Holidays without flying:  Arriving in Greece by train + ferry from London...

Arriving in Greece by train+ferry from London, under blue skies and even bluer sea.  The journey becomes part of the holiday...

Take a holiday without the plane...

If you don't like flying or want to avoid flying for the sake of the environment, most big holiday companies can offer you nothing much more than a short break on Eurostar to Paris.  Which is crazy, because it's so easy to spend a week in Spain, Italy or Malta, or a fortnight in Morocco or Greece, without setting foot on a plane.  I know it's possible, because I've done all of those myself.  The journey becomes part of the holiday, an experience in its own right.

On this page...

...you'll find ideas for holidays or short breaks from the UK into Europe without flying, both by putting a trip together yourself, and by using several good specialist companies who offer holidays by train not plane.

Here are some ideas...


Short breaks...

City breaks to Paris, Brussels, Bruges or Lille:  www.railbookers.co.uk, www.lastminute.com

City breaks to Amsterdam:  www.railbookers.co.uk or www.lastminute.com

City breaks to Amsterdam by cruise ferry from the north of England or Scotland:  www.dfds.co.uk

Short breaks to Cologne, Berlin, Nice, Prague, Salzburg, Zermatt:  www.railbookers.co.uk

Short breaks to Dublin & Ireland by train & ferry:  www.railtoursireland.com or www.railbookers.co.uk

Take the Caledonian Sleeper for a short break in the Highlands of Scotland...

...or the Night Riviera sleeper train to the Cornish coast.

Mini-cruises & cruises...

Mini-cruises by ferry...

Several ferry companies offer mini-cruises, around trip from the UK on a comfortable cruise-ferry.  Some operators also offer longer holidays:

Cruises...

Holidays by train...

If you want someone to organise a holiday to Europe by train for you, complete with train tickets, transfers & hotels, departing on any date you like, these specialist companies offer holidays to a whole range of European countries with travel by train rather than plane.

Railbookers...

Hiking, walking, kayaking, canoeing & family activity holidays in Scotland:  Wilderness Scotland...

Award-winning company Wilderness Scotland for small group walking, sea kayaking, canoeing, hiking  & family activity holidays.  National Geographic list Wilderness Scotland as one of the 'Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth'.  They're the only Scottish company to hold AITO's 5-star Responsible Tourism award and were recently named Best Green Tour Operator at the World Travel Awards.  Although they don't package rail travel with their holidays, it's easy to reach Scotland on daytime trains or the overnight Caledonian Sleepers, see the Caledonian Sleepers page

Escorted tours by train...

If you want a holiday in Europe with travel by train rather than plane, but would prefer to travel with a group of fellow travellers, a tour manager and all the legwork done for you, several companies offer escorted tours from the UK to Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France, eastern Europe and even Morocco by train, with regular departures from London by Eurostar, no airport hassles and no whole days spent in cramped coach seats on motorways.

 

Companies offering

escorted tours by train

rather than plane:

 

01904 527120

   

01904 730 727

   

Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527120 ...

Great Rail Journeys are the original train-travel holiday specialists.  They run five-star inclusive tours from the UK to many European countries, with 1st class train travel and 5-star hotels. Check the tour details online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.  Tours include:

Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727...

Rail Discoveries run regular tours to a number of European countries using overland travel from the UK by Eurostar and high-speed TGV, with mid-range prices & 3* hotels.  For example:

Put together your own holiday...

Why not go independent?!  Nothing stops you deciding where you want to go, booking a hotel and a train ticket or two, and heading off independently.  It can seem daunting if you've always booked a package holiday, but it's really easy to book train travel from London to anywhere in Europe and choose your accommodation separately.  None of the big package tour companies offer an overland option instead of a flight for their packages to Morocco, Greece, Malta and so on, so booking independently is the way to go.  Here are some ideas:

Holidays to Italy by train...

Holidays to Spain by train...

Holidays to Morocco by train...

Morocco is fantastic, and getting there by train is easy.  Leave London in the morning, spend the night in Barcelona, and step ashore in Morocco the following evening.  The journey is an experience in itself, and you can stop off on the way to see something of Spain, too.  Far more to write home about than a cramped flight!

Holidays to Greece by train + ferry...

Greece is a wonderful, relaxing destination, especially with no airports and planes to stress you out on the way.  You can travel by train and ferry, stepping ashore in Corfu or mainland Greece just 48 hours after leaving London.  The journey is an experience, and you can stop off on the way to see something of Italy if you like.

Tour Eastern Europe by train...

Holidays to the Norwegian Fjords...

Skiing holidays to Switzerland, Austria or the French Alps...


Hotels & accommodation

Find a hotel to go with your train tickets...

My favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.


Car hire

You must have heard the term Fly-Drive often enough, so why not Rail-Drive?  I travelled to Marrakech by train and ferry, then hired a car for 3 days and drove south over the High Atlas mountains, perhaps the most amazing 3 days car hire I've ever paid for!

Compare 50 different car hire companies:  www.carrentals.co.uk

The award-winning website www.carrentals.co.uk compares many different car hire companies including Holiday Autos, meaning not only a cheapest price comparison but a wider choice of hire and drop off location.


Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year - I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from ww.nhs.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

 

Curve card

Get a free Curve card to save on exchange rates & foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself and it's great - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I only recommend such things when I've read up on reviews and tried it myself.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card. Use code MAN61 to get £5 cashback after signing up and using your Curve card the first time.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use them myself.


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