Holidays without flying:  Arriving in Greece by train + ferry from London...

Arriving in Greece by train+ferry from London, under blue skies and even bluer sea.  The journey becomes part of the holiday...

This year, take a holiday without the plane...

If you don't like flying or want to avoid flying for the sake of the environment, most big holiday companies can offer you nothing much more than a short break on Eurostar to Paris.  Which is crazy, because it's so easy to spend a week in Spain, Italy or Malta, or a fortnight in Morocco or Greece, without setting foot on a plane.  I know it's possible, because I've done all of those myself.  The journey becomes part of the holiday, an experience in its own right. 

On this page...

...you'll find ideas for holidays or short breaks from the UK into Europe without flying, both by putting a trip together yourself, and by using several good specialist companies who offer holidays by train not plane.

Here are some ideas...

Sponsored links...

 


Short breaks...

City breaks to Paris, Brussels, Bruges or Lille:  www.railbookers.com, www.lastminute.com

The simplest non-flying holiday to Europe is a short break to the ever-popular French capital, or how about Lille, Brussels or Bruges?  Bruges is arguably the most picturesque of these.  A number of companies offer short breaks or longer holidays to these cities, combining Eurostar travel with hotel accommodation, including www.lastminute.com and train holiday specialists www.railbookers.com.

City breaks to Amsterdam:  www.railbookers.com

City breaks to Amsterdam by cruise ferry from the north of England or Scotland:  www.dfds.co.uk

Why not cruise overnight with DFDS Seaways from Newcastle to Amsterdam, spend a few days there and cruise back overnight?  See the Netherlands page or see www.dfds.co.uk.

Short breaks to Cologne, Berlin, Nice, Prague, Salzburg, Zermatt:  www.railbookers.com

www.railbookers.com (call 020 3327 0761) are a train holiday specialist offering short breaks to a surprising range of European cities with flight-free travel by train.  Prices start at £249 per person with 2 nights hotel in Cologne, £339 in Berlin, £279 in Nice, £579 in Prague*, £579 in Salzburg*.  3 & 4 night breaks are also available, just ask them or check out their website for destinations and prices. (* = in fact these are 4 night breaks, as these trips include overnight sleeper travel each way).

Short breaks to Dublin & Ireland by train & ferry:  www.railtoursireland.com or www.railbookers.com

Starting in 2008, an Irish tour company called Railtours Ireland (www.railtoursireland.com) offers short breaks from London to Dublin by train & ferry, with the option to add kissing the Blarney Stone, the Ring of Kerry, or visiting the Giant's causeway. No airport hassles, no ugly motorways.  They were originally the only company to offer the rail & sail alternative to flying.

Short breaks in the UK.  Edinburgh?  Bath?  York?

Choose a hotel and add reduced-rate rail travel, try www.superbreak.com.

Take the Caledonian Sleeper for a short break in the Highlands of Scotland...

Use the overnight Caledonian Sleepers to spend a weekend or longer in Scotland, without flying!  See the Caledonian Sleepers page.

...or the Night Riviera sleeper train to the Cornish coast.

You can also use the Night Riviera sleeper train to spend a weekend or longer in St Ives or elsewhere in Cornwall, without the 6-hour drive!  See the Sleeper to Cornwall page.

Mini-cruises & cruises...

Mini-cruises by ferry...

Several ferry companies offer mini-cruises, around trip from the UK on a comfortable cruise-ferry.  Some operators also offer longer holidays:

Cruises...

Holidays by train...

If you want someone to organise a holiday to Europe by train for you, complete with train tickets, transfers & hotels, departing on any date you like, these specialist companies offer holidays to a whole range of European countries with travel by train rather than plane.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you quote 'Seat61.com' when you call.

 

Companies offering

holidays by train

rather than plane:

 

020 3327 0761 (UK)

1-800-408-3280 (USA)

1300 971 526 (Aus)

0800 002 034 (NZ)

 

020 7619 1080

Please quote 'seat61'

 

0843 506 8815

Please quote 'seat61'

  French Travel Service - holidays by train to France
 

0844 84 888 43

Please quote 'seat61'

Railbookers, www.railbookers.com, 020 3327 0761 (UK) or www.railbookers.com.au, 02 8096 0550 (Australia), www.us.railbookers.com (USA)...

An experienced holiday firm specialising in tailor-made holidays by train rather than plane.  They get good feedback and a lot of repeat business!  Railbookers custom-make your holiday to your own specification with hotels and train travel in first or second class to France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Russia and even Istanbul.  You can use London-based www.railbookers.com to arrange a European train tour whatever your country of residence, in fact they now have an office in Sydney Australia (www.railbookers.com.au) or you can call their London office from overseas on +44 20 3327 0761.  For example:

Erail, www.erail.co.uk, 020 7619 1080Please quote 'Seat61.com' when you call...

Erail has been started by experienced European rail ticketing agency www.europeanrail.com, to offer unescorted organised tours to Europe totally by train.  Tours include:

Planet Rail, www.planetrail.co.uk, 0843 506 8815  (please quote 'Seat61.com' when you call)...

Planet Rail offer tailor-made holidays by first class rail for both groups and individuals. A family-run business, destinations include Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Russia and France.  See www.planetrail.co.uk or call 0843 506 8815 to speak to one of their team. Please quote 'Seat 61' when you call.  Tailor-made holidays include:

French Travel Service, www.f-t-s.co.uk, 0844 84 888 43. Please quote 'Seat61.com' when you call...

A well-known firm established over 45 years ago and originally part of French Railways, the French Travel Service is now a family business offering affordable holidays all over France (even Corsica!) with travel by train instead of plane.

Hiking, walking, kayaking, canoeing & family activity holidays in Scotland:  Wilderness Scotland...

Award-winning company Wilderness Scotland for small group walking, sea kyaking, canoeing, hiking  & family activity holidays.  National Geographic list Wilderness Scotland as one of the 'Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth'.  They're the only Scottish company to hold AITO's 5-star Responsible Tourism award and were recently named Best Green Tour Operator at the World Travel Awards.  Although they don't package rail travel with their holidays, it's easy to reach Scotland on daytime trains or the overnight Caledonian Sleepers, see the Caledonian Sleepers page

Escorted tours by train...

If you want a holiday in Europe with travel by train rather than plane, but would prefer to travel with a group of fellow travellers, a tour manager and all the legwork done for you, several companies offer escorted tours from the UK to Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France, eastern Europe and even Morocco by train, with regular departures from London by Eurostar, no airport hassles and no whole days spent in cramped coach seats on motorways.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you book your holiday through these links or phone numbers, at no extra expense to you.

 

Companies offering

escorted tours by train

rather than plane:

 

01904 527120

   

01904 730 727

 

0843 506 8815

Please quote 'seat61'

   
 

   
 

Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527120 ...

Great Rail Journeys are the original train-travel holiday specialists.  They run five-star inclusive tours from the UK to many European countries, with 1st class train travel and 5-star hotels. Check the tour details online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.  Tours include:

Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727...

Rail Discoveries run regular tours to a number of European countries using overland travel from the UK by Eurostar and high-speed TGV, with mid-range prices & 3* hotels.  For example:

Planet Rail, www.planetrail.co.uk, 0843 506 8815  (please quote Seat61.com when you call)...

Planet Rail offer tailor-made holidays by first class rail for both groups and individuals. A family-run business, destinations include Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Russia and France.  See www.planetrail.co.uk or call 0843 506 8815 to speak to one of their team. Please quote 'Seat 61' when you call.  Tailor-made holidays include:

Travelsphere holidays, www.travelsphere.com...

Travelsphere offer tours to Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain & Germany, also including some tours with train travel rather than plane.  A 9-day tour to Lake Garda in Italy costs from £994 per person by train, a 10-day tour to Perpignan, Barcelona & Costa Brava in Spain costs from £824 per person, also by train.  Book online at www.travelsphere.com (Booking tip:  On the www.travelsphere.com home page, search for holidays with 'holiday type' set to 'Rail holidays').

Put together your own holiday...

Why not go independent?!  Nothing stops you deciding where you want to go, booking a hotel and a train ticket or two, and heading off independently.  It can seem daunting if you've always booked a package holiday, but it's really easy to book train travel from London to anywhere in Europe and choose your accommodation separately.  None of the big package tour companies offer an overland option instead of a flight for their packages to Morocco, Greece, Malta and so on, so booking independently is the way to go.  Here are some ideas:

Holidays to Italy by train...

Holidays to Spain by train...

Holidays to Marrakech & Morocco by train...

Morocco is fantastic, and getting there by train is easy.  Leave London in the morning, spend the night in Barcelona, and step ashore in Morocco the following evening.  The journey is an experience in itself, and you can stop off on the way to see something of Spain, too.  Far more to write home about than a cramped charter flight!

Holidays to Greece by train + ferry...

Greece is a wonderful, relaxing destination, especially with no airports and planes to stress you out on the way.  You can travel by train and ferry, stepping ashore in Corfu or mainland Greece just 48 hours after leaving London.  The journey is an experience, and you can stop off on the way to see something of Italy if you like.

Tour Eastern Europe by train...

Holidays by ferry to the Norwegian Fjords...

Skiing holidays to Switzerland, Austria or the French Alps...


Hotels & accommodation

Find a hotel to go with your train tickets...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.


Car hire

You must have heard the term Fly-Drive often enough, so why not Rail-Drive?  I travelled to Marrakech by train and ferry, then hired a car for 3 days and drove south over the High Atlas mountains, perhaps the most amazing 3 days car hire I've ever paid for!  Start by trying Holiday Autos, www.holidayautos.co.uk, they're part of Lastminute.com so are reliable and have a wide range of locations and very good prices.

Compare 50 different car hire companies:  www.carrentals.co.uk

The award-winning website www.carrentals.co.uk compares many different car hire companies including Holiday Autos, meaning not only a cheapest price comparison but a wider choice of hire and drop off location.


Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.


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