Flying home for the holidays? Maybe you’re looking forward to jet-setting to a warm destination to escape the impending cold come the end of the year. In any instance, air travel during the holiday season can be a stressful – and expensive – experience.
But opting for a train can be a huge time saver.
According to data from Rail Europe, a high speed train from Paris to London in France will take two hours and 45 minutes, as compared to 5 hours of flying and transfer time. A train trip from Florence to Rome in Italy only takes 1 hour and 20 minutes by train, while a flight will mean about four hours and 30 minutes of travel and transfer time.
The Points Guy compiled similar stats to show that taking the train is the most efficient way to travel a handful of standard routes in the United States.
We rounded up a few more reasons why taking the train may just be a better option.
You’ll have more booking flexibility.
Changing or cancelling a plane ticket can be a huge headache and an expensive experience. Train tickets are often more flexible and though making changes can result in fees, they’re much less severe than those imposed by airlines.
“With train tickets, there is generally no fee for changing your reservation. However, refund fees may apply for certain train tickets,” Alex Matjanec, CEO of MyBankTracker.com explained. “For example, if you purchase a coach or business-class ticket on Acela Express, you may receive a refund 24 hours ahead of your departure time or pay a 10% fee for refunding your ticket fewer than 24 hours in advance of your scheduled departure time. Meanwhile, if you book an Acela Express first-class seat or a non-Acela business-class seat, you’ll incur no refund fee for cancelling your ticket before the scheduled departure date.”
Brush up on the policies before you book your tickets so you understand how much flexibility you have and what any potential penalty may be.
You can travel more comfortably.
Flying can be a cramped experience, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck between people with an excessive amount of stuff or behind a person who fully reclines for the entire duration of a long flight. Trains, on the other hand, offer spacious carriages with much more room to read, relax, and move around.
Note that there are no middle seats on trains, either – and there’s nothing to block you from getting up for a trip to the restroom.
You’re likely to save money.
Holiday flights will cost you, even if you’ve done solid work to book them well in advance of your departure. Though train fares see an uptick in price around busy periods, they often cost less than airfare does. Even more, trains still offer free checked bags and carry-ons, which means you can tote all the wrapped gifts you need to without being whacked with extra baggage fees.
USA Today reports a difference in what you can bring on board in your luggage as well. “In addition to differences in baggage fees, there also are differences in what you can pack in those bags if you travel by train. There are still prohibited items on Amtrak, but many of the TSA’s passenger screening policies and restrictions don’t apply.”
Presents that are in perfect shape to gift are a good example of an item that isn’t allowed on a plane but completely acceptable on a train. “TSA says you shouldn’t bring wrapped gifts just in case they need to further inspect – but you can bring wrapped gifts on a train,”Samantha Brown, Travel Channel TV host affirmed to INSIDER. “You won’t have to bother your host for wrapping paper, scissors, and tape!”
An overnight train can double as a hotel.
If you’ll need to post up for a night while travelling during the holidays, consider taking an overnight train with sleeping accommodations – unlike trying to sleep while sitting up in economy class, you’ll have a bed where you can unwind more comfortably. Plus, you’ll have access to a shower.
According to Amtrak, sleeper car availability varies based on demand. Booking your regular rail fair and sleeper car upgrade as early as possible is the best way to ensure you lock-in the lowest price.
Nervous flyers need not worry.
OK, so you can certainly be afraid of train travel too, but with fear of flying affecting about 20 million people, according to ABC News, train travel is a great way to get to your destination without having to drive or white-knuckle it through a flight.
Train travel is an eco-friendly transportation option.
Concerned about your carbon footprint? Train travel is a more sustainable option than flying and has been said to cut carbon dioxide nearly in half while recent studies suggest that travelling by train is the most environmentally efficient transportation method of all, with the slowest train 25% more energy efficient than a car.
You’ll enjoy the scenery.
According to a recent travel report from Pinterest, people are realising that transportation can be about more than simply getting from one place to another: Searches for train travel are up 136% in 2018.
Unlike flying, train trips can provide you with beautiful, seasonal scenery or give you the opportunity to make a couple of quick stops along the way. Whether solo, with a partner, or group of friends, embrace your journey to make getting to your destination part of the fun.
Weather doesn’t seem to play as much of a role.
While certainly a ton of snow can delay or even cancel your train, a little rain or wind likely won’t prevent trains from leaving as often as it does a plane.
Skip stressful security lines.
Most train stations don’t have the same chaos that airports do, saving you the stress of dealing with a security line. You’ll save time too, since you won’t need to get to the train station nearly as early as you would when heading to the airport.
“You don’t have to arrive two hours before your flight verse about a 1/2 hour for the train. They usually board 15 minutes prior in major stations,” Brown shared with INSIDER. “At no point do you have to strip down, unpack, chug down your water, raise your hands and place your feet on yellow foot imprints, get padded down and then wait while your bag gets swabbed for extra security measures.”
Train travel is family friendly.
It’s no secret that flying with a family – especially kids – can be an anxiety-inducing endeavour. On top of that, travelling with your entire brood can be costly.
Unlike flight tickets, train tickets often offer discounted youth tickets for savings up to 20 per cent. The majority of rail passes also allow children up to 11 to travel for free with an adult who buys a rail pass. Any student with a valid ID can score additional discounts on train travel, such as the 10% off deal offered through Amtrak’s student advantage program.
Have upcoming family trips or adventures planned? Purchasing a rail pass can save you up to 15% on standard fares. Your pass will likely offer discounts on other travel discounts for your family too, such as cruises, museums, and activities.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.