We are starting to plan a trip to France this September and will be taking the 21 year old nephew. We will be 64 and 68 years old in September 2015. I'm trying to get an idea of train vs. car rental cost. As it stands we are thinking about a week in Paris and a week either in Normandy alone or Normandy/Brittany. My interest is in that second week; our time in Paris will likely be restricted to the city with a daytrip or two outside of Paris. When we traveled in Germany on past trips we were able to take advantage of different tickets that offered reduced prices for 2 or more. There were, I think, several programs with varying names, none of which I can recall :-(. Are there any such equivalent deals offered by SNCF where we could get such a discount? Any tips on how to research these fare programs if they exist? We have traveled by train and car in both countries and are generally familiar with the pros and cons of each. But now we are 3, and the equation changes. Thanks.
On regional trains, there is generally a discount for people over 60 riding outside of rush hours. Ditto for youth. But I can't help but think a car would be better to have to visit Normandy/Brittany. Paris has it's own discount for weekly passes (Mon-Sun), but no extra discounts based on age unless you are a resident.
For Normandy and Brittany, a car is best.
Those great local group tickets in Germany don't exist in France.. Local trains don't go to as many small towns, either. There are senior fares and fares for two people riding together during the weekend, but the advance purchase tickets can be less expensive that those.
Train service can easily get you to and from Normandy and Brittany, but is not extensive or frequent for travel along the coast. I recommend renting a car at your first stop out of the city, such as Bayeux. A TGV to or from Brittany costs twice as much as a regional train to Normandy.
Or, how about neither? How about taking a tour and relaxing
A car will be best in Normandy and Brittany. Even if a train costs less, it will limit where you can go.
For researching trains:
I'm sure you do not want a car in Paris. As a Normandy base, Caen is bigger with more options than Bayeux. That young man can do the driving (and help with the on-line research) while you sit back and enjoy the sights and sites.
Thank you all for the great information. It is all helpful and pretty much seems like the car is the way to go. We don't gasp quite as loudly when we see the price of gas now, but the tolls still take my breath away. It seems like we will have at best 6 or 7 days after Paris, and it would be nice to pretty much concentrate on one area at a more leisurely rate. We have come to like that MO a lot, one or two bases. How to divide that time is another question, but until his vacation days are set I can't go much farther. MSM, DDay beaches, tapestry, cathedrals, countryside villages...we want to show him as much as we can. It will be car for sure. BTW, he won't be the driver. But the idea of pressed labor as navigator, googlemeister, and luggage bearer is starting to offset the visions of $$$.
Definitely do not get a rental car while you're staying in Paris. Take the train to Caen and pickup your rental car there. Much much easier that way.
Trains and metros are the way to travel in Paris...that is unless you get trapped in one of those nightmarish Parisian train strikes!