Here is some resume of our travel in train from this summer 2019, with some reflexions of mine. I don’t have much pictures without someone of our family on, so excuse the lack of illustration of this article.
- We were two adults and one 2,5 years old girl
- We wanted to travel by train since our 2,5 years old girl pays the plane and we had a lots of vacation this year
- We began to plan this travel in February and left Uppsala June 21st
- After a quick calculation and since we began to plan this travel early, we decided not to buy an interrail card. Others reasons were that we were away so long and had so much night trains on our list, which require extra reservation anyway.
- I booked all the tickets myself and made an active choice to have a lots of time between different trains or to have another train to take later if the first would be delaid
- To go from Copenhagen to Hamburg, we choose to avoid the railway works and go west to Esbjerg. On the parts where the railway is under renovation, the train was replaced by busses and we already knew that Z was sock in busses, so we wanted train the whole way.
The planned route was following: Uppsala-Alvesta, Alvesta-Esbjerg, Esbjerg-Hamburg, Hamrbug-Basel and for the return: Basel-Berlin and Berlin-Uppsala.
booked with SJ at the station+Snälltåget booked through Snälltåget
We decided to leave just before Midsommar in order to skip another change in Stockholm since the railway administration planned a renovation of the bridges from the Gettingmidjan from Midsommar.
This part of the travel went well until we realized that our little girl is sick even in normal trains (actually in every transportation) when she reads or looks at the phone. This was not a nice surprise since 1) she felt bad 2) what would we do of all the hours on train if we couldn’t read with her?
The train between Stockholm and Alvesta- was 1h50 delaid so I claimed a refound and got it for 25% of our ticket price some week after my claim. The delay did not matter for us since our travel for the day ended there, and I smiled at the fact that we could make our travel cheaper when the infrastructure is not working.
Snälltåget may have old fashioned (garbage?) looking train from the outside but the inside is new and you have place for the legs. This is definitely better than on the plane. I also like the feeling in the restaurant wagon, with tables and the fact that they only use reusable dishes. The menu was pretty good to be in a train but before we arrived at destination, they told us they were out of warm food.
Öresundståg + DSB, booked through DSB
Well, this pas of the travel went without any trouble at all. We took an Öresundståg between Alvesta and Copenhagen. That was not possible to make a place reservation but we managed to find seats for the three of us, the fourth seat being occupied by a very funny and nice man. If you wre hungry, you could buy food in a machine. Quite noisy train because of the very open compartments.
We had some hours before the next train to eat lunch in the danish capital. For me, it was while drinking a cold beer and eating outside that the vacation feeling came.
The second train was with seat reservation and worked on fuel. This made me think that train is not everywhere an ecologial solution. This made me think of the ecological aspect of our travel: it may have disappeared a little -I guess- when we drove this part with fuel power? We crossed Danmark frem East to West with this train and it was very enjoyable. The train was confortable, no service for food except a machine but very clean and quiet train.
DSB booked through Deutsche Bahn DB
The first train was as well an non electrical powered train Comfortable train without reservation. No food service inside the train.
We had to change at the Flensburg station was easy because the second train came at the same plattform but we noticed we were not alone.
The second train we took this day from Flensburg to Hamburg was a regional train. We had booked sits and I was very happy for that because the train was totally full of people going on vacation. Z felt asleep 8 minutes before we arrived in Hamburg, making the travel quite challenging for us (finding activities which do not disturb the neighborhood, do not include reading in some way and interest her…)
ÖBB nightjet booked through ÖBB
At the moment we climbed on the train, the conductor told us that the sleeping wagon was replaced with a sitting wagon. We had practically no other choice that to get on the train or to get off and buy another ticket , well first an hotell night in Hamburg and then a new ticket. No need to say that the mood was not very good since we did not get any explanation but we survived.
I claimed a refound for this since we paid extra for beds we didn’t get and after a mail every two days during two weeks, I finally got a reply and had to confirm with the numbers of the credit card used for the booking and got the promise I would get the money difference on my account within some weeks. ÖBB paid us back 40 euros and the price of our ticket was 129 euros for the three of us. So they kept their words.
The night itself was awefull, mostly because we had to sit, in a kupé with 6 adults and a kid. The AC was working but you understand that we didn’t sleep that much. Well, our girl did but I looked through the window the whole night and actually had a nice reflection time with myself. Look below this wonderful sunrise in South Germany:
ÖBB serves the breakfast, which was very simple but filled it’s function.
A thing I didn’t know (but which didn’t matter for us but could for other) is that Basel (our destination) had billions of station. We got off at one which is not the main station, it worked but be careful if you are travelling more from Basel.
TER sncf bought at the station + ÖBB nightjet booked through ÖBB
We simply bought our ticket for the TER at the station, there was no reservation for places but the train was almost empty. It was a very quiet and quick travel to Basel (about 25 minutes if I remember well) and we arrived at the french part of the station SBB.
In Basel, we went in a parc and ate our picknick. I was happy of that because the prices in Switzerland are not kind to the wallet of poor vacation people. The weather was wonderfull and it was also good for Z to run a little bit before the travel began.
We jumped into the train around 21:00 (the train arrived about 30 minutes before departure) so we could install ourselves in our beds calmy. This time, we were sharing the compartment with a family of 2 adults and 2 children, and they already transformed the compartiment in sleeping position when we arrived, so we just had to go to bed.
The beds were just long enough for me and M but since I was sleeping with Z, I would have had some more centimeters in width. The wagon was pretty noisy but the AC worked. We asked for a breakfast to go (one of the passenger with us on the Hamburg-Basel did it and it was much more convenient than to eat in the wagon) but our breakfast never came. I was too tired in the morgning to fight for this, so we just bought a better breakfast in the sun in Berlin.
Berlin – Uppsala
Snälltåget + SL booked through Snälltåget
First of all, M and I agreed about the fact that the station in Berlin is very practical. It is built all in hights so you don’t have to run kilometers to find the right track. You have the S-Bahn and U-bahn at the same point and you just go down to find the long distance train. One good point with having the long distance trains down this day was that it was a little bit cooler. The Snälltåget does not have any AC for night travel, so it was very appreciated.
We climbed in this train around 19 and had some hours in “sitting position”. In this train, Z had her own bed, but since she is so little, we were afraid that she would fall down plus that she did not want to sleep alone, so we did not use the third bed, which made it more comfortable for the 6 of us in the compartiment: the last bed could be used for the luggages. We shared the compartiment with 3 other girls.
About 23, the train did go on th boat and this was the beginning of the sauna time. No fresh air at all and no AC, so we simply were sweating in our beds. The beds were more wide than in ÖBB train, so it was much more comfortable for me and Z but the space for the luggages was much more little.
We arrived in Malmö in the morning and we climbed out of the train to eat breakfast (and change train).
In the second train, there was AC. There was also a couple on our side, with one man who was always looking at Z at every word she was saying. And this made me very angry. He did not say anything, just looking at us with the devil eye, but I was ready with some reply. Z at this time was very quiet, just talking and she fell asleep about 20 minutes after departures. All the other trains, she felt alseep 10 minutes before arrival, so this time she was very good. I guess this man had a bad night on the previous train, but this was not Z’s fault either, she was pretty nice as well.
We changed train in Södertälje Hamn, which is unusual, due to the renovation of Gettingmidjan, the only bridge in Stockholm on which all the trains coming from south are arriving to th central station in Stockholm. The change was very very easy, because we just had to wait on the same platform and to climb into the next train, which arrived 10 minutes later and took us directly to Uppsala.
To arrive in train in our home town gave me a peaceful feeling. Somehow, you come home at a normal speed, withouth the stress of picking up your luggage, wait for a bus or something. We just arrived at the station and 10 minutes later, we were at home.
We choose to have one big carrier for Z, with an extra bag on the back and one big bag for the rest of our stuff. Plus one bag to carry by hand to have the food and drinks separated.
We had 12 kg in the big green bag and the bag with Z in was maybe around 15-18kg with her in. Of course, she only wanted Mamma to carry her…
This carrier for Z had the advantage to have the place for a camelback (water bag of 3L) so we always had water with us. It staid also astonishing cold there, even during hot days.
Important to notice that we had one week without any possibility to wash our clothes and then, there was always some washmachine in the corner.
We also had a separate bag (you know, this one you can make very very little) for food and beverage. The reasons: this volume was very variable and I wanted to have all this separated from clothes, since we couldn’t wash so often and I wanted to avoid accidents. This was actually a good idea.
What we did not use during our travel
We did carry 25 items with us without using them during our trip. There is some though I would pack again on the next travel, because it may have been more luck than anything else that they did not come to use. For exampel: raincoats, Alvedon, cream for Z’s ass.
We went away with 3 packages of dried food and we ate one. Actually, there was only one hotel room where we could used these (meaning one hotel room with a water boiling). These packages are very depending on how you choose to eat and spend your money, We decided clearly to eat at the restaurant and don’t bother about what it would cost. The raisins was to give to Z if she was very hungry but since she was sick in the transportation, she did not want to eat either.
We had some clothes extra for Z that weren’t used as well, and mainly socks. I may have had a black hole in my head when I packed so much socks for her. Well, we would have survived with less socks.
What we took with us from our travel
Well, the bags were very full with all our stuffs so we really had to think of what we took home with us, No need to say that Z got most of the things.
M and I got a hat. Z got shoes and some clothes and of course jewelery. I left a book in France and took another with me. Z got some magazines and 2 crowns (one for Midsummer and one from Burger King). We had some products against mousquitos bites (very used…) and a loup/magnifier. Very important to discover your environment in all the details. We took with us 3 stones from the beach in Danmark, 2 wine glasses size S.
What we took and used
Well, all the rest… I don’t really remember but roughly, we had each adult 3 tee-shirts, 1 short, 1 trousers, socks, underwears, flip-flop, running shoes (the ones we got on our feet to walk and travel), 1 suit, bathing clothes, 2 microfiber towels, pyjamas, toys for Z.
Our bathroom kit did included one toothbrush each, our toothpaste, a brush, deodorant. We met a family in the train between Basel and Berlin, they had like a 5kg bathroom kit. It is very personal I guess, but I did not miss one thing. M needed a razor, but this would not have made our kit much heavier if we would have thought of that before.
In summary, we had alwas the same clothes on us, did some days with tee shirts with some stain, but honestly, who cared? After 5 weeks of them, I was very hapy to find my other clothes at home, but honestly, I also wanted to get rid of a lots of clothes as well.
Deutsche Bahn DB has an app that helps to see if the train is on time, when the train drives through/in Germany. Very useful as well when you want to know which track it is coming to the station. I’m not sure it’s relaible all the time but it calms my mind a couple of time.
If you transit through Basel, be careful of the station you book your ticket from /to since there is several stations in this city.
In Basel, you are in Switzerland. Believe it or not, but the rule of the roaming prices do not apply there. I experienced a very expensive mapgoogling there until my phone told me “you haven’t any internet credits anymore”.
Since the space in the night train is reduced, prepare what you will need for the night and the morning after. Think light but practical: a new tee shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, water, some snacks, a book, battery for your devides. The most easy is to put your big luggage somewhere it will stay untouched the whole travel. I abandonned quickly the idea of changing to pyjamas. To space, no time and too much eyes around. Keep your pappers and money close to your body.
Ask for being a member of the facebook group “tågsemester” (swedish speaking) a read the threads there before you decide yourself, I read a lots of good ideas and tips for the specific travels we planned to do.
When you stay a day in a city and plan to take the night train the same day, you can easily put your luggage in some boxes at the stations. We tried the ones in Hamburg and the ones in Berlin. Hamburg was very practical, close to the tracks. Berlin was a little more complicated to find and you needed cash. It’s a good way though to have a light day and often closed to the tracks than your hotel (if you were staying at the hotel the previous night). If I remember well, it costed 5 or 6 euros a day for one big box.
Travelling with a kid
Well, this part is delicate. It’s so much about education, tolerance (yours and other passengers), food, temperature and sleep. For us, we judge that it went pretty well, except the fact that Z was sick even in “slow trains” while reading or watching youtube. We discovered this 45 minutes after the departure of the second rain, so it kind of killed all our plans of occupation for Z during the hours of train. The only things we could do was watching at the landscape and hope Z would sleep. Much of the success of the travels was due to the passengers with us. If they were kind and said hello, then Z would be nice. If they looked at us angry or did not care, then Z would look for our attention and mostly in bad ways (like kids can do, like searching where our limits were, and by this, not being a very good passenger). I felt a little bit like this: Z is 2,5 years, so the adults around had to adapt to her and not the contrary. It went well for us though. We just got these evil eyes from the man on Malmö-Södertälje and the rest went pretty well.
We choose to transport Z in her bagpack and it was a very good decision. We had no problem with stairs, climbed on and off trains, we knew where she was and she was protected from people all around. Of course, we lost a whole back for other packing but at this point, she is our most worthy package, so it was all ok like that. We wouldn’t have managed this with a strolley I guess.
Our girl doesn’t need diapers anymore but we still used it for the travel and even if it was hot and a bit uncomfortable for her, we saved time and washes since the toilets were not all in function. I guess it would have been a challenge without. Not deadly but practical for us parents.
We planned some toys but she almost never cared and plaid with the things that were around. We also had books, but the same here: she wanted to read new things, like the menu or safety explanations.
Most of the time of the travel was spent at looking at her. The same kind of travel alone as an adult is much more “own-time” for reading and stuff I guess, but in comparison to travel by plane, it was much easier. She could move in the train and it was less of “not doing things time” as it can be at an airport or in a plane.
But for her, I guess she won’t remember this travel and how uncommon it was. She just followed us and has nothing to compare with. To spend the night in a train or in an hotel room is as exciting.
How much did it cost?
Travelling is not for free. In our case, I think that the tickets did cost about 900 euros. (The plane was 1000 euros when I was looking in february). On the top of that you have to put the food, he beverage and the night you spend in th towns you are staying at. It was not a cheap vacation at all, almost our most expensive ever. And we did not buy things, we just spend money on nights and food and drinks.
We did not use Interrail for several reasons, the main being that we wanted to travel by night and you have to book and pay extra for reservation anyway, so we had the time to buy cheap tickets instead.
Was it worth it?
Yes. I really appreciated the fact that the travel was slow. Of course, it has to be combined with the fact that you have long vacation, because spending all the free time on a train is not really funny I guess.
When you talk about train, you also very often hear about delay. We had 2 trains delaid of the 12 we took. These delays did not cost us anything: the first was for a train taking us at our destination this day and for the second, it made our changing time from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. In this case it was perfect since the platform we were changing on was hot as hell and without shadow. So we cannot complain at all about the delays. We also planned our way withouth sensitivity for delays, because we know it could happen. This reduced our stress to zero.
For the climate: well, I can say that we did not make it worse, but we did consume a lot on our way down, so maybe all in one it’s not very positive anyway. I don’t know.
It was a lot of time spent in trains. I had a lots of hours to reflect about life in general and things in particular and I enjoyd this. We discovered a lots of things and had time to talk with each others.