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Sleeper car or flight, your choice?

If the prices where the same, including a hotel with the flight, which would you choose, a sleeper train during the night or flight during the day?

I think the sleeper would be exciting? Any thoughts?

Posted by
805 posts

Flight, I long ago decided that sleeper cars aren't exactly exciting or that comfortable. I'd rather get there and be in a real hotel than on a sleeper train.

Posted by
4555 posts

Flight.....too many brief stops on European overnight trains keep waking me up. And, since I'm a big guy, I'm only really comfortable in a full-sized compartment, which usually costs an arm and a leg! Besides, with the right timing, I can enjoy an extra evening at my destination.

Posted by
8700 posts

I like night trains, but I can sleep anywhere and in any position. If the train leaves late enough in the evening to give me a full day for sightseeing before departure and arrives early enough in the morning so I can do the same that day, then it's the night train for me. Train travel is relaxing for me and I like leaving less of a carbon footprint than I would by flying.

Posted by
160 posts

Yeah, the sleeper car loses its excitement when you are packed in a closet-sized room with 5 other snoring blokes, and the room next door is partying hard into the wee hours of the morning...as happened to me going from Copenhagen to Stockholm.

Of course, I suppose there are more amenable sleeper car accomodations that aren't so cramped - but they probably cost more money. However, as Rick says, going the sleeper car route maximizes your vacation time by combining sleep with travel, which is nice.

As for the flight during the day...well, you have to devote a significant time-block dealing with getting to the airport, pre-boarding and disembarking (including baggage weight and claim issues), and getting from the airport into town. That practically eats up an entire precious vacation day. But if where you're going is really far away from where you are, or have to cross ocean (like I did from London to Madrid) then flying is probably the better deal...

Posted by
11450 posts

I did not find prices comparable. I looked into a Paris to Rome trip, and the night train was considerably more then what I got my flight for,, plus I have slept in our motorhome enough to know, its not that exciting to sleep in a bunk bed..LOL
I also could not afford the private two bed berth, and sharing with strangers is not my cuppa, plus the bathroom is down the hall, so in middle of night I'd have to take my purse to the washroom, as there'd be no way I'd leave anything with a bunch of strangers,, just not my cuppa.

I think the romance of a night train would be true,, if you could do something like the Orient Express,, with a lovely cabin to yourself and a butler bringing you tea in the morning with a silver teapot!! LOL

Posted by
12040 posts

I can't sleep on flights, and sleep only slightly better on night trains. At least night trains are comfortable, so I guess thats what I prefer.

Posted by
18056 posts

As long as you figure in the cost of transportation to and from the airport and the cost you save by not having a night in a hotel, then Savings Night fare, if you can get them (Susan), can be more economical compared with flying. Additionally, the night train makes better use of your time. Flying usually takes around 6 hours of prime daytime, whereas the night train uses otherwise less useful time.

When I was in college I made 3 three-night, transcontinental trips without trouble sleeping, and I had no trouble sleeping on the one European night train I was on since. I'd consider sleeping with strangers in a night train couchette equivalent to staying in a hostel. I wouldn't do either, but if you don't mind hostels, couchettes should be alright.

If cost and effective time use are a trade-off, I would take the train over flying. With the train you can enjoy the entire trip, but flying is always a hassle - check in lines, security, fighting for carryon space, cattlecar seating, etc.

Posted by
18056 posts

As for losing sleep due to frequent stops, I've noticed that a lot of night trains travel straight through in the prime sleeping time hours of the early morning. CNL's train from Amsterdam to Munich, for instance, leaves Bonn a few minutes after midnight and only make one stop, Koblenz at 1 AM, between there and when it start off-loading passengers in Stuttgart after 4 AM.

Posted by
18056 posts

However, in my opinion, don't use either. Why waste your valuable vacation time traveling so much?

If you are planning to make more than one trip to Europe, pick an area, say So. Germany, and exploit it - see everything so you don't have to come back to pick up what you missed on your first, whirlwind trip. That way you don't spend so much money traveling and you make better use of you time. Come back next time and see Italy.

Posted by
7 posts

I like trains but only if it is 4 or fewer people. Usually i will not go above me and another person in the room. Flying is usually cheaper than the night train but I do like the idea of travelling and sleeping at the same time; and if you have a long train ride, doing it during the day sucks.

Posted by
34 posts

FLY! I just changed plans from a overnight train (from Madrid to Lisbon) to flying...trains aren't easy for me to sleep on...especially if they stop all the time. Unless you reserve one w/ facilities, you'll arrive all grimy. You can have enough train ride experiences on the shorter legs.

Posted by
18056 posts

Just for fun, if you can read German, or can use Babelfish for a translation, go to www.Bahn.de, click on "Preise&Angebote" (prices and offers), then on "Nachtzüge" (night trains), and then on the box with "7-Tage-Nacht" (7 Days Night).

This is an offer of German Rail's City Night Line subsidiary. For a fare starting at €455 (€65 per night) per person in 2 or 3 person compartments w/ breakfast (€40 & up pP in a couchette 6 w/o breakfast), you can travel for 7 nights between seven European cities. Four German cities, Berlin, Munich, Köln, and Hamburg are always included, as well as Paris and Kopenhagen. Either Brussels, Zurich, or Freiburg can be the seventh city. So you travel at nights and see the cities during the day. You can arrange on your own extra nights off the trains in any of the cities where you might want to spend more time.

These are regularly scheduled night trains, so you don't just go to the next nearest city; you criss-cross across Europe, always with at least one end of the trip being in a German city.

I spent €37 per night (ÜF) for my last trip, so here is all this transportation for only €28 per night.

Posted by
357 posts

This is actually something we will likely deal with on our trip to Spain and Portugal next year. I've got a good idea what flights from Seattle we want to take - which would bring us into LHR (but with the open skies, there may be some new choices by then). My wife is interested in doing a couple of days in London now too. But we'll likely go to Barcelona and then take the night train to Sevilla. Then day train to Madrid and then possibly night train to Lisbon. We'll likely have our usual 11 day trip (10 in Europe), so to get the added city we'll need to sleep on the train. But we'll likely get the two-person sleeper since it will replace nights in hotels.

Posted by
552 posts

Just like the, "To Cut or not to Cut" thread, this one is pretty much in a dead heat - I'm calling it 5 to 5.

If you choose the laid-back coziness of a night train, I have only the one suggestion I've made previously:

Diphenhydramine HCL.

A good strong coffee will bring you back to alert mode when you're ready.

Posted by
1449 posts

As you can see, opinion is divided. The problem I have with flying is that a 90 minute flight ends up chewing 5-6 hours of prime daylight when you count time getting to the airport & checking in, then getting from the destination airport to where you want to be. So this summer I'm going to try a sleeper one night and see how it goes; if I like it I'll do it more in the future, if not I only lost 1 nite ...

Posted by
151 posts

Last year, we thought it would be fun and relaxing to train it from Verona to Munich and see the sights of Austria. We were in first class and it was a day trip. After seven hours on the train, I got off and I felt like I was still rocking, swaying and moving all the way until I went to bed that night. I felt like I sailed all day without my sea legs. I realize my situation may have been unique, but something to think about.

Posted by
1 posts

Came across this thread from 8 months ago..
First, the "experiences" some have noted make no distinction between a couchette and a sleeper car.
You can grab a cheap bunk in a couchette if you want to travel cheap, if its privacy and comfort, you book a sleeper. They are hardly the same experience. You also can get a room with your own shower and toilet, they are only down the hall if you pick the cheapest accomodations. The City Night Line trains often carry a full dining car that you can reserve dinner in before you travel and serve a more than adequate breakfast in the morning in your room. A wonderful experience is possible if you know your travel options.
There should also be thought given to traveling in a responsible manner that causes the least damage to the environment. The train is a far more responsible way to travel in this regard.
I suggest you check out seat61.com for some excellent information about overnight travel by rail which we have found to be a great experience and such a pleasure we endeavor to travel by sleeper as our first choice on all our journeys.

Posted by
11798 posts

I think I'm more like Lee. My trips don't jump around. I try to keep my travel days compact. I haven't used either option yet.

When I compare prices of low cost airlines vs the overnight trains, I'd probably lean toward flying.

Posted by
990 posts

I've done a few all night train trips, but I have to say I don't find them particularly restful nights. It's often naptime for us on arrival! Flying a discount airline does suck up more time than it seems it should, but at least I arrive ready to go.

I plan to take two internal flights within Europe this summer--one between Bergamo Italy and Krakow Poland and later one between Poznan Poland and Amsterdam. I realize that some of you will be tut-tutting and telling me that I should stay in one place, but I have conferences in three places in a two week period, so I'm thumbing my nose at the received wisdom here.

Posted by
990 posts

I wanted to add, though I don't get much rest on night trains, there's something romantic still about them--at least, if you have a sleeper compartment and not a couchette! One of my best coast-to-coast US trips was in an Amtrak sleeper car, and I still hanker after a cross Canada train trip (or at least as far across Canada as one can go, these days.)

If I were a student or retired and time wasn't an object, I'd splurge on a sleeper in Europe at least once.

Posted by
368 posts

Flight...

I would rank the Milan -> Paris night train we took in the top 2 worst experiences of my life thus far. Would have had been #1 if the A/C had not been working. It was cramped and confusing. We also had to bribe the conductor 30 Euro to get our passports back.

Sure there were some things we could have done to probably make our experience better (not get a lower bunk), but in my mind, flying or a day train is a better option.

Posted by
18056 posts

I have spent 9 nights on trains in the U.S. and 1 night on a train in Europe; I never had any trouble sleeping.

The trouble with flying is that if you fly during the day, it eats up most of your day. If you fly late in the day, you get into a strange city late at night.

On the other hand, with the train, unless the trip is very long, you only use otherwise non-productive time and preserve the daylight hours for siteseeing.

Posted by
10344 posts

Jon: A number of travelers reporting here have had a similar experience to yours (see Jon's post, 2 above this). If you've slept well on a night train before, as Lee has, then it's a good way for you to travel. But if you haven't tried a night train before, but have a feeling you or your travel partner might not sleep through the movement and sound of the train, the stops (if any), and the snoring of strangers sleeping near you (if you aren't paying for a private compartment), then you might want to try a night train once, and see if it works for you, or if instead you and/or your travel partner arrive at your next destination at 5am, bedraggled, grumpy, exhausted, with nothing open, including your small hotel that isn't open to accept your luggage or you. The theory of nights trains sounds great: hey, we're getting to the next destination and sleeping and not paying for a hotel! But I wonder if Rick in his books may have over-promoted night trains? It worked for him when he was a young pup, but now in his 50s Rick is reporting he's not sleeping in Europe like he used to. I wonder if even Rick takes night trains very much these days?And even Rick warns against taking night trains on back-to-back nights.