I love traveling more than most other things in life, but I’ll never warm up to scrambling 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 on the off chance that security is crazy slow and I need to allow more time, but something about the precious time wasted that could have been spent doing something more productive or fun rubs me the wrong way.
That’s why when I planned our last trip to Europe, I wanted to try taking 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 into how we wanted to get from point A to point B, nonstop one-way flights were at least $300 each. In comparison, we were able to book a 4-bunk private sleeper cabin for under $100 each. Not only that, if you factor in the cost of getting to and from each airport and an additional night at a hotel, you can add at least another $200 on top of the $300 each in plane tickets.
For an estimated cost comparison with easy numbers, let’s say we spent $100 each on tickets for the train. Additionally, let’s say a hotel would have been $200, flights would have been $300 each, and transport to and from each airport would have been $20. In that case, our group of three saved $280 each, or $840 total, by opting for the night train! And all that for a way more relaxing, easy, and fun experience!
2 Hours To Train Departure
Our train, the ÖBB Nightjet, was set to leave the main station in Zurich at 9:40 PM. At around 7:30 PM, we were comfortably tucked into a cozy restaurant enjoying our last meal before heading off to Vienna. Our hotel happily watched our bags for the day, so we’d checked out early and taken a day trip to Stans and Luzern. Besides the small backpack I had with me, it felt like any other evening we’d spent in Zurich, and I had to keep reminding myself we were leaving in a few hours.
@tyleroffpath So chill getting ready to take a night train, never flying in Europe unless I have to now! #zurich #nightjet #europe #traveloffpath #travel ♬ Lazy Sunday – Official Sound Studio
If we’d had a flight in three hours, my stress levels would be through the roof! However, our ticket advised we only needed to show up 15 minutes early, so we were soaking up every second left in Zurich before walking to the station.
1.5 Hours To Train Departure
Glühwein galore! While Switzerland didn’t have quite as many spots as Germany to grab delicious mulled wine after the 1st of the year, we made sure to find some to keep us warm while we walked around during our last hour or so in Zurich. Once again, I had to keep telling myself we were leaving soon. The entire lead-up to our train’s departure was so relaxed that it felt like it wasn’t even really happening.
@tyleroffpath Gluhwein walks in Zurich before taking the night train! #zurich #gluhwein #nightjet #europe #traveloffpath ♬ original sound – 4u
To The Station 30 Minutes Early
My inner worrier started to kick in around 45 minutes before departure. So, we decided to grab our bags from the hotel and walk to the station. Since we were really close to our hotel, this 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 was just showing up at the airport 30 minutes before my flight was going to leave, I’d be nauseous. There would pretty much be 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 travel style I could get used to, and the best part hadn’t even started.
@tyleroffpath Finally boarding the night train to Vienna! So easy, chill, and fun! Will definitely be taking sleeper trains whenever possible! #europe #nightjet #traveloffpath #zurich #travel ♬ Glowing Sea – Muspace
Taking a night train vs. a plane to another country is night and day when it comes to getting on board. For a flight, we’d have to get to the airport, clear security, go to our gate, wait for our boarding group, and then sit around in the plane for 30 minutes before takeoff. The night train was totally different.
When the train came into the station, we walked to our train car number, got on the train, walked to our sleeper cabin, and put our bags away. That was it. We didn’t even have to show our ticket to board, as the ticket checker simply waited until we were settled to check our tickets. In less than 10 minutes, we’d boarded, gotten settled, and were ready to go to sleep.
@tyleroffpath Quick snapshot of getting luggage on to the night train from Zurich to Vienna #zurich #traveloffpath #travel #nightjet #vienna ♬ Lost – Official Sound Studio
I was too excited to go straight to sleep since this was my first time taking a night train. So, I decided to get a bit of work done. I love working on trains, and this was a super comfy office. The night train included Wi-Fi, had ample plugs for charging, and my bunk had its own reading light. After a bit of work, I walked down to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Some cabins have attached bathrooms with showers, but we opted for a more basic 4-bunk cabin to save some money. Still, the bathrooms were roomy and super functional — much better than an airplane bathroom!
And now for the most significant difference of all between flying and taking a night train…
Sleep! So much sleep!
When I fly overnight, I have such a hard time falling asleep. Not being able to stretch out or toss and turn a bit is just too cramped for me. I never fall asleep for more than 30 minutes or so. On the night train, though, I slept all night. The rocking of the train lulled me right to sleep, and I slept very well. We all woke up to a knock on the door as the attendant let us know our stop was in about an hour and that breakfast was about to be served.
I’ll Add A Night Train To My Itinerary From Now On
I loved taking the night train, and I’ll definitely add it to every itinerary I can instead of taking a flight. Night trains are better than planes because:
- You get to enjoy yourself more instead of stressing about rushing to the airport.
- Free, reliable Wi-Fi during your whole trip.
- You get an entire bed to yourself and can completely stretch out.
- 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 I will always recommend it over flying!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com