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Should I choose France, Germany or Italy? Part 1: Planning

June 27, 2014
Author: Philip Martin

No not countries in the football world cup, but train routes to get to Vienna, Austria for our 5th Amadeus Rail Forum.

Rather than take the 2 hour flight from Nice we went for the 17 hour train journey from Antibes to really get into the swing of things. Now many of you will think that the journey starts when you board, but I beg to differ, it’s from the time you start planning the trip. We (me and my two colleagues Eve-Marie and Katrin) decided to split the planning duties and take a sales channel each, then record what we found while planning the trip. We gave ourselves some selection criteria: treat it like a first time traveller and only chose day trips so we can take in the countryside as it rolls by.

destination_vienna_1

I was given the task of searching through the railway websites and I’ve basically taken the decision that as I’m in France I will start from the SNCF website, I know this company (I’ve seen them advertised on TV). So I try to book from Grasse (my local station) all the way to Vienna – it provides me with one option but it’s a night train. It doesn’t give me anything earlier and also warns me that for international trains there is no guarantee of a seat? Hmm not very reassuring methinks.

As a first time traveller I don’t know the names of the railway companies in Italy so I’ve done a google search “booking tickets for trains in Italy”.

I find at the top of the list an interesting site www.seat61.com  that helps me search for tickets. It points me to the Trenitalia website and because I need seat assignment. So I go ahead and make my selection; it offers me a day trip which is what I want, and the itinerary is Ventimiglia, Milan, Venice, Vienna and it's a 16 hour journey, not that bad really and I can imagine that the scenery will be worth the trip. Plus we will have lots of work to prepare for the Rail Forum.

Ok, now I feel more comfortable. I go through the booking process and end up with 3 tickets seated together. As I can only book from Ventimiglia, I still have to go back to SNCF to book the train that gets me to Italy, but instead decide to buy at the station on the day of departure.

In terms of timing this took me 45 minutes, that’s quite a long time.

How did my colleagues fare? Well they used a self-booking tool, a station, a travel agent and checked out some online retailers, and to see how they got on watch the video of the planning and the trip.

 

Incredibly each channel offered us a different route, some with no way to book, some travelling over 24 hours via Paris and some stopping on the German border! So in the end we opted for the France, Italy Austria route and in Part 2 I will tell you all about the trip and the human bowling ball…all will be revealed.

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