Take your family to the Alps by train and you can ditch the long drives, cramped flights and transfers - and make the journey part of the holiday instead
Why families love train travel to the Alps
If you get onto a train bound for the Alps and take a walk through the carriages, you’ll notice that trains are happy places for families. Children love this way of travelling. On a daytime train they can play games around a table set, go for a walk to the cafe bar with mum or dad, and watch ever-changing scenery.
By contrast, travelling overnight is an adventure – couchettes are popular with children, and the idea of going to sleep and waking up in the mountains is an exciting thought.
Cost-wise, train travel can be competitive against flying or driving, and there are decent discounts for children too.
Why Children Love Train Travel to Ski Resorts
Daniel (Snowcarbon Founder) says:
"Travelling to the Alps, it never fails to impress on me how much children love the journeys. Walk up and down any train and you'll see very happy families - train journey really suit children - as well as adults.
I thought it would be interesting to make a film about what children themselves think of the journey. So at Easter I took my camera to St Pancras and got on board the Eurostar Ski Train.
The children interviewed in this film were all found on location in St Pancras and on the train. They had a lot to say about the journey - and skiing! Indeed, they can teach us a thing or two about how to have fun when travelling by train to the Alps."
Discounts for children on trains
Children get significant discounts on train travel to the Alps, and we recently did a piece of research to find out what the real discounts are.
The answer was a consistent 30% discount for children aged between 4 and 11.
|Eurostar Ski Train or Eurostar + TGV||Under-4||Free, but without a reserved place. Each child needs to be able to sit on a lap if required.|
|Eurostar Ski Train or Eurostar + TGV||4 -11||Approx 30% less than adult fares|
|Eurostar Ski Train or Eurostar + TGV||12 - 25||Youth fare (but adult fares frequently cheaper!)|
|Eurostar + sleeper from Paris||Under-4||Free without a reserved place - i.e. share bunk with parents|
|Eurostar + sleeper from Paris||4 -11||Approx 30% less than adult fares|
|Eurostar + sleeper from Paris||12 - 25||Youth fare (but adult fares frequently cheaper!)|
Family groups of 10 or more
If your family, or group of families travelling together, totals 10 people or more, you could get a group discount. Your group could be just adults, or a mix of adults and children, and either way a group discount would apply. Great.
But - as with many aspects booking rail travel - the rules aren’t quite as simple as they could be. For certain types of journey, the rules state that the first 10 tickets in the group booking must all be of the same ticket type. That means that in order for the tickets to be booked as a group and have the group discounts apply, the booking must include a minimum of 10 adult tickets or 10 child tickets. Now, if your group consists only of adults, that's all fine – happy days. But what if you are a family party with a mix of adults and kids? Well for most journeys, this doesn’t matter. But for some journeys, it does. (see also table below)
Let’s take an example, in order to make things clearer: The Jones family wants to go skiing by train, and of course get the lowest fares. They are seven adults and five young children. Does this count as a group of 12?
For a journey on the Eurostar Ski Train it does – yay!
For a journey to the Alps by Eurostar to Paris and then TGV train it does too. Yay again!
But for a journey to the Alps by Eurostar to Paris and then sleeper train, the Jones family are going to need a minimum of 10 of the tickets to be adult tickets.
But the Jones family doesn’t have 10 adults travelling; they only have seven adults. So three of the children would need to have adult tickets for the group discount to apply. Counting three of the children as adults is fine in legal terms. But adult fares are more expensive than child fares. Which begs the question: is it worth it? As a rule of thumb, yes it probably still is worth it. But it will depend on how many children are having their tickets booked as ‘adult’.
Remember, most journeys this isn’t a requirement anyway. And where it is, it’s still worth applying for group travel discounts, because you will still be able to choose to book as a non-group with normal public fares, and the train company will be able to advise at time of booking as to which is likely to be cheaper.
|Train journey||Train company you are booking with||Group discount||Mix of passenger age types OK?||Groups can book in advance of the public booking window?|
|Eurostar Ski Train (direct)||Eurostar||10% or more||Yes - any mix of ages counts||No, but they can register||Yes (= Scenario 1)|
|Eurostar Ski Train (direct)||Voyages SNCF||5%||Yes - any mix of ages counts||No, but they can register||Yes (= Scenario 1)|
|Eurostar + TGV||Eurostar||10% or more||Yes - any mix of ages counts, as long as the fare is a Connection Fare||No, but they can register||Yes (= Scenario 1)|
|Eurostar + TGV||Voyages SNCF||Up to 50%||Yes - any mix of ages counts, as long as the fare is a Connection Fare||Yes||Yes (= Scenario 1)|
|Eurostar + sleeper train||Voyages SNCF||Up to 50%||Yes, but minimum of 10 of same age type required||Yes||No (= Scenario 2)|
Changing station in Paris
Some journeys to ski resorts involve a change of station in Paris - so that you can change from a Eurostar train to a TGV, Corail Lunea or City Night Line train.
With young children in tow, the idea of doing this on the Metro or RER can seem daunting and can put skiers off what would otherwise be a lovely family journey.
But in fact, it is easy to do with a taxi - either a pre-booked one where the driver greets you at the end of the Eurostar platform, or one from the taxi rank a few metres away from the Eurostar platform. You can find out all about how to do this easily on our How to change in Paris section. What is so important to note is that many really great family resorts do require a change in Paris to reach them by train, the taxi transfers make this very straightforward to do.
The easiest way to change station in Paris
If you are changing station in Paris, and have children in tow, then by far the easiest way to do this is by pre-booked taxi. To show you what it's like, we've made a one-minute film - and had quite a lot of fun doing it! Don't show this film the the kids, or they might insist that you all dress this way...
Certainly this makes the change of station very simple and straightforward.
Luggage for families
For families, being able to take quite a bit of luggage with you can be an advantage.
On Eurostar the luggage allowance is generous, and on onward trains in Europe, there isn't a limit.
The luggage limit on the Eurostar Ski Train is:
- Two medium size suitcases (85cm maximum length)
- One pair of skis or snowboard
- One piece of hand luggage
And on ordinary Eurostar trains to Paris is:
- One medium size suitcase (85cm maximum length)
- One pair of skis or snowboard
- One piece of hand luggage
On top of that, you can also take one pushchair per child.