Europe is relatively easy to get around, especially when you compare it to the United States. There are many airline options that are reasonably priced, traveling by car is pretty convenient, and trains can take you almost anyplace. So, which option should you choose if you are spending time in Europe? Clearly there is no one-size fits all solution and there are definitely reasons why you might choose either one of them.
- When Time is of the Essence – When you need to get some place on a very specific schedule and you have limited time to get there, location will likely determine your selection. If you are traveling from one relatively major city to another, then traveling by air might be your best bet, but be sure to shop prices and compare reliability as the cheapest flight isn’t always the best option when you need to get there on time. If flights are not available, then a high-speed railway would likely be your second best option, but those aren’t always available depending upon where you are going. Finally, traveling by car provides you the opportunity to control your route and how often you stop, but you also need to consider other things such as weather and road construction. It might turn out that even a commuter train is a better option than traveling by car depending upon the circumstances.
- When You Want a Relaxing Trip – For us, if you really want to sit back and enjoy the trip, not just the destination, there is no better choice than traveling by rail. Sitting back and watching the countryside go by while reading a book, catching up on social media, or having a conversation with your other travelers can make for a wonderful experience. There are some considerations, though, such as whether the train serves food, are there private cabins, is it a busy commuter train where people pack in to make their daily work commute? Under some of those circumstances, you might arrive at your destination more worse for the experience. If you can’t get trains that meet your travel criteria, then perhaps renting a car would be a better solution. Air travel is usually our least relaxing option, but there is something to be said about a little bit of hassle getting through an airport for the benefit of arriving at your destination and starting exploring more quickly.
- Do You Want to Explore? – If you want to be on your own schedule, stop at places when you want, and perhaps take a sudden, unplanned, diversion, then traveling by car is likely the best solution for you. There is something to be said about driving around with a map in your hand and making decisions about when and where to go on the fly. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same when traveling by train. If you purchase certain rail passes, they allow certain numbers of days worth of travel with no limit on how many trains you take during that day. This means that you can check out train schedules the day of your trip and suddenly decide to add in different stops and side trips as long as it fits in with your total number of travel days.
At least in Europe, you have many more travel options than we do in the United States. We have used each of these at different times and we have made the most of each option during our travels in Europe. At the end of the day, we love rail travel because of its convenience, not having to check bags, and the somewhat romantic style of travel. Traveling by car is also nice, but insurance can be expensive, although it opens up places that no other option might provide. What is your favorite way to travel?