We will be traveling from Paris to Lucerne to Florence in March. We already have a plane ticket for the return from Florence to Paris to fly back to the US at the end of the trip but plan to use the train the remainder of the time to go between Paris and Lucerne and then Lucerne to Florence and possibly for day trips to Lake Como and the Cinq. Terre area. The 5 day Global pass train ticket is in the $320 range and individual tickets are approx $270. I have seen comments about fees in Italy specifically when using the Global pass ticket - asking for advice is it better to just buy individual tickets as needed or to purchase a Global pass? Thank you.
It will be a lot cheaper to buy individual tickets. For France and Italy you need to buy these 60-90 days in advance to get the best prices. I.e. for March buy now. And buy direct from the company running the trains, not from a reseller.
Train ticket prices never go down, just up nearer the departure date. For France and Italy you will get your tickets as "print-at-home" by e-mail. The tickets will be for a specific train, and will list date, time, train ID and seat numbers on them.
Local tickets in Italy "day trips to Lake Como and the Cinq. Terre area" have no discounts and do not need to be bought in advance.
I suggest you read these web pages, and follow their recommendations on buying tickets.
Paris to Luzern: https://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Paris.htm#Paris-Switzerland
Luzern to Florence: https://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Switzerland.htm#Switzerland-Italy
Note, on many sites you need to use the "real" place names, not English translations. For example: Luzern, Firenze.
Edit: Florence/Firenze to Lake Como is a bit far for a day trip. Looking up times on https://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en (Italian Railways) from "Firenze S. M. Novella" to Como town, it takes 3 hours each way.
Good answer above.
If for any of these trains the national rail service on-line seems intimidating, you may find it easier to buy through www.trainline.com
I learned of it from Seat 61. At that time it had two branches, one for the UK and one for Europe, but seems to have consolidated under this link.
I did find Seat 61 and it was very helpful.... thank you for your reply. I am going to go ahead and book individual tickets today so we get the best price. Thank you again!
Are you committed to a train?
My rule of thumb is four hours of transportation in a travel day. Going city to city, I'll spend up to four hours on a train happily. After that I look at flights.
Another reason to look at flights is price. I pack only a small carry on (which makes a difference) but relatively short hops on European carriers (like Paris to Lucerne and Lucerne to Florence) can normally be had for about $50 each.
If you choose the Eurail Pass, note that it currently comes in 1st class for that same $320 price range (the usual 2nd-class price) for travel completed by May 15.
Since you've priced out the pass for 5 travel days, rather than the 3-day version at $250, does that mean you're pretty confident of taking the day trips to Lake Como and the Cinque Terre (both pretty far from Florence and quiet in winter) and perhaps a mountain day trip near Luzern (highly recommended)?
Since the longer legs of your train route are by trains that require reservations, there's no particular hop-on flexibility added by the pass. Price will be the deciding factor.