All you need to know about ski holidays by train

Six reasons to book rail travel on the phone

Wed 24 December, 2014


Daniel Elkan

If you’ve seen the 90s comedy, Swingers, you’ll remember the wincingly brilliant scene where lovesick Mikey finally gets the phone number of an attractive girl in a bar - who seems to like him too. Unable to resist calling her when he gets home that same night, he gets her answerphone and tries to leave a message – with disastrous effect.

The scene is a great example of when not to pick up the phone.  But if you want to book train travel to a ski resort, there are plenty of reasons why phoning can be beneficial – instead of trying to book travel online. Here are seven of them.   

1.    You want to book a journey that has multiple legs each way
Rail company websites sometimes don’t like it when you try to book a journey where there are multiple legs.  They can be inflexible beasts, and refuse to give you journey details or a price for a journey that exists and is bookable. Rail company call-centre staff, by contrast, using their more flexible systems, will be able to book this for you.

2.    You are booking different kinds of trains outbound from those you are booking inbound.
It is absolutely nuts, but rail company websites frequently deny you being able to book a combination of one kind of rail journey on the outbound (e.g. direct ski train) and another kind on the inbound (eg by TGV to Paris and then Eurostar).  Incredible that in 2015, and somehow the online systems are so inflexible as to deny a simple and obvious combination of trains.  We put a man on the moon in 1969. We have Shazam – an app that you can point at a speaker and it tells you exactly what song it playing. But we can’t book a combination of train types online. It’s bonkers. So pick up the phone, because the nice people at the call-centre can do this for you.

3.    The rail-company website can’t find the fares or show schedules
Never trust totally that when a train company website can’t find fares or schedules, they don’t exist. If there’s a journey you want to make and you can’t find it, phone and check.

4.    You are unsure about whether you are booking the right type of ticket/train/seat.
If you are feeling unsure about something – the kind of seat you are booking, the kind of train, what other options there might be – whatever your doubts, it can be worth phoning a train company to check or clarify or reassure yourself. That way, you’ll have peace of mind that you are booking the right thing.  

5. You want to stopover in Paris
Stoping over in Paris on you outbound journey gives you access to a host of morning TGV trains that you couldn't have caught if setting out the same day from London, and gives you an evening in Paris too - a very nice way to break the journey. However, rail company websites assume that you want to make the journey without stopping anywhere, so you need to phone to book these journeys.

6.    You're just feeling confused
If you are feeling confused trying to book rail travel online, you are not alone. Thousands of people using rail company websites are too. Don’t feel like it’s a puzzle that you have to work out for yourself, unless you are particularly into working out puzzles by yourself. Get some help by phoning.

However, it should be said that rail company call-centre staff don’t always have the answers, so treat what they say with a healthy pinch of scepticism. Some are more knowledgeable than others. It should also be noted that many journeys are simple and straightforward to book online, but if in doubt, pick up the phone.

Rail company Phone number Opening hours
Eurostar 01233 617 575  8am - 7pm Mon-Fri;  9am - 5pm Sat-Sun.
Voyages SNCF 0844 848 5 848 or        01732 520 550  9am - 7pm Mon-Fri, 9am - 6pm Saturdays.
Switzerland Travel Centre 0207 420 4934 9am - 5pm Mon-Fri; 9am - 1pm Saturdays.

If you would like advice on anything to do with rail travel to ski resorts, email me and I will always try my best to help.