Taking the train is a lost art in America. Unless you live in a big city with a regional transit system, most people won’t even see the inside of a train. But there are certain advantages to taking the train, not to mention a residual mystique that isn’t replicated by a cheap flight or a long drive. Naturally, not every region or country is served by an effective train system. But if you’re in the United Kingdom, Europe, or another rail corridor, consider taking the train rather than booking a flight.
Trains vs. Planes
Most people are looking for the cheapest and the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B—we respect that. But in the past ten years, air travel has become one of the most excruciating experiences imaginable. You have to struggle through security and beat the rush at the airport. Luggage continues to shrink in size and increase in price. The days when air travel was new and fashionable are long over and, unfortunately, these days you don’t even get an affordable ticket and a free meal. Airlines are determined to nickel-and-dime their customers for every last item. Some days, it feels like you’re more likely to sit and sweat on the tarmac. Under these conditions, trains offer a compelling alternative. You can avoid long lines and crowded airports. Best of all, train stations are often easily accessible in the center of the city. But that’s just the start.
Comfort and Convenience
Trains are large than planes or cars—it’s that simple. The seats are large and recline fully. You should be able to stow your suitcases with you in the train or check them in the baggage car when you arrive at the station—for free. Some trains even have a lounge and dining car so you can escape your seat. Either way, you can wander the aisles and find the end of the train for an interesting view of the tracks and, when you’re in your seat, you can take advantage of the free WiFi. Don’t want to buy a meal? Don’t worry, you can bring plenty of food, drink, and your favorite coffee. Getting tired after a few hours? You can take a walk when the train enters the next station. And if you purchase a rail pass or ticket package, you can get on and off at will to explore a variety of cities and sights on the way—a popular option for European travelers and tourists. Children can travel at a reduced rate on most rail lines, making trains a particularly affordable option for families.
There’s nothing quite like boarding a train and watching the carriages pull out of the station. Planes and cars can offer gorgeous views, to be sure. It might be nostalgia, but there’s a certain mystique to the thrumming wheels and the long track stretching out behind you. While getting off a plane can be a shock—even disorienting and confusing—riding the train allows you to experience a voyage through the countryside, over rivers, under mountains, and towards your ultimate destination. Recapture the magic of childhood with your nose pressed to the glass as new and unexpected sights slide past the window. Next time you're planning a vacation, consider taking the train and restoring a little charm and comfort to your travels.