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Not sure wether Interrail is the best choice?

  • 23 February 2024
  • 23 replies
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Userlevel 1

Hello all,

I hope someone might help me since I’m lost in online research ;)

I want to go to France alone with my two kids (12+8). I’m travelling on four days (Hamburg/Nantes; Nantes/Sainte-Foy-La-Grande; Sainte-Foy-La-Grande/Bordeaux; Bordeaux/Hamburg). So now I’m asking myself whether it’s better to get an Interrail-pass for four days or to book the tickets separately. With the compulsory seat reservation, it can get quite costly, but I have to take fast trains cause it’s already a long travel for my kids.

Could anyone advise me how to proceed and make a decision? I already checked SNCF and Deutsche Bahn Websites and they are giving me different prices for the same travels 😅

Kind regards
Nadia

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Best answer by BrendanDB 25 February 2024, 21:30

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23 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

Could anyone advise me how to proceed and make a decision? I already checked SNCF and Deutsche Bahn Websites and they are giving me different prices for the same travels 😅

That's normal :/

The only way to see what's cheaper is to look up prices and compare.

Userlevel 7
Badge +7

With interrail, there are some way to cut off a lot of trains with compulsory reservation.

Avoiding Eurostar, taking a local train across the border (e.g. TER/ RE Offenburg-Strasbourg) can already save quite a lot of Euro’s. The question is if you’lld want to do that with your kids, juggling a bit with cross border or regional trains :)

Do you already have an idea of an exact route?

Userlevel 1

Thank you so much for your reply! :)

You are right, since I’m travelling with my two kids (and luggage and a tent for that matter) I would prefer the directest and shortest routes. So I’d say there is no way avoiding ICE and TGV ...

Userlevel 7
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Thank you so much for your reply! :)

You are right, since I’m travelling with my two kids (and luggage and a tent for that matter) I would prefer the directest and shortest routes. So I’d say there is no way avoiding ICE and TGV ...

Probably not, although taking the local train from Offenburg to Strasbourg will not necessarily take more time but can save some reservation euro’s.

Do try to avoid Eurostar though, the seat reservations are horribly expensive. But that’s only a thing if you go over Belgium.

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

When are you planning to travel?

Separate tickets bought far in advance might be cheaper but I'm not convinced as TGVs tend to be expensive.

You'll spend a fair bit on seat reservations for sure. The 8 y.o. will travel for free (child's pass) but still needs to pay reservations.

Something else to keep in mind : most connections will make you transfer through Paris on métros/RERs. Plan with enough time in the first place, I'd say 2 hours to be safe. You can get métros/RERs tickets onboard the high-speed train to Paris usually.

There are a few (very few) high-speed trains avoiding Paris. These could be useful but they're really popular so book early.

Hamburg - Nantes and Bordeaux - Hamburg are rather long journeys, albeit doable in a day of course. Consider as well the Berlin - Paris night train. You'd need a fifth pass if you intend to travel on 2 days.

Night trains are rather expensive these days but at least you save accommodation.

Userlevel 1

Thank you very much for your replys! I’m planning to travel between 21st of july and 2nd of August. Why does it all have to bee so complicated though? I’m desperately trying to avoid flying, but that would be much easier 😅

Userlevel 7
Badge +7

It seems complicated and a lot of information at first, but once you've done it, you'll get the hang of it. Don't let it scare you off, it's very easy when you come prepared. 

Timetables and bookings are not open yet for the holiday period in France. They should open on 13th March.

To check ordinary tickets I would recommend www.bahn.com (for at least until Paris) or www.raileurope.com (one of the best and most correct ticket search engines) 

For long travel days, I'lld suggest a break somewhere half way, of one or two hours. As a buffer and to stretch your leggs, and sort out the energy of your children. :) 

Book early to get cheap prices for ordinary tickets, although Interrail is going to be a good option price and flexibility wise anyway, if you're booking a bit later. 

Sncf websites are a bit fiddly to navigate, and always tend to give you the more expensive options. Not a fan of it. 

 

 

 

 

 

Userlevel 1

Thank you so very @BrendanDB, that really makes me feel better :)

I already started to search now and filled out an excel sheet with prices to compare. Struck me though that the prices the websites show are so different. But if you say raileurope.com is good and reliable that’s a very good advice. I hope you don’t mind me asking two more questions:

1. If I end up with roughly the same prices for Interrail + reservations compared to regular tickets (which I guess might be the case): What would you recommend? Since I already got my travelling days I can book the minute the tickets go online.

2. If I see it correctly I might go to Nantes via Paris oder via Brussels. Any ideas which option would be better?

Thanks again all of you for your time, I’ll do it 💪🏻😀

Userlevel 7
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Even if Interrail would be a bit more expensive I'd say, go for Interrail, because of the flexibility. 

Userlevel 7
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@NadiaBlueCan you give me a bit more insight in the option via Brussels? Via a screenshot or an overview of the trains the planner suggests?

  • If it suggests to take the Red Eurostar (ex Thalys) , I would go for the route over Paris. You’ll pay just too much for a seat reservation on Eurostar (more than regular ticket Köln-Brussels often costs even...)
     
  • If it gives you an option with ICE and the direct TGV from Brussels to Nantes, bypassing Paris, I would try it as long as you have plenty of buffer time in Brussels, since that TGV is not very frequent and you don’t want to miss it.
     
Userlevel 1

Hey there, thanks for your reply!

My itinerary via Brussels would be

 

And then (but I picked a fake date there because the TGV schedule for July isn’t out yet as far as I can see)

But curiously I can’t find an interrail seat booking option for that TGV, don’t know why. B-Europe.com only gives me connections from Brussels via Paris.

Fun fact: I just phoned a travel agency here in Hamburg which was recommended to me. The guy was very nice, but he told me german travel agencys don’t book train tickets anymore, southern France is really really complicated and he would suggest flying - crazy world!

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

There is a very very limited passholder quota on TGVs out of Brussels (thanks SNCF...). It’s probably already sold out for 19th May. If you can’t manage to get Interrail seats from Brussels do it as follows :

  • Brussels - Lille-Europe : 19-25€ ticket (half price for the 8 y.o.)
  • Lille-Europe - Nantes : 10€ limited Interrail fare, then 20€ until the train sells out.

During the 15 min stop in Lille change seats :) It’s unpractical but that’s what we have to do with SNCF...

Userlevel 7
Badge +7

But she’s not travelling the 19th of May, but in summer ;)

I myself would find a too tricky going over Brussels, as there’s not a good back-up option from Brussels in case of a missed connection, canceled train or delay. There’s only one TGV Brussels-Nantes a day, which makes rerouting difficult.

The option via Mannheim/Stuttgart has much more connections a day, so plenty of back-up should something go wrong.

If you want to bypass Paris, I would consider splitting your trip in Strasbourg, stay the night, and opt for a direct train to Nantes in the morning.  There’s a direct TGV Strasbourg-Nantes, in the current timetables at 7:31.

Or, there’s a direct Strasbourg-Nantes TGV in the evening at 17h. The one in the evening might be a good option if you come from Hamburg. When you leave early from Hamburg (6 or 8 in the morning) , you can spend the afternoon in Strasbourg, plenty of buffer time, have lunch find a nice activity for your children and continue in the evening. It breaks the day.

But, all of that is to be confirmed when SNCF publishes summer timetables in a few weeks. 😅

Always a puzzle, but the best train travel agency is this community 😁

I think this last option is your best option actually, also bypassing the olympics! 

Remind us in a couple of weeks to check the new timetables on March 13th, and we’ll try to provide you with a rudimentary final schedule! If you tag me or someone else that replied here, we'll get a notification.      

Userlevel 7
Badge +15

Always a puzzle, but the best train travel agency is this community 😁     

true :D but there are few good ones out there :) Gleisnost, Bahnagentur Schöneberg if you still need advice. but ofcourse they wanna live and charge a service fee :) (They reimburse the fee if you book tickets of a certain amount with them) 

(If you know what you wanna book  Bahnagentur Lennestadt :)  )

Userlevel 7
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Yes yes sure I wanted to mention that this train easily sells out months in advance.

The route via Strasbourg is indeed the best bet. With the Riedbahn closure Hamburg - Offenburg sees direct trains so it’s perfect. :) For example :

  • ICE Hamburg Hbf - Offenburg 08:24 - 14:30
  • RB Offenburg - Strasbourg 15:05 - 15:34 (or 16:05 - 16:34 if really needed)
  • TGV Strasbourg - Nantes 17:01 - 22:23 (not confirmed but unlikely to change)

Or leave 2 hours earlier as Brendan suggested, depending on how early you’re willing to wake up and how far you live from Hamburg Hbf (or Dammtor/Harburg depending on times). Strasbourg is a very pleasant city for a break.

Userlevel 1

You guys are indeed the very, very best! 😍

Thank you so much for your advice, now I really don’t feel so lost anymore - the community rules!!!

I think I can take it from here and I’ll post an update when the tickets are out :)

Userlevel 1

Hi dear community, hi @BrendanDB , @thibcabe  and all you others,

so my overwhelm has passed thanx to you guys, I already bought 3 interrail passes with the offers and looked for trains. Since I might need a lot of time in-between trains for my kids, I think I might book as follows:

21.07.:
06:18 ICE 277 Hamburg to Offenburg

14:05 SWE RB25 Offenburg to Straßbourg

17:01 TGV INOUI #5488 Strasbourg to Nantes (if it will be scheduled, still to be checked next week)

 

25.07.:
07:55 IC 3831  Nantes to Bordeaux (check next week)
12:41 TER NA D33 Bordeaux to St Foy la Grande


01.08.:
16:40 TER St Foy la Grande to Bordeaux (then stay the night in a hotel)


02.08.:

06:46: TGV 8478 Bordeaux to Paris Montparnasse (check next week)
13:09: ICE 9553 Paris Est to Frankfurt
18:57: ICE 594 Frankfurt to Hamburg
 

I absolutely don’t expect you to recheck my schedule, but if at first glance something seems strange to you as Interrail Pros, I would appreciate it if you let me know 😅 I’m especially not sure if the itinerary from Bordeaux back to Hamburg makes sense, but I saw no way to avoid Paris.

And there are three more questions in my head:

  • Since the tickets for TGV go into sale next Wednesday, do you think it will be a harsh “First come first serve” competition or will there be enough time to book seats in the evening? Absolutely no clue 😜
  • Do you have any advice where to book the seat reservations? Is it better directly at SCNF and Deutsche Bahn or via some other Website? Not so sure either how the Railplanner App could be helpful.
  • Has anybody travelled with TER-Trains in France? Do I need a reservation for these, and how long in advance? Especially for the way back to Bordeaux I’m not sure which train I will get so it would mean less flexibility.

Thanks again so much for your support, it’s so helpful and empowering 😊🌸

Cheers from Hamburg

Nadia

 

 

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

I don't expect trains will be fully booked on the first day they open reservations.

SNCF stopped selling pass reservations online about 3 years ago.

Use raileurope.com (no extra booking fees) to book domestic trains in France and TGV/ICE Germany-France. Nantes-Bordeaux has optional reservations but they're quite cheap.

For domestic trains in Germany, use bahn.com (€9.80 family reservation per journey with seat selection) or tickets.oebb.at (€3 per person and train).

TERs don't have reservations, except for some trains between Paris and Normandy, but you're not going there.

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

Looks good!

Personally I'd leave Bordeaux an hour later : the 07:45 train leaves you with 3h in Paris, plenty enough in my opinion. :)

If the cross-border ICE is on time, you could also take the 17:58 ICE to Hamburg. It will be behind you from Mannheim so there are good chances you can catch it. Of course you can still change your mind on the day (optional reservations).

Userlevel 7
Badge +7

Seems like a sound plan. Delay proof, back up options and some time for your children. 

All set for a nice holiday it seems :) 

Userlevel 1

Thanks a lot you guys, you rock

😎🤗

 

Userlevel 7
Badge +7

@NadiaBlue  TGV INOUI nr. 5488 (Strasbourg Nantes) on 21st of July is confirmed. You can reserve with peace of mind ;)

Userlevel 1

Thanks @BrendanDB, @thibcabe , @rvdborgt ,

I booked all seats and feel totally relaxed now 🤣 Couldn’t have done it without you guys, so thanks a lot and many good Karma points for you 🤗

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