Booking journey legs separately
The booking horizon (how far in advance you can book) varies between rail companies in Europe, so it is sometimes possible to book one section of your trip a month or more before other trains come on sale. This is particularly relevant for Eurostar, which usually opens 180 days in advance, compared to three months for most other trains.
For a list of booking horizons by rail operator and country, please see How far in advance can I book my tickets?
If there is big difference between the booking horizons for each leg of your journey, it can be difficult to decide if you should wait until everything comes on sale or book separately. We can't give definitive advice about this issue, because there are simply too many variables. The decision and associated risk is entirely yours. However, we’ve listed some of the pros and cons below:
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Reasons to book your tickets separately
To get the cheapest tickets. The main reason for splitting your booking would be to secure the cheapest tickets on each leg before the entire journey becomes available. The cheapest tickets are usually non-flexible (non-exchangeable & non-refundable) therefore don't permit amendment if your plans change or if the separate legs of your journey don't match up for some reason. A notable exception is Eurostar, which does not offer non-flexible fares; however, passengers are able to exchange tickets up to the day of departure, and Business Premier tickets are fully refundable. If you do wish to split your trip, please proceed with caution and be aware of the risk.
Reasons to wait and book your tickets together
To book a discounted “through-fare.” There are sometimes discounted "through-tickets" which are the same price or cheaper than buying separate fares. For example "French Connection" fares to popular French cities combine the Eurostar and TGV into one. They can be bought three months in advance, compared to 180 days (Eurostar) and three months (TGV).
To get a discounted return fare. Sometimes, the decision about splitting your journey is as simple as booking one-way tickets as they come on sale, versus waiting for the outbound and return legs to come on sale together. In this case it is worth bearing in mind that only a few trains in Europe offer a discount for return tickets, notably UK Open Returns. For most other European trains the cost a return ticket is twice the one-way fare, with discounts available on a per-leg basis.
Seasonal time table change. Every year in June and December, there are seasonal timetable changes that may affect available services. If you are planning a trip shortly after a planned timetable change, we strongly recommend waiting until the timetable is confirmed before booking anything as we can't predict the frequency or departure time of any services, even those which run at the same time every day in the previous timetable.
Other points to consider:
- Book flexible tickets. If you think your plans might change you should consider buying more flexible tickets that permit a refund or exchange. Of course these will be more expensive, so it's up to you to consider the cost vs. savings of booking ahead or just waiting until all parts of your journey are available.
- Get travel insurance. If you are considering splitting your booking, please take care to arrange suitable travel insurance which has appropriate cover for cancellation.