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Group of Interrail and non-Interrail passengers - how to reserve seating together?

  • 10 May 2024
  • 3 replies
  • 121 views

Hello,

I'm part of a group of 4 or 5 planning to travel from London to Brindisi on 1 and 2 October later this year.

I am planning to travel with an Interrail pass, because I am coming back by train the following week and it represents value for money, but the others are travelling only one-way and therefore on regular point-to-point tickets.

The issue I'm trying to solve is: how do you buy Interrail reservations and regular tickets and make sure the group is seated together?

(I found one other topic on this subject but it was about Ireland, where this problem doesn't appear)

The parts of the journey requiring reservations and therefore where this comes up is:

On 01/10/2024:

  • 08:01 London St Pancras > Paris Gare du Nord 11:28 (Eurostar 9008)
  • 12:18 Paris Gare de Lyon > Genève 15:29 (TGV Lyria 9773)

On 02/10/2024:

  • 10:13 Milano Centrale > Brindisi 18:24 (Frecciarossa 9805)

I'd like to make sure we get table seats on each part and, in the case of the TGV, upper deck seats. Lastly, me being able to book reservations before buying a pass and having a pass number would also be useful (I know you can input any number in the correct format online - but this might not go down well over the phone, for example!).

The other legs are SBB trains or Italian regional trains, so this issue doesn't come up.

I can't find any booking website that allows you to book it all at the same time, and therefore be seated together. I usually book reservations on raileurope, but adding a pass in the booking enquiry applies the 'discount' to the whole group, rather than to just one passenger. On the SNCB reservations microsite, you can't buy regular tickets. On the SNCF and Trenitalia websites you can't purchase Interrail reservations.

The alternative is probably to phone each of Eurostar, SNCF and Trenitalia. I'm worried that in the case of the latter two a complex query like this might be 'lost in translation' if their first language isn't English. On the plus side, we are quite far in advance, so availability should be good.

I'm not expecting a magic solution, but does anyone have any advice or experience to help me please?

Many thanks in advance for any assistance.

 
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Best answer by thibcabe 10 May 2024, 00:31

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Let me first say that 50 min in Paris is fairly tight as you need to change stations. To save time get RER tickets onboard Eurostar if possible. One RER cancelled? You risk missing the TGV…

Eurostar is easy: after payment (whether tickets or passholder reservations) you can manage the booking and change seats free of charge. Book separately and change later.

Trenitalia: seat map available for regular tickets through trenitalia.com and seat map for passholders through Rail Europe (desktop version, 2€ extra).

TGV/SNCF: it would be weird if it was easy, isn't it... the only option I see is calling them. The English-speaking staff is usually helpful (otherwise try another one a bit later).

About pass numbers: now (rather recent development) all websites require a valid pass number for passholder fares. Whether interrail.eu, B-Europe, RailEurope,... no alternative. (There will likely not be a sale until autumn.)

Many thanks for your reply, thibcabe.

Let me first say that 50 min in Paris is fairly tight as you need to change stations. To save time get RER tickets onboard Eurostar if possible. One RER cancelled? You risk missing the TGV…

You make a fair point and if there were more choice of onward TGVs towards Italy I would have more time - but unfortunately due to the reduction in TGV Lyria services at that time, there isn’t much choice. My aim is to get to Brindisi for the Grimaldi Lines overnight ferry to Corfu on 2nd October.

When I did Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon for the first time, it took me 30 minutes end to end. I'll take the rap if it goes wrong, but I think we could easily and comfortably beat that if sitting towards the front of the Eurostar and having bought Metro tickets (or the Navigo app) in advance. Any tips from anyone on speeding that crossing up would be gratefully received.

Eurostar is easy: after payment (whether tickets or passholder reservations) you can manage the booking and change seats free of charge. Book separately and change later.

Trenitalia: seat map available for regular tickets through trenitalia.com and seat map for passholders through Rail Europe (desktop version, 2€ extra).

TGV/SNCF: it would be weird if it was easy, isn't it... the only option I see is calling them. The English-speaking staff is usually helpful (otherwise try another one a bit later).

Thank you for addressing each of these in turn - I will try them and report back, to help anyone finding this thread.

About pass numbers: now (rather recent development) all websites require a valid pass number for passholder fares. Whether interrail.eu, B-Europe, RailEurope,... no alternative. (There will likely not be a sale until autumn.)

This is good to know, thank you. I have previously used dummy pass numbers on B-Europe because, as far as I know, the validity of using the pass depends not on having a reservation with a matching pass number, but merely having a reservation (on the correct date, in the correct class, of course). But if booking websites have added data validation on these fields, then yes, this option has gone and I need to buy the pass now. You read my mind about waiting for a sale!

I have now booked the necessary tickets with all three operators - the instructions above worked perfectly. For the record:

  • Eurostar did warn me that if they had to ‘change equipment’ on the day - presumably a swap between e300 and e320 - we could be separated. Of the nine Eurostar journeys I’ve done since the start of 2022 where this could have happened (i.e. not from/to AMS), it’s happened twice.
  • The member of staff at SNCF was very helpful and could pick a table seat on the top deck for four - although, as a minor point, despite choosing the numbered options for ‘English’, I was greeted in French and asked to converse in English.

So, if those are my problems - it’s gone reasonably well!

Thanks again.

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