What's the deal with the booking horizons and timetables changes?
Navigating the European train ticket booking system can be confusing for non-Europeans vacationers trying to plan their holidays months before their trip. But there is a method to the madness - and, once you figure it out, booking train tickets becomes a much smoother process!
Why Can't I Book Earlier?
In Europe, train rides are usually planned only days or weeks before travelling. Locals have no need for train booking horizons that open several months in advance. That means that booking happens closer to your departure date than you might be expecting.
Here's the nitty-gritty of European train booking horizons:
The 90-Day Rule
Most European trains open ticket booking 3 months ahead - that's the golden standard for booking horizons. If you try looking at train schedules before 90 days, you may be surprised by the lack of train availability. Most of the time, it's just because booking hasn't opened so the schedule isn't up yet!
If 90 days is too little time for you, never fear! There are many European trains that open for booking 120 to 180 days ahead (e.g. Eurostar, Thalys, TGV Lyria, Trenitalia, Italo, France Spain High-Speed, some German trains). But some countries in Central and Eastern Europe only offer train bookings 60 days ahead - same goes for Spain!
It really pays to keep track of all the different booking horizons in Europe to make sure you get the train tickets you need!
Beware of the timetable changes!
In Europe, the railway systems switch timetables on the 2nd Saturday in June and the 2nd Sunday in December. This switch makes it difficult for train operators to keep up the usual booking horizon, so, if you're booking your train around those times, be prepared to experience delayed and shortened booking horizons. Don't stress about not getting a seat through - these delayed booking horizons usually still open the same day across the board.
Set up a request!
If your trip involves several trains with different booking schedules and different timeframes, it's always a good idea to set up a booking request! At Rail Plus, we can keep an eye on your booking and let you know when trains are ready to be booked so you're always on track! (Pun intended!) Simply send an email with a list of trains you are unable to book and we will set the request up for you.