European Rail Travel Plans Need Expertise.

I really enjoy planning my vacation travel. In fact, that’s true for all my travels, whether they’re for NARP business or for pleasure. I’ve got the Amtrak drill pretty much down cold by now—best choice of routes, when to make connections and when to play it safe and lay over.
But train travel in Europe is different. I still take the time to work up my European itineraries and it’s still a very enjoyable part of the whole travel experience. There are several good web sites to research the various routes, but the best by far is The Man In Seat 61. That’s always my first stop. I also enjoy looking at web sites for the various hotels and deciding which looks like the one I will enjoy most.

The fabulous modern hauptbahnhoff (main railway station) in Berlin.

But when it comes to European train travel, there are so many options I’m never confident I’ve made all the right choices. So once I’ve worked up a tentative itinerary and listed the trains that seem to make the most sense, I turn everything over to Railbookers* in London. They come back to me with their recommendations and often those include suggested changes … invariably for the better.
For instance, toward the end of my upcoming trip to Italy, I had plugged in an overnight train from Venice to Paris. Railbookers counseled against that choice, saying they had had reports that the equipment was not well maintained and also of some on board thievery. Instead, they recommended a scenic day trip from Venice to Zurich, then on to Paris the next day.
They also pointed out a few “minor details” which—I am forced to admit—had escaped my notice. For instance, I will have to change railway stations in Firenze to make one of my rail connections in Italy. They even provided me with a ticket for the Paris metro where I did know I would be changing stations.
European rail travel is wonderful. There are trains going to everywhere from anywhere, but all that flexibility means it’s very easy to overlook the best routings and the lowest ticket prices. So do your research ahead of time, then turn to a booking agency that specializes in rail travel for the actual ticketing. You’ll pay a bit extra, but it’s well worth it. (You won’t blow a connection in Firenze!)

* From the U.S., you’re automatically directed to their Los Angeles office.