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How To Conquer Training Around Europe With Kids

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Does the idea of training around Europe fill you with a sense of nostalgia and romanticism? Europe has relied on trains as a primary form of transportation for centuries, and the systems are well-built. 

Unlike the USA, where train transport can be expensive and odd at times, train travel in Europe should be on your list of things to try. You can count on stunning landscapes, quick travel times, and amenities that make your train experience fantastic.

What Is Easier With Kids: Train Travel Or Airplane?

Rail transport is much easier and more enjoyable for kids. We are wrapping up five weeks of train travel with our kids using our Eurail/Interrail Passes, and it is unanimous: all of us prefer traveling by train.

A train ride with great views around Europe is absolutely perfect!

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Why Do We Prefer The Train Than Flying?

While training can take longer hours than flying, think of the time you spend getting to the airport, getting security checks, getting onboarded, and leaving the airport. In many situations, the time commitment is the same.

During our five-week trip, we have taken two flights. We booked them initially because the train trip would have been 18-20 hours. However, having completed most of our journey, we now wish we had booked overnight sleeper cars instead.

Trains have the following benefits when traveling with kids:

  • No security.  This means you aren’t dumping liquids, throwing away water bottles and full bottles of sunscreen, etc.
  • No need to pull out those tablets and take off shoes or have your bag riffled through by a TSA agent.
  • You can arrive for your train 1-2 minutes before it leaves and still gets on.  We do know this from personal experience! While I don’t recommend that, we ran for a few of our trains and got on just a minute or two before it started to move!
  • Kids can get up and move around!  You can get up and use the bathrooms easily, go to the restaurant car, or walk back and forth on the train. You can even pop outside for 1-2 minutes of fresh air on stops if you want.
  • Some trains have family compartments or even small playrooms.
  • Seats have plugs to charge all your devices in first class, which most quick, domestic flights do not.
  • The food on the trains is quite good!  Much better than airplane food.  You can choose from entrees, salads, pastries, drinks, and more, all at reasonable prices.
  • The scenery is entertaining by itself.  We’ve been awestruck at the lush countryside, waterfalls, lakes, and mountain landscapes.
  • You can share a table to play games or do homework as we did. Each compartment has at least one 4-seat table, so our family sometimes gets two tables and can play games or read as a family.
  • It’s much easier to sleep.  The seats are more extensive with much more legroom, and often there are footrests.  The seats are large enough for the toddlers to curl up and snooze away.
A short stopover in St. Bartholomew’s Church on Lake Königssee

What Is The Eurail Pass?

Our family used the Eurail/Interrail Pass for our summer train travels.

The Eurail pass connects multiple train lines over 30+ countries, allowing you to ride to over 40,000 European cities.  All you need is your Eurail pass for most of your trip!  Some sections of your journey will require seat reservations, and you should book them in advance. They cost a small extra fee, typically around €5-10 per person.

The Eurail Pass is for those traveling to multiple destinations (not just points A to B).  If you are going from one city to another, booking one train ticket on that specific train carrier is more cost-effective.

Eurail Pass Versus Interrail Pass

Eurail and Interrail Passes are essentially the same thing, but which you should use depends on if you are a European citizen or resident.  As we are currently residents of Portugal, we used the Interrail Pass.

You can read more details here if you have dual citizenship or more than one passport.

Doing homework while traveling? Why not?! We got enough space to do it!

Which Eurail Pass Is Right For You?

If you plan to visit one country and train around that country more than once, buying a One Country Pass is the best choice. On the other hand, the Global Pass should be your choice if you want to train from country to country across Europe.

You also need to know roughly how long you’ll be traveling and how many travel days you’ll have. For example, we knew we would travel for five weeks and have approximately 13-20 travel days. We wanted some flexibility to add more train sections. 

We visited the following cities and countries:

Vienna, Austria

Budapest, Hungary

Warsaw, Poland

Copenhagen, Denmark

Stockholm, Sweden

Oslo, Norway

Bergen, Norway

Prague, Czech Republic

Salzburg, Austria

Munich, Germany

Interlaken, Switzerland

You can pick the length of your Eurail Pass from 4 travel days up to 3 months.  Note that this starts when you activate your pass, not when you buy it.  I didn’t activate our pass until we were on our first train ride.

Bonus: If you have the Eurail Global Pass, you can use it on the Eurostar train connecting London with France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. You do need a seat reservation, and that means you can even train under the ocean!!

Beautiful mountains that surround Königssee Lake

1st Class Eurail Pass

Additionally, you can choose the first-class Eurail Pass. First class offers added comfort and luxury, but not much. The most significant benefit is if you are trying to get last-minute tickets or travel in a heavy season. When required, finding seat reservations in first class can be easier.


Eurail and Interrail offer discounts for families, youth, and seniors.  Learn more information here

How To Plan Your European Train Journey

The Trip Planner on Eurail.com is a travel-lover’s delight. Plan your European train adventures easily by connecting more than 40,000 cities in 31 countries! The trip planner will also give you an idea of the overall cost, the time, and more.

Once you’ve saved an itinerary, you can also get it on your mobile app. I named ours “European Summer.” You can still modify it, but it is the backbone of your trip and will help you remember all the times, dates, and sections you’ve planned.

Connecting Your Passes To Your Trip

Now here’s the fun part! I didn’t realize how to do this until we were on a train and being asked for tickets – whoops! This exemplifies how fast it is to connect your passes. Simply click “add pass” to your itinerary. For each member of your family, you’ll need an itinerary. The app lets you duplicate your itinerary as often as you need and remake it, so I named each as our child’s name + European Summer. For example, Grace’s European Summer.

On the way to Milan. Train hopping in Europe is so easy!

Activating Your Pass For Travel

One final step before you board the train (or, worst case, on the train) is to toggle the little button next to that day’s trip. You can toggle on and off for any day in your itinerary, but your pass will only show the pass for that day

When they ask for your ticket, you need to click on the “My Pass” tab on the app, click on each person’s itinerary, and the pass with the QR code will show there.

The pass is activated for that day and shows your name, birthday, pass number, when it started, etc.  The train conductor will scan this QR code as your pass.

Seat Reservations

For some legs of train travel and most first-class journeys, you’ll need a seat reservation. You can book on Eurail.com, not the mobile app. You can search for the trip you want on the app and quickly hop to a browser to purchase.

Seat reservations are pretty inexpensive, usually around €5-10 per seat. 

If you have an overnight journey, you’ll have the option to book a sleeping car, which is more costly. You can share a berth with others in the room, book a private one, or take up an entire sleeping car. If you have enough people like us, take up a whole sleeping car with your family!

When the train conductor asks for your tickets, you must show your pass and seat reservations.  Seats are specified by number.  

A fun side trip to Europa Park with kids

Why You Want A Seat Assignment

On our first few journeys, the 1st class cabin was nearly empty, and we were just wherever. However, our leg from Vienna to Warsaw filled up quickly. We had people in our seats, so we didn’t make them move immediately.

That proved a mistake as it ended in a domino effect… we were kicked out of our seats, had to move others, and had to argue with some. That journey somehow ended with tons of extra people sitting in the train car’s aisles, floors, and ends. It was strange! We were glad for the seats, and they were quickly occupied as soon as we stood. We have not seen that before.

For our big family, I always book a seat assignment if it is available to avoid us having to stand or be separated.

Taking our breakfast on the train going from Copenhagen to Stockholm

Difference Between First Class and Second Class on European Trains

Is it worth the cost to book the first class? Eurail gifted us 15 first-class travel days to try, but we’ve walked through the second-class cabins and, in some cases, only been able to book seats in second-class. What are the differences?

Not much.

First-class tends to be:

  • It’s quieter, which can be a challenge for kids. I’ve gotten some dirty looks and one nasty comment about their noise.
  • Larger seats. Instead of three across, it may only be two seats. Occasionally, first-class seats are leather versus cloth.
  • Supplied with complimentary coffee and tea. On one journey, we got a free breakfast box. On another trip, we were told that has to be booked in advance.
  • Closer to the restaurant car. This is very nice for kids to avoid having to walk too far.
  • Has it’s own bathroom, meaning it might be a bit cleaner.
  • Sometimes has an attendant dedicated to first class.
  • Often the first car of the train and, therefore, the closest to the beginning of the platform. 
  • Sometimes we get a free water bottle in first class.

Otherwise, there isn’t much difference. If price is a significant consideration, booking 2nd class might be okay!

You don’t want your kids to skip a good night’s sleep. Sleeping cars are ideal for big families chasing an overnight train ride as we did!

Sleeper Cars On European Trains

There are several variations of sleeper cars on European trains; what you can get will depend on the train company.  Typically, the options include:

1st class sleeper for two

2nd class private car for two

2nd class berth in a shared cabin (either 4 or 6 berths)

We only had one night’s journey, a quick 2.5 hours. However, due to our family size, we were able to book an affordable 6-berth room for ourselves. Bathrooms were shared in the hallway.

What Was The Sleeper Car Like?

Surprisingly, we now know we can sleep well in a train car! The rocking of the train quickly put us all to sleep. In our room, the top was very hot, and the air conditioner was blasting at the bottom. The berth was large, with enough space to store luggage at our feet if needed.

There was a large luggage area at the top, above the door, and plugs in each berth to charge phones.

While it’s evident on the Eurail website that all-night journey tickets need to be printed, I accidentally left them at home! After waiting for them to arrive by mail, I forgot to pack them. Gah!

I was so stressed we wouldn’t be allowed to onboard the train. Despite the quick journey, we didn’t even book a hotel room that night. However, the mobile version with the QR code seemed enough for the conductor.

I hope we can make another train trip in the future, and we will definitely be booking some overnight journeys again! These overnight train cruises are often much more affordable than hotel rooms for our family.

We got a boat ride to explore Königssee Lake with the kids

Standard Amenities On Board European Trains

Amenities vary slightly based on the train line.

For example:

  • In Norway, our trains had small playrooms for kids.
  • Some trains have reclining seats, and others do not.
  • Some trains have compartments for families, like our train from Prague to Austria.
  • Some overnight trains will have sleeper cars, including six berths (possibly with strangers), two private sleeper cars, and first-class cars with private bathrooms.

If you’d like to see the benefits of your particular train, you can find the train name and number on your Eurail pass and look up the benefits online.

Most national and some private railways are included in your pass, as well as buses and ferries!  Read on for more specific information. 

We took connecting train rides to spend a day at the Top Of Europe. The European train system is flawless!

Other Tips For European Train Travel With Kids

  • All conductors on the trains speak English. They may talk to you in the local language first (depending on your genetic heritage and how your family looks), but if you talk back in English, they will immediately transition to English.
  • Tickets are checked within the first 5 minutes of the train trip. Sometimes you must show your tickets multiple times in a journey, and sometimes the same conductor is with you the entire time.
  • Occasionally at border crossings, like in Italy (link Italian train tips here), you might need to show your passport mid-journey.
  • Restaurant cars accept cash or card. It’s also acceptable to bring your food and drink onto the train. Grab food and drinks from a grocery store before your journey to save money.
  • The first class is expected to be quiet, so it might not be best if you are with young kids. Our five kids tend to bury themselves in tablets and books and have been fine. However, I was chastised once for being too loud while my 7-year-old read a story to me outlaid.
  • Most Europeans are kind and will probably try to help you at some point. Also, most of them speak English, especially in Scandinavia, Germany and Austria, Switzerland, and anyone under 30, as they have had several years of English in school.
  • Transitions off the train are quick. Watch for your arrival and get off within 3-5 minutes.
  • For the most part, trains are either on time or early. We’ve only had one late train in over a dozen trips.
  • Bikes and more oversized items have a place on the train, and sometimes they require another ticket.
  • Some countries don’t allow you to buy seat reservations through Eurail until you are IN that country. It was the case with Norway. We had to wait until we were in Oslo to get a train ticket to Bergen. However, it was easy and fast to buy them from a ticket office at the Oslo train station, and we even got a discount on a private railroad section because of our passes.
Soaking at the moment with these precious littles!

Our train travel experience has never been this smooth. European trains are really the best!



Traveling to Europe by plane? Check out great deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a nice hotel and get discounts from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Learn more about Europe through fun activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads

Capture your best European travel memories as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

68 Critical Tips for New International Travelers From An Expert Travel Family

Essential Tips for Visiting The Top Of Europe in Switzerland With Kids

10 Important Things To Know When Traveling From Italy to Switzerland By Train


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  2. Amazing insight! What did you find the most reliable way to get from train stations to your hotel or vacation house with kids in tow? Taxi? I backpacked through Europe when I was young without kids and did a lot of walking to my destinations and I’m just imagining a lot of difficulties trying to get to where we are staying in multiple cities and don’t want it to stress us all out. Traveling with two kids ages 9 and 11.

    • Leslie Stroud

      Hi, Amy! Glad you found this article helpful. Yes, taxis and Uber are our usual options if we cannot get rental cars. But if time and mood permit, we also try public transport. Kids will love European trains! Have fun!!!

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