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First Class or Second Class for train from Amsterdam to Brussels to Brugge

My husband and I are going on a two week tour from the US to Copenhagen,
Amsterdam, Brugge, and Berlin. I wish I could tell you that we're taking carry on suitcases but I can't! We'll each have two good sized suitcases! We will be taking a train from Amsterdam to Brussels and then Brussels to Brugge. Will be more assured of seats together and space for luggage if we get first class tickets rather than second class. Thanks!

Posted by
4695 posts

If you are taking the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Brussels, it will have reserved seats anyway. 2nd class is probably nice enough anyway, for most people, so if you can get two together on a 2nd class Thalys train to Brussels, I'd probably do that to save money. You'd have a place to store your bags at the end of the car I believe.

The Belgian trains are (still?) not reserved as I recall. 2nd class did fill up on a couple of the Belgian trains I was on, so I booked 1st class on a couple of trains just to avoid that (and those cars were mostly empty). So if you were going to book 1st class on any train, it would be the one to Bruges not the Thalys to Brussels.

Posted by
6543 posts

My parents were world travelers, and I remember my poor father lugging my mother's full size suitcase everywhere. I still think they'd had 5 more years of travel if Mom had learned to use Rick Steves' packing list. My wife and I can travel indefinitely with a 21" rolling bag and a oversized handbag.

Posted by
11437 posts

Those train journeys are so short , no way would I pay for first class ( I will if journeys are over 3 hours or if price difference is less than 10-15 euros ) .

You will regret your over packing tremendously on train trips . Hauling luggage up and down trains is so much not fun ( you will have to lift them onboard ) .

You do have time to rethink your packing - I’m not saying go carry on - but reducing to one bag each ( middle size ) will make you much happier in travel days .

Posted by
6907 posts

If you keep larger suitcases, yes, you'd be better off in first class.
If you switch to 22" with a backpack of some sorts to supplement, you should be able to find a place for you suitcases in second class.

Posted by
340 posts

Especially with train travel pack light. One rolling carry on and one small backpack per person is more than enough space for two weeks. The space for luggage on trains is not designed for large suitcases. The best thing we learned on our first RS Tour was to pack light. We travel a month at a time and pack the same if the trip is one week. We also travel with a guide dog and our first few trips fit 15 pounds of food in those bags. You can do it and you’ll be glad you did.

Posted by
306 posts

We took Thalys from Amsterdam to Antwerp, changing in Antwerp for Bruges.
We paid for first class one-way, second-class on the return.
We tried first class because at the time we purchased the tickets, the price differential was only about $20.
You have to have reservations, so getting two seats together was very easy.
When using Belgian Rail, although we did not have reservations, we just chose a train car that was less crowded.
There were four of us traveling together and we never had a problem locating seats.
Regarding the suitcases: mine was a 25 inch, my husband's was a 28 inch.
Mine worked well, his was a little big.
We were gone two weeks and could have easily pared down to a 22 inch.
However, we packed light with extra room because we did not know what we might be bringing back.
You must be mindful of the 50 lb baggage restriction by airlines.
Mine was 32 lbs outbound; his was 40.
On the return, mine was 40 and his was 48.Something to consider....
hope this helps

Posted by
3144 posts

We took the Thalys train for a 4 hour, 45 minute trip between Paris and Dortmund two months ago. We sat in the 2nd class carriage as the price was a mere 35€. I worried about how comfortable we would be. Let me tell you, that was the BEST 2nd class carriage we've ever taken on any rail line in Europe. So comfortable, plenty of legroom even for someone like me with a bad back who can't be cramped into a seat, luggage storage above seats as well as at both ends of the carriage. Your ride is much shorter in time. The Brussels to Bruges portion could probably be a commuter rail so there won't be 1st class. There will be plenty of trains from which to choose.

For Amsterdam to Brussels, you might want to reserve seats across from each other with a table. You'll have sockets to charge your mobile devices too. That is what we did.

Posted by
16788 posts

I don't wish to second-guess each item in your "two good sized suitcases" per person, but it sounds like more than double the amount of luggage space that most people need for a two-week trip. See tips at https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light.

Your luggage probably will be allowed within Thalys' generous luggage limits, but check the details to confirm. Some other of the fastest trains implement similar rules (Eurostar being the primary example), more strict than most medium-speed and unreserved trains. I don't expect the first-class cars to have any more allocated luggage space, only fewer passengers needing to share that space.

Posted by
1102 posts

2nd class on a train is much better economy class on a plane.

Posted by
7756 posts

Are you doing your Amsterdam ->Bruges trip without stopping in Brussels except to change trains? If so, on the Thalys ticket website you can choose "ABS" which means Any Belgian Station and your ticket will include your trip out to Bruges. IF you are stopping over in Brussels this won't work.

Posted by
3144 posts

Are you doing your Amsterdam ->Bruges trip without stopping in
Brussels except to change trains? If so, on the Thalys ticket website
you can choose "ABS" which means Any Belgian Station and your ticket
will include your trip out to Bruges. IF you are stopping over in
Brussels this won't work.

What a great tip! Thanks for sharing, Pam!

Posted by
106 posts

Was Nepal ever colonized by the Dutch? Maybe you could hire some Sherpas at Schiphol ....

Posted by
3307 posts

The sherpa comment is highly relevant here. I hope you can each manage your "two good sized suitcases" on your own because there will be no one to help you with that.

As a person who packs for one week and typically travels for 4+ weeks, I can't imagine taking more than will fit in a standard 22x14x9 carry-on and a medium-sized tote.

Is this your first time in Europe? Your first time to travel by train?

I'm linking some relevant train photos showing trains at Amsterdam here. Please note these relatively easy steps into the coach. You may experience much steeper ones. In either case, you will have to lift those suitcases into the train, put them on a rack if there's space and then reverse the process when you get off. There are testimonies in the Packing forum about packing light after a first trip.

The previously linked photos are from the everything about train travel, man-in-seat-61 website. This is a section on dealing with luggage on the train. Be sure to scroll down for pictures.

And here are some pictures that include a normal boarding process at Schiphol.

If there is any way you can cut your luggage down, do it. This video done by Sarah Murdoch might give you some hints on that.

Posted by
4701 posts

Note that local, unreserved trains between Brussels and Brugge are very frequent. They are also heavily used. Some of the trains are composed of modern, "double-decker" second-class cars (which are also used on some commuter routes in the United States.) The reason I mention this is that the hallways, aisles, and staircases (both levels require steps to get to the seats) are narrow and difficult to negotiate with large bags. I have sometimes stood in the big vestibule nearer the exterior doors, when I've had a big bag.

I happen to be a heavy-packer, and I don't feel the slightest shame about it. If the traveler is willing to carry their own bag, and not injure others by thoughtlessly moving it around, they should not be scolded here. I do question the wisdom of TWO good-sized bags each. Even if you go to the gym regularly, you are likely to regret this burden on yourselves. You may wish to explore hotel laundry pricing, or to buy a few quick-dry undergarments. We used to waste a lot of time sitting in European laundromats (and damaging our clothes with 80C water.) Now, I see that our touring-time has "value", and should not be spent looking for change and sitting around.

Even on the single-level coaches that may have a luggage rack at one end, there is not enough space for everyone's bag. If First Class is available, feel free to buy it.

EDIT: Note that there is a huge difference in luggage space between premium long-distance trains and local trains. On the train from Brussels to Brugge, you can expect an open-work, lengthwise shelf over the seats that will NOT properly hold an American "carry-on". It's designed for briefcase-sized luggage. If you are lucky, you'll be off-hour and there will be some rows of seats unoccupied. Note that daily school commuting is a major part of Flanders life. The rush hour starts at 3PM!

Posted by
12 posts

Hi all

I realized that I wasn’t clear. My husband and I are each taking one good sized suitcase. So between us, there will be two good sized suitcases. We will also have one carry on in to put a days worth of clothes in case our luggage is lost.

Posted by
106 posts

Ahh okay, two full size suitcases isn't such a problem. At most you'll return home with better toned biceps :)

You"ll be happiest if the carry-on is a bag you can set on top of a roller suitcase and shoulder when you need to. If you can do with two good sized day packs that can be fit inside the full-size suitcases you'll then be best off.

Keep your guard up in train stations and other busy places - more bags and/or more unwieldy make you a juicier target for petty theft.

First class train cars are pretty nice, quieter and roomier feeling. Second class is fine too. The difference is incremental, not at all like the difference between classes on an airplane. For me if it's 20-30% more and I'm wanting max-relax then sure. But it's all fine.

Many train cars have oversized luggage areas, you can use those but I like to then sit close enough to keep an eye ball on my bag. Otherwise most have overhead luggage rack that usually fit a standard (not huge) suitcase laying sideways. If you can host it overhead.

Think about weight if you can - even if the bag's bigger lighter is better, try to minimize heavy stuff!

Posted by
7756 posts

This will also work with a stop over (of a couple of hours) in Brussels. As long as the trip to Brugge is made on the same day as the trip Amsterdam - Brussel

Thanks Floris! I thought you could do a short stop but I wasn’t certain.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks hlaufenberg for your response. "If you can do with two good sized day packs that can be fit inside the full-size suitcases you'll then be best off. " Are you suggesting that my husband and I each pack backpacks in our suitcases? I usually just wear a crossbody purse that fits a water bottle, travel book etc. when we tour." I'd love to know your thoughts on the advantage of both of us packing backbacks. I also carry a crossbody tote bag when I'm at the airport or train. Thanks!

Posted by
442 posts

You could hurt your back or worse with your big suitcases. I suggest you each take only one small bag without wheeles, each take just one change of clothes, and hand wash your clothes in the sink in your hotels.