Let’s face it, travelling with kids can be a real drain on the budget, so any way to cut down on the expense is welcome. If you are thinking about a holiday with a lot of travelling around, then consider a rail pass. Not only do you save on the full price of individual tickets, but you also avoid the double hassle of cooped-up kids and unknown roads.
The most popular way to stretch your travel money in Europe is with a pass from Eurail. There are two choices – the Eurail Consecutive Pass, which allows you to travel every day, and the Eurail Flexipass, which means you can select to travel on certain days within a two-month time period. Both allow you to experience the rail networks of 18 European countries, and some ferries too.
Eurail Consecutive Passes are valid for 15 days, 21 days, one month, two months, or three months. The Adult Saver option (available if more than one person travels together) costs around $728 for adults in first class and $558 in second class, for 15 days travel. A one-month pass costs $1,174 in first class and $898 in second class.
A youth pass option, valid for second-class travel only, is available for travellers under 26yrs. Children aged 4-11yrs travel for half the full adult fare, while kids under four travel free, sharing a paying passenger’s seat.
Meanwhile, the Eurail Flexipass allows you to travel for either 10 or 15 days over a two-month period. The 10-day Adult Saver option costs $865 and the 15-day option costs $1,136. The pass is only available for first class travel. Again, youth and children’s fares are cheaper.
Another category of ticket, the Eurail Selectpass, allows you to save even more money by limiting the countries to three, four, or five adjoining countries on the Eurail network. With this option you can travel for either five, six, eight or 10 days within in a two-month period (or 15 days if you opt for five countries).
A range of Regional Eurail passes, such as the Balkan Flexipass, the France ’n’ Italy pass, and the Spain ’n’ Portugal Pass are also available. You can also buy single country passes, including BritRail passes. Keep in mind, though, that with any pass you might have to pay a supplement or reservation fee for intercity trains, while beds will cost you extra, too.
As well as rail passes, there are also packages available that include accommodation and excursions. For example, Rail Plus offers six Rail Tour packages in Switzerland, including trips on the Glacier Express between Zermatt and St Moritz, and a grand tour around Lake Geneva and the Matterhorn.
Another recommended Rail Tour is the Tops of Switzerland package, which includes five days’ travel, transfers, four nights in a hotel with breakfast, and an excursion to the highest railway station in Europe on the world’s steepest cog-wheel railway. The adult package costs just $145 a day, and children under 16yrs travel free.
Check out the packages for Norway and Canada too, and also the rail and drive packages for Italy and France.
If riding the iron horse across the US oils your cogs, then an Amtrak Pass is the way to go.
The National Rail Pass is valid for second-class travel throughout the USA rail network and up to Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in Canada. It’s available for either 15 days or 30 days. Prices vary according to the time of year but, for example, a 15-day off-season pass costs around US$295 and a peak-season pass around US$440. Children 2-15yrs pay half fare.
Regional Amtrak passes cover the east and west coasts, and the northeast. A separate pass also covers California. This costs around US$159 for adults and US$80 for children. It can be used for seven days travel within a 21-day period.