Travel with children - example trip

Snowcarbon co-founder Mark Hodson took his kids skiing in Les Menuires by overnight train


What is the train journey like for families?

introductionphoto:Mark Hodson At London St Pancras

I took my two children - aged 13 and 5 - to the resort of Les Menuires to find out.

Because Les Menuires is in the Three Valleys, you can get the Eurostar Direct Ski Train to nearby Moutiers in just seven hours from St Pancras. That's a great option if you want to travel by day but not so good if you're going overnight because there are no beds, just reclining seats. Even if the kids sleep, you might not.

The best overnight option is the Corail Lunea, a sleeper train that leaves Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris late in the evening and arrives in Moutiers at 0720. Standard couchettes have six bunks, but you can upgrade to "first class" at little extra cost and get a four-bed cabin that is ideal for a family.

Another option - sometimes cheaper than the Eurostar Direct Ski Train - is to get a morning Eurostar from London then change stations in Paris and get the super-fast TGV to Moutiers. We decided to do that on the journey home.


Headed for the Alps

seatingCorail Lunea couchette

The Eurostar to Paris is easy and quick. From Gare du Nord we took the Metro to Gare d'Austerlitz. It's a straightforward journey but it does involve a few stairs so if you're carrying a lot of baggage or have a baby or toddler, it would be easier to hop in a taxi, a fare of about €20.

Gare d'Austerlitz is not the most glamorous of stations but it does the job. There is a decent bistro where you can grab supper, plus a couple of cafes and public toilets. Boarding starts about 20 minutes before departure - at 2302 - and it makes sense to get on early, settle down and get the kids into their pyjamas.

The couchettes were comfortable and cosy, with clean bedding and plenty of luggage space. They can be locked from the inside so feel very secure. Our cabin for four was perfect, although we felt that standard class - perhaps with two strangers - would have been decidedly cramped.

There's not much to do on the train - there is no buffet car - so it's straight to sleep, something we all managed surprisingly easily.


Next morning...

new exteriorphoto:Mark Hodson Les Menuires slopes

My concern was not waking up for our stop, but Moutiers was announced about 20 minutes before we arrived so we had plenty of time to get dressed and packed before we pulled into the station in the half light of dawn.

From Moutiers you can get a bus or taxi direct to the resort, but we had booked an apartment with Crystal so there was a rep waiting to pick us up in a minivan.

We got to our accommodation just after 8am and if we had hurried we could have skiing by 10am. As it was, we took things slowly, ate breakfast and stocked up with food at the local shop.


Return journey

new exteriorphoto:Mark Hodson Headed home...

On the way home we left Les Menuires at 8.45am, giving us ample time to catch the 0951 - a fast TGV - to Paris. Well prepared with sandwiches and snacks, we took our seats on the upper deck - we had reserved four together around a table - for the 4hr 30mins journey to Paris. It's not exactly a scenic journey but it's wonderful to see the French countryside flash by at breathtaking speeds.

The Metro journey across Paris seemed easier the second time round - we felt like old hands - and it wasn't long before we were back on the Eurostar, getting into St Pancras as 17:34.

We booked independently but you can also find rail packages to Les Menuires. Bon voyage!