How far in advance can I book?
If you are planning a trip more than a few months in advance, there is a chance that some of your tickets won't yet be available to book. This article lays out the booking horizons for most rail operators, and explains how you can plan your trip around varying opening dates.
The winter timetable change, which is due to take place in December-June, may prevent you from booking some journeys as far in advance as usual.
IN THIS ARTICLE
What is a booking horizon?
The term booking horizon refers to how far in advance you can book tickets for European trains. Booking horizons vary between trains, countries and rail operators, but three months is a good estimate for most services, with some notable exceptions such as Eurostar. We've listed most booking horizons below, by country and train to give you an idea of what to expect.
How far in advance can I book trains in Europe?
Rail operator and/or train
|City Night Line||Night trains to/from Germany||6 months in advance|
|Eurostar||To/from London-Paris/Brussels||180 days in advance|
|Eurostar Disneyland (Marne-la-Vallee)||To/from London-Disneyland Paris||11 months in advance (does not run every day)|
|Eurostar Ski train||To/from London-French Alps||Seasonal service with fixed booking/travel dates (approx. Aug for travel Dec-April)|
|Eurostar direct south of France||To/from London-Lyon-Aix en Provence|| Seasonal service with fixed booking/travel dates (approx Dec for travel May-Aug)
|Frecciarossa, Frecciaagento (High-speed trains in Italy)||Intercity trains in Italy||120 days in advance|
|Italo (NTV)||Intercity trains in Italy||4 months in advance|
|National Rail||Throughout the UK||12 weeks (84 days) in advance|
|Renfe-SNCF||To/from Paris-Barcelona||4 months (119 days) in advance|
|TGV (high-speed) and TER (regional) in France||Trains in France|| 3 months in advance (some seasonal variation, see below)
|TGV France-Italy||To/from Paris-Milan/Turin||4 months in advance|
|TGV Lyria (France - Switzerland)||To/from Paris-Geneva/Zurich||4 months in advance|
|TGV Alleo (France - Germany)||To/from Paris-Frankfurt||4 months in advance|
|Thalys||To/from Paris - Brussels-Amsterdam||3 months in advance usually, but with some variation*.|
|Thello||To/from Paris - Milan-Venice||4 months in advance|
||3 months in advance|
||3 months in advance|
||3 months in advance with seasonal variation|
|Germany||180 days in advance|
|Italy|| High-speed, medium & long-distance 4 months |
Regionale 2 months. Variable*
|Netherlands||3 months in advance|
|Russia||60 days in advance|
||3 months in advance|
|United Kingdom||12 weeks (84 days)|
Why book in advance?
The simplest reason for booking tickets in advance is that, in most cases, the earlier you book the cheaper the tickets. Prices are based on availability, so as the date of travel gets closer and tickets sell out, the price increases. To find out the earliest date that it is possible to book popular routes, check out our Destinations booking guides. There you will find best prices, journey time and the "booking horizon" for lots of journeys.
If the destination you are looking for is not covered by our booking guides, you can still set a booking reminder (see below) based on an estimated booking horizon, or use a date calculator so you can work out when booking is likely to open for your journey based on the information in the table above.
Booking tickets separately
If your journey involves more than one train it is possible that each leg will have a different booking horizon. This means that one section of your journey may open earlier than another.
This is especially relevant with trips that include Eurostar, for which booking typically opens 180 days in advance. There are lots of things to consider when deciding if you should wait until all parts of your journey are available, or buy each leg as booking open. We've explained some of the issues to help you decide in the following article, Booking tickets separately.
Setting a booking alert
If you run a search for your desired route, but booking isn't open on your intended travel dates you will be prompted to set a booking alert:
Enter your email address when prompted and we'll send you a notification by email as soon as tickets become available.
Timetable changes & seasonal variation
Every year in December and June, the European train timetables are amended. There are seldom major changes to important routes, but the change allows for minor alterations and seasonal variation of international services.
- The European train timetable usually changes on the second Sunday in June and the second Sunday in December
- Three months prior to those dates, booking is disrupted as rail operators load the new data. While the timetable is revised and compiled, the booking window is reduced.
- Booking typically opens in mid-October for the winter timetable and mid-April for the summer timetable
- We compile a list of when we expect booking to open for each operator in a Live Issues article, see, Seasonal timetable changes, for the most up to date information.
Some operators, in particular SNCF, use the timetable change as an opportunity to extend the booking horizon for seasonal trains. Therefore, when the timetable does open it is often possible to find ski trains for the entire season or popular tourist services until late summer.
Winter ski trains are good examples of seasonal services that are released all at once, rather than by horizon. Twice-daily direct Eurostar trains from London (including one overnight) as well as night trains from Paris offer convenient access to Italian, French and Swiss ski destinations, but the winter timetable change can cause frustration if these tickets are released after their booking horizon. In summer, Eurostar releases special direct services linking London to the south of France. For example, the London to Avignon journey begins in May, with tickets for the entire summer usually opening in December.
If you are looking for a seasonal train, like the Eurostar ski train you should check our Destination Guides to find out the dates of operation or the days of the week it runs. If booking hasn't opened yet, you will be given an opportunity to set a booking reminder for that specific train.