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I love traveling more than most things in life, but I will never warm to getting to the airport three hours early just to sit around waiting for the plane to show up. I know it’s better to show up early in case security is insanely slow and I have to leave more time, but something about wasted precious time that could have been spent doing something more productive or fun just rubs me off in the wrong way.
That’s why when I planned our last trip to Europe, I wanted to try to take advantage of a sleeper train instead of a short-haul flight.
It was the right decision.
First things First, finances
For our trip, we wanted to see Zurich and Vienna. When we looked at how we wanted to get from point A to point B, one-way non-stop flights were at least $300 each. Compare, we were able to reserve a private 4-story sleeper cabin for under $100 each. Not only that, but if you factor in the cost of getting to and from each airport and an extra night in a hotel, you can add at least another $200 on top of the $300 each in plane tickets.
For an estimated cost comparison in simple numbers, let’s say we spent $100 each on train tickets. Additionally, let’s say a hotel would be $200, flights would be $300 each, and transportation to and from each airport would be $20. In that case, our group of three saved $280 each, or $840 total, by choosing the night train! And all this for a more relaxing, easier and fun experience!
2 hours for the departure of the train
Our train, the ÖBB Nightjet, was scheduled to depart from the main station in Zurich at 21:40. Around 19:30, we were comfortably in a cozy restaurant enjoying our last meal before leaving for Vienna. Our hotel was happy to watch our bags for the day, so we checked out early and took a day trip to Stans and Luzern. Apart from the small backpack I had with me, it felt like any other evening we had spent in Zurich and I had to keep reminding myself that we would be leaving in a few hours.
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@tyleroffpath So relax getting ready to take a night train, never flying to Europe unless you have to now! #zurich #nightjet #europe #traveloffpath #travel ♬ Lazy Sunday – Official Sound Studio
If we had a three hour flight, my stress levels would go through the roof! However, our ticket advised us that we only needed to show up 15 minutes earlyso we were soaking up every second left in Zurich before walking to the station.
1.5 hours for the departure of the train
An abundance of mulled wine! While Switzerland didn’t have as many places as Germany to grab delicious mulled wine after 1str of the year, we made sure to find some to keep us warm as we walked around our last hour in Zurich. Once again, I had to keep telling myself that we would be leaving soon. The entire time of our train departure was so smooth that it felt like it wasn’t even really happening.
@tyleroffpath Gluhwein strolls through Zurich before taking the night train! #zurich #gluhwein #nightjet #europe #traveloffpath ♬ original sound – 4u
To the station 30 minutes early
My inner worrier started kicking in about 45 minutes before departure. So, we decided to take our bags from the hotel and walk to the station. Since we were really close to our hotel, it only took us about 10 or 15 minutes. By the time we got to our platform, we were still about 30 minutes early. I don’t know about you, but if I showed up at the airport 30 minutes before my flight took off, I’d be nauseous. There would be almost zero chance of making the flight.
However, even though our departure time was 30 minutes away, we were there before the train showed up. This was a style of travel I could get used to, and the best part hadn’t even begun.
@tyleroffpath Finally getting on the night train to Vienna! So easy, smooth and fun! I will definitely be taking sleeper trains whenever possible! #europe #nightplane #traveloffpath #zurich #travel ♬ Glowing Sea – Muspace
Taking an overnight train versus a plane to another country is night and day when it comes to boarding. For a flight, we have to get to the airport, clear security, go to our gate, wait for our boarding group, and then sit on the plane for 30 minutes before departure. The night train was completely different.
When the train pulled into the station, we went to our train car number, boarded the train, went to our sleeping cabin and put our bags. That was it. We didn’t even have to show our ticket to board, as the ticket inspector just waited until we were seated to check our tickets. In less than 10 minutes, we were boarded, adjusted and ready for bed.
@tyleroffpath Quick shot of baggage claim on night train from Zurich to Vienna #zurich #traveloffpath #travel #nightjet #vienna ♬ Lost – Official Sound Studio
I was too excited to sleep right away as this was my first time taking a night train. So I decided to do some work. I love working on trains, and this was a super cozy office. The night train included Wi-Fi, had plenty of charging sockets and my head had its own reading light. After a bit of work, I went down to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Some cabins have attached bathrooms with showers, but we opted for a more basic 4-cabin cabin to save money. However, the bathrooms were spacious and super functional – much better than an airplane bathroom!
And now for the most significant difference of all between flying and taking an overnight train…
Sleep! So much sleep!
When I fly at night, I have such a hard time falling asleep. Not being able to stretch or toss and turn a bit is too tight for me. I never fall asleep for more than 30 minutes or so. However, I slept through the night on the night train. The vibrations of the train put me to sleep and I slept very well. We were all awakened by a knock on the door as the attendant informed us that our stop was in about an hour and that breakfast would be served.
From now on I will add a night train to my itinerary
I loved taking the night train and will definitely add it to any itinerary I can instead of taking a flight. Night trains are better than planes because:
- You can enjoy yourself more instead of stressing about rushing to the airport.
- Free and reliable Wi-Fi throughout your trip.
- You get a whole bed to yourself and can lie down completely.
- There are cabins with an attached shower for a complete “hotel on rails” experience.
- You wake up in a new destination, completely refreshed and ready to explore.
I loved the experience and will always recommend it when flying!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com