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Trip by train

Do we buy single trip tickets? Eurail pass? Combo of both? German rail + point to point??

Who's traveling: 2 adults and 2 youth (15 & 17)

Tentative intinerary: Amsterdam - Paris- Colmar - Fussen - Munich - Salzburg - Rothenburg - Frankfurt - Cologne - Essen - Amsterdam

Length of trip - 21 days

I've been trying to figure it out, but I'm overwhelmed!

Posted by
2651 posts

You'll have a better trip if you pare down your city list. You've got a 11 cities and 21 days and what that means is you'll see a lot of train windows. Also, try to fly into one city and out of another (not Amsterdam to Amsterdam) as this will save you a lot of backtracking time.

Train tickets are easy - pre buy tickets for specific trains and save money, generally.

Have everyone chime in with their top 4 or 5 cities and then try to work an itinerary from there. If this is your first trip to Europe, keep in mind that blockbuster cities like Paris really need 4 days, Amsterdam should have 3.

Posted by
11294 posts

Valerie has given you excellent advice - please follow it so you'll have a better trip!

Here's a great summary of the three train options - rail pass vs advance purchase discount tickets vs full priced last minute tickets - from the rail guru The Man In Seat 61:

If you want to buy inexpensive advance train tickets (which do come with restrictions, but save a lot of money), here's his list of where to buy each segment:

Posted by
32265 posts


As the others have mentioned, your trip is far too ambitious for the time frame you have. Visiting 11 destinations in 21 days will provide 1.9 days per city, with no allowance for travel times! Your trip will be a lot of checking in and out of hotels, travel to and from rail stations and sitting in trains rather than visiting the sights you've come to see. While it may be feasible, it likely won't be enjoyable.

You need to pare down your list considerably. The suggestion to use open-jaw flights is also a good one.

Posted by
20457 posts

Essen? Now that's a first for a destination, although I almost did it last year to tour a coal mine. But, in the end, I decided to skip it and head straight to Berlin.

Posted by
19169 posts

I'll agree with the others that you are planning too much in not enough time. Twenty-one days, ten of those on the road. It's just too much travel and not enough dwell time.

But beyond that, I don't think a rail pass would be warranted. A good part of your travel - Füssen to Munich to Salzburg to Rotenburg is within Bavaria. You might be able to save a little time with express trains, but you can save a lot of money with regional trains and Bayern-Tickets. Even Rothenburg to Frankfurt can use a Bayern-Ticket to Kahl and a local RMV ticket from there to Fankfurt. The rest of the trip - Frankfurt to Cologne to Essen to Amsterdan be done less expensively with regional passes and regional trains or with purchase ahead Saver Fare tickets.

Posted by
370 posts

Guess I need to clarify -

Actual stops (cities we are exploring) are Amsterdam - Paris - Fussen - Munich - Salzburg - Rothenburg - Amsterdam

We already have tickets into and out of Amsterdam. After much searching, that ended up giving us the best price.

Thanks for all the info. Will be looking at sites given, and accept any further advice anyone has.


Posted by
370 posts

P.S. - we already have our flight purchased and although we knew we could do less back tracking (although we are doing more of a loop, than overlapping back) we're good with that. At the time of purchase, this option saved us quite a bit on our tickets.

Posted by
20457 posts

What time of year is this trip happening and have you thought about how much time in each city?
Reasons for not using a Eurail Pass.
1. Amsterdam to Paris on the fast Thalys train is almost the same price to get the required Eurail reservation as buying an advance purchase nonrefundable ticket.
2. Paris to Colmar, the TGV requires a reservation fee and there is a quota of pass holders allowed on the train, so you might not be able to travel when you want, or have to buy a full fare ticket. Again, buying a nonrefundable advance ticket now will save money.
3. Colmar to Germany use the advance purchase nonrefundable ticket.
4. You might think of just staying in Munich and visiting Fuessen and Salzburg as day trips using inexpensive Laender tickets. It takes time to pull up stakes and move to another location with luggage and check in to a new hotel.
5. Munich to Rothenburg o.d.T is also a Laender ticket.
6. Rothenburg to Cologne can be done with advance purchase nonrefundable ticket. Cologne is a good last stop before heading to Schipol airport for the flight home.
7. Cologne to Schipol with advance purchase nonrefundable ticket.

Do you want to stay in Amsterdam at the beginning or end of the trip? Beginning would be better as far as buying advance purchase train tickets, since you will not have to time your arrival (which is subject to delays) with long distance rail trips.

What happened to Colmar is you last post? maybe Strasbourg would work better as a stop between Paris and Munich.

Map out how many days you want to stop at each location and the travel times between each.

You can buy all your train tickets at one site, except Laender tickets which are bought day of travel:

Posted by
370 posts

Wow!! That last info was wonderful. Colmar was just our stop between Paris and Munich. We will look at the other city as well

We are traveling 11/12/16 - 12/3/16

Thank you!!

Posted by
16894 posts

Glad to see that the trip is still 6 months away, giving you more time for the details. Advance-discount tickets generally don't go on sale until 3 months ahead of your travel dates.

If you're comparing a rail pass, then the number of days of train travel is important. You can cover most of the trip with a Select pass covering only France and Germany, for instance $280 per adult and $270 per youth for 5 days of travel in 2nd class. Seat reservations on Thalys are $30 per person in 2nd class and on the France-Germany TGV are about $12 per person (currently best to reserve by phone with Rail Europe). Before boarding the last train from Cologne or Essen to Amsterdam, buy a ticket for the portion on the Dutch side of the border, not more than $20 per person.

Posted by
6797 posts

"Actual stops (cities we are exploring) are Amsterdam - Paris - Fussen - Munich - Salzburg - Rothenburg - Amsterdam"

Paris-Fuessen with a stopover in Colmar will involve 10.5+ hours on the train. Paris - Rothenburg is 7.5 hours, Paris-Munich about 6.5. It's a long way to Bavaria from Paris. Long trips however you slice it. Have you thought about stopping over near Mannheim - which is just 3 hours by direct train from Paris? Or near Frankfurt, which is just a bit further? You can change in Mannheim for some interesting places nearby - Heidelberg, Speyer (the Technik museum there is amazing - check it out) Worms, Neustadt-an-der-Weinstrasse, and Mainz are all worthy destinations on the route to Rothenburg that aren't on the tour bus trail (Rothenburg, Fuessen, home of the faux-castle Neuschwanstein, and Salzburg) but offer a very good look at Germany. I also suggest you take a look at Wuerzburg and Bamberg (not far from Rothenburg) both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Also, I suggest doing some research on Christmas markets, which will be in full swing during the last week or so of your visit. One that comes to mind is Ruedesheim's - in Germany's castle-studded Middle Rhine Valley, on your way north to Cologne and Amsterdam.

Posted by
50 posts

I agree in large part with Sam now that I see your actual cities visited. The plus side of basing in Munich is the quick day trips to Fussen, Salsburg and Rothenburg. But you should decide first what you want to see there. Example, I have family who did the day trip to Fussen and saw the castles. But we went, spent the night, went for a day long bike ride, saw the castles the next day and some other local sights. So it really depends what you want as an experience.

The nice thing about traveling at that time of year is the flexibility you will have in terms of needing reservations.

Years ago we learned this while traveling. Whenever we go to a place we figure out what we want to do and then allow time to do that. Then we often add one more night. It never fails us. As we get to know a place and then wander around on that last (added) day, we always find some hidden gem(s) that made the extra time worthwhile. As we head for Holland and France this fall, we are using the same strategy. I am sure we will be happy we stayed longer in most places. Happy travels!