I can’t get over how easy it is to travel across Europe from London. However, and this is quite the downside to the CIEE Global Internship Program, with our having to work Monday through Thursday and attend class until noon on Friday, we are limited to exploring one main city a weekend. So, for example, unless someone is willing to fly to Italy multiple times, they will have to choose between visiting the historical city of Rome, beautiful cultural centre of Florence and meandering canals of Venice.
Traveling to a different country from London is also a lot cheaper than traveling from the States to Europe because of the London train system. When thinking of weekend trips, everyone’s minds seem to jump straight to Ryan Air and cheap airline flights during the planning phase. However, with St. Pancras International Train Station located in the easily accessible centre of London, the final cost oftentimes is in favour of the train.
While the train tickets themselves may cost more, the trains tend to leave at more regular hours while, to get one of those “cheap” flights, you have to leave at odd hours of the night/early. These hours only get worse when you consider that you need to arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight. All of this, combined with flights nearly always departing from faraway airports on the outskirts of London, oftentimes results in needing to take a taxi that costs more than the actual flight. So. Taxi + Flight Ticket + transportation into the city you are visiting upon arrival + baggage?
Yes. Baggage. Read those tickets, dearies. If you’re lucky, you can carry on a pocketbook/fanny pack sized bag. Anything beyond that incurs another hefty fee, one that is repeated, and oftentimes increased, on the return trip when you want to bring back souvenirs.
In the end, it does depend on your trip. Sometimes the costs may balance, other times either the plane or the train may be a lot cheaper. However, it is VERY important to take time into account. Take a train from London to Italy and you’ll only be able to spend 24 hours in the city before starting the return trip, but take a plane and you can get nearly 48. On the other hand, take a 3 ½ hour train to Paris and you will save yourself A LOT of time because, on top of not needing to arrive for an international train 3 hours early, you also don’t need to factor in travel to and from each airport to the city centres as train stations are nearly always located in central tourist areas. Airports are not.
So, go. Travel. This is a great time for it, but be sure to plan ahead and look into all traveling options. The farther in advance you buy a ticket, train or plane, the more money you will save. If, like me, you are planning to take a lot of trains, or even just one long train ride, within the UK, you should look into getting a train card. I looked into it when planning my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and, even if I had only bought it for that one trip, it saved me 30 pounds.