Indirect Journeys On Sale 3rd October (for travel 15th Dec - 5th Jan)
Finally we know the date that indirect journeys, via Paris or Brussels, go on sale. (This particular booking window is most relevant for journeys to France and Switzerland, by the way) as well as daytime journeys to Austria and Italy.
It’s 3rd October, for journeys between 15th December 2019 and 5th January 2020.
Please don’t ask what time they go on sale? Aah, quite reasonably, you have.
The answer is, I don’t — and indeed no-one knows, because SNCF in its wisdom didn’t think it their responsibility to let people know what time. That’s seriously bonkers. My guess is that it will be sometime between 5am and 8am UK time.
I asked their PR department, who have been as helpful as they can, but I think their hands are tightly tied – and not in a kinky way; just in a ‘We don’t have that information’ kind of way.
But hey ho, they did actually tell me (because I persisted in asking) about the 2nd booking window too. This isn’t on their public page, which only shows the first booking window (to 5th Jan): https://en.oui.sncf/en/deals/opening-reservations
Here’s what is actually known, so far:
Travel period Tickets go on sale
15 Dec 2019 - 5 Jan 2020 3 Oct 2019
6 Jan - 8 Mar 2020 17 Oct 2019
9 Mar - 30 Mar 2020 TBC
1 Apr 2020 onwards TBC
The good news is that you can now book further in advance than you could ever before, from 17th October. So credit to the rail companies for enabling that – and hopefully that trend continues. As you can see, for journeys from March 9 onwards, booking dates have not yet been announced.
Anyway, a few thoughts about booking travel:
Booking indirect journeys to the Alps (or anywhere) is not as simple, or as flexible, to book as it should be.
Consumer-facing websites are often too inflexible to offer the optimal journey, or omit travel options that are actually bookable. This is partly due to the complex underlying European ticketing system, with multiple train operators and hundreds of ticket types trying to interact. It’s like a room full of people where no one is fluent in a common language: misunderstandings are going to happen. Too often, websites fail to show skiers all their options or help travellers tailor-make their journeys.”
I’ve thought of a few tips for booking your ideal journey
1. Remember, any combination of trains is bookable, so don’t believe websites when they tell you otherwise. First, look up what journey schedule you’d ideally like. The Snowcarbon Journey Planner and websites like rail.ch, bahn.co.uk, Loco2 and Trainline can help. Research one-way journey schedules and individual legs before deciding what overall return journey you want.
2. Try using rail-booking experts such as Trainseurope, International Rail, Ffestiniog Travel and Rail Canterbury. For a modest booking fee, these specialists can book your journey for you, secure tickets at best available prices and tailor-make itineraries to give you more flexibility, saving you time and money.
3. Consider a Paris stopover, travelling out the evening before your ski holiday begins. This can get you into your resort earlier and potentially give cheaper train fares. Or stop over on your return journey, which may well give you an extra day on the slopes at the end of your holiday.
4. If you are flexible about departure times, state this when booking with an agent, who can then seek cheaper journeys for you.
5. To save money on peak holiday dates, consider travelling out a day early (e.g. Friday instead of Saturday) to a station close to your resort and staying a night there. This can give you an extra day on the slopes, and access cheaper fares.
6. Since Eurostar’s direct ski trains have been on sale for two months and some of the cheaper fares are already booked up, bespoke, indirect routes via Paris may save you money. You can change stations in Paris easily using a pre-booked taxi, a taxi from the taxi rank, or the Métro.
7. When comparing train fares to air fares or driving, factor in airport transfer costs and baggage charges, and the value of spending quality time with your companions enjoying the scenery on the train, rather than in airport queues or on traffic-choked transfers or long road trips.
8. Get a Rail Map of Europe (£11.99 + p&p available from www.europeanrailtimetable.eu). It gives a really useful perspective on routes and is an inspiring planning companion. You’ll be using it for years to come.
This newsletter was written on a train through Austria, heading back to the UK. I was several hours on the train, but time really goes - and not just because I’m a slow writer
The more you travel this way, the more you realise what a great way to travel it is.
And the views? Just jaw-dropping. I can’t imagine (well actually I can) what it will look like when its covered in snow…