic knowledge of my guest on today’s edition of the Sixty and Me Show.
Mark Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on train travel. He has taken 100’s of train journeys (probably 1000’s actually!) and he knows every tip and trick for getting the most from your train adventures.
In today’s interview, I asked Mark to share some of his favorite train travel secrets. I hope that they help you to get even more from your next train trip!
What is the Best Way to Buy Train Tickets?
Perhaps not surprisingly, Mark’s answer to this question was, “It depends.”
Many people think that buying train tickets is only possible at the station. This is most definitely not the case.
Mark explains that, in recent years, many train companies have started to offer their tickets months in advance. With a little careful planning, you can often get tickets for 50% off (or more!) just by becoming aware of how far in advance tickets become available.
Another, somewhat surprising, answer to this question is that agencies can often provide cheaper tickets than you can buy directly. This isn’t always the case, but, it makes sense to shop around.
Take the time to check out the prices on the website of the train service in question. Then talk with a travel agency to see if they can give you a better deal.
If you know exactly which countries you want to visit, a pass from Interrail or Eurail can offer you savings.
Experience the Joy of Holiday Trains
Not all trains are designed for commuters. Mark says that there are plenty of specialty trains that offer historical or cultural themes. These trains are like, “cruising on rails,” as he puts it.
Two of his favorite trains in this category are the Venice Simplon Orient Express and the Rocky Mountaineer. Both of these trains are basically hotels on rails.
Embrace the Crazy Side of Train Travel
Like any form of transportation, train travel doesn’t always go to plan. Mark says “that’s ok!” I asked him to tell me about one of the craziest trips he has ever taken. He explains that one of his best trips started out horribly. He jumped on an “awful, falling-to-bits” train from Aswan to Luxor. It cost him $1 and turned out to be a wonderful adventure.
Rolling down the Nile Valley, he met school children who were learning English and had a fascinating conversation with a barman who worked on a local boat. So, don’t worry if things don’t go according to plan. Just embrace the crazy side of train travel and let the good times roll.
What is the best (or craziest) train trip that you ever took? What questions would you like to ask Mark about getting the most from train travel? Please join the conversation now.