Group train travel to the Alps
Travelling by train with friends, family or colleagues is fantastic fun and a very special experience. But how best to go about planning and booking?
Travelling by train to a ski resort with a group of friends, family or colleagues is a pleasure.
You can sit around a table on a train, get up and walk to the on-board cafe bar or restaurant, play games and have meals and drinks together and spend quality time - and all this as the scenery glides by out the window. It's far better than spending about the same amount of time dawdling through airport queues and cooped up on long transfers.
However, tickets for groups of 10 people or more cannot be booked online. That's because for some unknown reason decided by train companies, you can only book up to nine seats in one go online. For 10 or more, you need to book via the groups department of a train company or ticket-booking agency. Or with a ski tour operator as part of a rail-inclusive ski package.
Apart from the fun of travelling in a large group, there are two advantages to booking:
1. There are discounts for groups of over 10 people. As a very rough guide, this discount is about 10%, it varies depending on several factors, such as the size of the group, date of travel etc.
2. In some cases, groups can book further in advance than the normal public-booking window.
How many people (booking together) count a group?
Photo: Daniel Elkan
For most journeys to the Alps, 10 people or more, booked together, qualify for a group discount. Your group can be just adults or a mix of adults and children. The 10 people have to all be paying, so children under four, who can travel without a reserved seat free of charge, won't count as toward making up the 10 people, unless you pay for a seat for them too. To give some examples:
a) 10 adults = eligible for group fares and booking
b) Seven adults + three children (aged over 4) = eligible for group fares and booking
c) Nine adults + infant (aged 2, travelling for free) = not eligible for group fares and booking — unless you want to book a seat for the infant.
In the case of c), it might actually be worth paying for a seat for the infant, so that you get the group fares. Or finding another adult to come along as well!
A case study example of booking for a bunch of friends
In January 2017, 25 of us went on a personal holiday that I organised to the resort of Oz, part of the Alpe d'Huez ski area (great skiing by the way). The journey was by Eurostar to Paris and then TGV. I contacted Voyages SNCF at the start of September, about one month before public tickets would go on sale. They were able to offer and hold tickets for us for £98 per person return, without committment, giving me time to get everyone to commit. I wrote an article about that group trip for Ski Club's magazine, which you can read here.
Two years before, 22 of us booked a ski holiday to Alpe d'Huez by train, and the travel (Eurotar + TGV) was similarly £98 return, from London, per person, when public fares were around £130 return at the time. Again, the really useful thing was that the fares were held for us at that price for a few weeks before we had to commit, allowing us to invite friends to join us on the holiday and being able to tell them exactly how much the travel would cost.
In those cases, the group booking was relatively easy to do, gave us good prices and we were all sat together too. The journeys were certainly part of the holiday - everyone loved the train.
How to book group train travel tickets
Group travel (i.e. for 10 people or more) can't be booked online. Indeed, you may have noticed that on train company booking websites, such as Eurostar, SNCF Connect, Trainline and Rail Europe, the 'Number of passengers' input only allows for 1-9. Instead, you need to send the train companies and email, or book by phone.
For most independent train travel to the Alps, both Eurostar and SNCF Connect can book group travel for you - see table below:
|Book by phone
|Book by webform or email
|0344 822 4800
|Trains in France, such as TGV
|The Travel Bureau
|01902 326 662
What your email needs to include
In your email you should let them know the following details: departure station and destination station, daytime or overnight preference, dates of travel, number of people (including how many children age 4-11, or youths aged 12-16), whether you are interested in Standard Class or First Class and the name of the lead passenger.
About The Travel Bureau
The Travel Bureau is an expert rail-booking agent that has been helping people book rail travel since 1984. The knowledgeable team can help book any journey.
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