We've compiled a list of the best travel hacks for train travellers, each one hand-picked to make your next adventure on the rails a little bit easier, and save you time and money.
Naturally, we think that going by train is the best way to travel. But there are some tricks that can make it even better, saving you time and money on the rails, and making you the envy of your mates.
We've put together a list of our favourite travel hacks, and must-packs, especially for train travellers, to make your next adventure a little bit easier. You'll wonder how you ever survived without them!
1. Save loadsamoney by travelling mid-week
Most people start their holiday on the weekend, so if you can be flexible it pays to buck this trend. Our research revealed that Wednesday is the cheapest day to book train tickets, with prices on average 16% less than setting off on Friday.
Also, unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that it's a good idea to book in advance to avoid those last minute price hikes! This is not a hack, but you should do it.
2. Never pay foreign transaction fees again
Monzo, all rights reserved.
Online-only, contactless enabled and with a handy smartphone app, new banks like Monzo will transform the way you travel.
The app shows the exchange rate upfront as soon as you boot up in another country, there are no fees to pay by card anywhere in the world, and reasonable fees for using ATMs abroad.
It's great for train travellers, since there's no need to get cash before you travel. Just hop on the train, safe in the knowledge that you can buy snacks on board, Metro tickets from self-service machines, or a coffee when you arrive, exactly as you would at home.
3. Get free transfers in major cities
Get clued up on any free transfers that may be included with your ticket:
- UK train tickets that cross London include a free transfer - look for the ‘†' symbol, which is shown on qualifying tickets.
- Spanish high-speed train tickets include a free ride on the Cercanías network within 4 hours of arrival or departure - look for the Combinado Cercanías code at the top of your ticket.
4. Bulk buy Metro tickets to save 23%
Paris Metro transfers aren't included with SNCF bookings, but you can save money by buying a book of ten tickets (they're €1.90 each, or €14.50 for ten).
You can buy Paris Metro tickets from the buffet car on Eurostar. And they never expire so you can save any that are leftover for your next trip.
5. Behold the magic button!
We've all been there - waiting to get off a busy train, you find yourself caught between the automatic doors between carriages, holding the button to keep them open. Well, not any more!
Look up, and behold the magic button! On most new trains there is an override button above the doors, which stops them closing for a minute or more. You are now the coolest person on the train.
6. Get free stuff with your train tickets
Loads of train tickets include hidden freebies and discounts in major towns and cities, so get clued up:
- 2-for-1 entry to hundreds of tourist attractions like London Zoo, Madame Tussauds, The London Eye and many more. But it's not only in London - there are loads of days out all over the UK for train travellers.
- 2-for-1 tickets for the best museums in Paris, Brussels, Lille, Lyon and Marseille with your Eurostar ticket.
- 25% discount for Venice museum pass for ticket holders for any of Italy's high-speed Frecce trains.
7. Nap like a pro
The Power Nap Machine by Joseph's Machines
Forget old-style neck pillows. For a perfect nap on the train, get a fancy, next generation travel pillow to avoid the embarrassing head bob. Alternatively, you could always construct a Power Nap Machine.
8. Get a headphone splitter
Share music or watch a film together, even in the quiet carriage. Taking a headphone splitter, even on a short train trip, is the best way to plug in and zone out with your travelling companions.
9. Power up
Low Battery by Grimstarable, all rights reserved ©2011-2017 GrimStarable
Although lots of new trains have plug-sockets at your seat, a good portable power bank is a lifesaver while travelling.
10. Travel in groups
You don't have to be travelling in a big group to get a discount on the train. Most rail operators have offers, even for small groups:
- In the UK, two people who regularly travel together can apply for a Two Together Railcard to save 1/3 on rail fares. If that sounds like too much commitment, groups of three to nine passengers can get 1/3 off Off-Peak tickets when travelling together; available on Southern, Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway, and many more.
- In Italy, every Saturday you can get 2-for-1 adult tickets on almost any train. And kids under 15 can travel for free in groups of three to five. Check out these and other special offers on Italian trains.
- In Germany, it's possible to 60% off full price fares with a Small Group Saver fare, and children under 15 travel for free if they're accompanied by parents or grandparents. Check out these and other special offers on German trains.
11. Plan a grape escape by train
Travellers are allowed to take their own food and drink on board trains across Europe, but you don't want to leave a pile of disposable plastic in your wake. These collapsible silicone cups are great for a drop of wine on the train - just don't forget a bottle opener (screw tops are much less common on the continent). For similar reasons, we also like this reusable bamboo travel cutlery.
12. Roam the rails
Phone from Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
Since 15th June 2017, data roaming charges have been abolished so you can use your phone all over Europe for no additional cost. So you can go to town uploading train selfies to share with us on Instagram. Yes, we want them. #traingeeks #loco2.
13. Stay on track with realtime data
The Loco2 app has realtime data for trains in the UK (with more countries coming soon)! Use it to plan your journey, buy tickets, check if your train's on time and which platform it departs from before you even arrive at the station.
15. Download offline maps
Don't get caught short without signal when you arrive in an unfamiliar city - create offline maps with Google so you don't have to rely on data. You can also use saved places to mark your hotel, railway station, nearby restaurants and bars.
17. Only pack what you can carry yourself
It might sound obvious, but if it's your first time travelling by rail in Europe, let us give you a tip - you have to carry your own bags (yes, all the time) and load them on the train yourself, storing them in the vestibule or overhead racks. There aren't usually luggage trolleys in stations, and no valets either. You'll be going it alone, so you'll be glad you didn't bring that extra pair of shoes.
With smaller bags, vacuum bags are a great way to create more space and fit some handy extras into your travel packing!
18. Store your luggage to go hands free
20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, all rights reserved
Most major railways stations in Europe have left luggage facilities with pay-as-you-go lockers to safely store your bags. These are great if you've got a couple of hours between trains, allowing you the freedom to explore without your bags.
That's our roundup of 18 travel hacks you'll wonder how you ever survived without. Tell us yours in the comments below!