10 tips for booking cheaper train fares to the Alps

Daniel Elkan from Snowcarbon reveals how to travel to the mountains for less

Tip 1: Book early if possible (especially for independent travel)

The earlier you book, the more chance of finding cheaper tickets. The Eurostar Ski Train goes on sale mid to end of July each year, with tickets bookable for the entire season. Indirect journeys go on sale from October each year, bookable for travel dates about 90 days ahead.

Tip 2: Check out rail-inclusive ski packages

Many tour operators offer rail-ski packages that include the train travel and transfers to your chalet, apartment or hotel.  These can be good value, and some of the larger tour ops like Skiworld, Inghams and Crystal have their own allocation of seats on the Ski Train.

You can browse packages on snowcarbon.co.uk 

Tip 3: Use the phone, not just the web

Don’t just rely on what you see online. On tour operator websites, rail options frequently aren’t mentioned – even when they exist. Similarly, if booking independent rail travel, websites frequently can’t offer journeys that are perfectly possible. So phone up the rail-company call centre and ask staff to help find what you want. Although you shouldn’t assume that every member of staff knows what they are talking about.

Related: a guide to taking the snow train to ski resorts in the Alps

Want to reach the snow for less? Pick up the phone!

Tip 4: Check indirect options – as these might save you money

If you are headed for the Tarentaise region (for resorts such as Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne and Meribel), served by the direct Eurostar Ski Train, you might find that going via Paris could save around £50 – £100 per person over the direct Ski Train. This is particularly true when the Eurostar Ski Train has been on sale a while, but indirect journeys have just come on sale. 

Tip 5: Book combined journeys in one go

If travelling from London to the Alps with an indirect journey, wait till the whole journey is on sale to book – because for most journeys you can get a ‘Through fare’ – which is a combined fare from both trains that is cheaper than if you booked each leg separately. Using a rail-booking expert (e.g. Ffestiniog travel – see tip 8) may be the best way to do this for popular dates, as they can hold each leg of the journey as it comes on sale and then book it for you as a combined fare.

Tip 6: When booking online, check fares for “one adult” first

Rail-booking websites ask you to select the number of people at the outset. Start with one adult when you first search for fares, as this will give you a clearer and more reliable like-for-like comparison before you eventually try to book for your exact party.

Tip 7: On the phone, ask for help finding the lowest fares

When on the phone to a rail company’s call centre, state clearly at the start of the call that you need help finding the lowest-priced fares. It might sound obvious, but enlisting the proactive help of call-centre staff to your money-saving cause may pay dividends.

Tip 8: Rail booking experts: Ffestiniog Travel

A great no-hassle booking option is to let rail-booking experts source tickets for you.

Ffestiniog Travel is very experienced and has a good reputation for service. They charge a small booking fee for all ticketing arrangements made – but this will likely be offset by the fact that they can get your journey booked at the lowest fares, hold trains for you when they go on sale etc. 

Travelling by train needn’t be pricey

Tip 9: Check on discounts for children

If you are travelling with children, be aware that those under four years old can travel for free (without a reserved seat) and children aged 4 – 11 get about 30% off. Prices for those aged 12 and upwards are – in most cases – very similar to adult fares. Be wary that some promotional fares only apply to adult fares and not teenagers, so search for adult fares first.

Tip 10: Consider transfer costs

Wait for bus timetables to be published before you book a taxi. Local taxi companies will normally be much cheaper then airport transfers when it comes to station-to-resort transfers. If you are staying in a chalet, check whether the chalet offers a free pick up from the train station – many do. If booking a local taxi but you don’t have enough people to fill the taxi, let the taxi company know that you are happy to share with strangers to help fill the taxi and bring the overall cost down for everyone. This way the taxi will potentially put you together with others arriving at the same time and taking the same route.