We have visited Europe with our kids several times. We have never traveled with a car seat nor have we ever rented a car. Why? It's simple. Trains are the way to travel in Europe. They are cheap, easy to navigate, super accessible and most are very family friendly.
Here are our 10 reasons why you should consider traveling by train in Europe:
1) No car seat required.
Not bringing car seats across the world is a huge perk for us. We typically see at least 5 cities in one trip and the thought of keeping track of our backpacks, kids, stroller AND car seats sucks. Not to mention they are bulky and I have no idea where we would store them.
2) They are widely accessible.
While almost every major city in Europe has a train station, so do many of the more remote areas. If there is somewhere we really want to visit, but there is no train, we hire a driver with carseats. We have done this in Auchwitz and the Amalfi Coast -- both were very reasonably priced and easier than renting a car.
3) It's cost-effective.
Train travel, for the most part, is cheap. You can get to and fro for dollars. However, if you're in a more expensive area (say Switzerland), you can save a ton of money by using a rail pass. We purchased a Swiss Rail Pass during our 8 days there and were able to ride any train, any time and we had access to all the local public transportation as well as boat rides and museum entry fees. Outside of Switzerland, the EuroRail passes are exceptional and offer a variety of options and country combos.
4) It's timely.
We have only done ONE inter-Europe flight because of how time-consuming getting to and navigating the airport, arriving early, & baggage claim can be. In the train station, you can arrive about 15 minutes prior and get on your train with no issue. Your bags are in the train car with you, so when it arrives you can simply grab your bags and get off.
Our two Travel Strollers!
5) You can move around.
Trains allow you to walk up and down the cars. They often offer a food service car you can go grab a snack or coffee at. We have even been on trains where they offer kid activities (more on that later). When we need to put our son down for a nap, we could stand in the quiet transition areas and rock him to sleep. When our toddlers are restless, we can let them walk around without feeling uncomfortable.
6) Family Friendly Train Cars.
We have traveled on so many trains in Europe that have either "family friendly" cars or ones that have an actual play area ON THE TRAIN. That's right. A place for your kid to play and not be restrained while you move from city to city. (WAY BETTER than the confines of an airplane.) We also try to snag the four seats facing each other so we can enjoy the shared table and socialize on our trip. There are Stroller/Bike areas on most trains where you can easily bring on your stroller and store it for the duration of the ride. Also, keep an eye out for baby changing tables/rooms; many trains have this now.
7) Flexible Travel.
With trains, we can book a month or two in advance OR the night before. We usually have an array of times we can leave. With the Swiss rail pass we were able to pick ANY time, so we were never constrained at all. Others we have bought tickets for a specific time, but usually the night before so we can see how we are feeling. With kids in tow, plans can change so quickly that having the flexibility to change our travel day plans is crucial.
8) The Views.
Train travel allows you to SEE where you are. We have seen some of the most incredible views from the seats of our train. From the Swiss Alps to Lake Como to Bavaria to the Italian and Slovakian countrysides; we've ridden through it all and were actually able to take it in.
9) Kids ride free.
Since our kids have been under the age of 3 for *most* of our trips to Europe, they have been completely free. On about 85% of those rides, they've even scored their own seat. The ages for free riders will fluctuate from country to country, but kids under the age of 6 ride free in a lot of countries and some all the way up to age 12 ride free with a paying adult!! (TWELVE!) You can find an entire age breakdown HERE.
10) No luggage fees or weight limits.
For anyone traveling long term or with kids, you know the bag weight limits can be REAL annoying. We have ditched so much stuff trying be SURE our bags are underweight. With trains, you don't have to! If you can carry it on and get it on the luggage rack, it rides with you! We absolutely love kicking this piece of stress to the curb.
Whether your family is a slow paced or fast paced travel group, traveling by train is the way to get where you need to be. Don't bog yourself down with a car seat or trying to navigate the roads in a foreign country by yourself. Let the trains do the work for you. We thoroughly enjoy riding together and having a mental break from the hustle and bustle of travel with kids!
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