Let your Eurail Pass guide you through Europe.

Switzerland's Bernina Express.

I step back, scanning the European countries on the map that I had just pinned up on my wall. Where should I start? I think to myself as I fiddle with the dart in my hand. Ok! It’s time to throw this baby and figure out where I’m going to start my European rail adventure. I close my eyes, pull my arm back and release the dart, which burrowed through the map and into the wall. Eagerly, I open my eyes to see that I chosen France as my starting destination for my first European adventure.

Rail Europe can make long time Europe pipe dreams into a reality. Since opening their doors in New York City in the 1930s, Rail Europe has been the foremost authority on train travel in Europe. Whether seeing Paris from the Top of the Eiffel Tower, cheering on the Matadors at the famous bull fights of Madrid, or taking a gondola ride in Venice; it’s all possible with Rail Europe.

Eurail Pass in hand, the rail tracks are my guide.

With my summer Eurail Pass Europe was suddenly at my fingertips. Free spirit? Can’t decide where to go? Get a Global Flexi pass like I did and decide along the way. More of a decisive soul and only planning on visiting a few countries? Go ahead and purchase a more focused pass which can be used exclusively in those chosen countries. Purchase the passes early, especially the high speed train passes, which require a seat reservation in advance.

Rail Europe’s website www.raileurope.com makes it easy to navigate the world of train travel through Europe. They will guide travelers effortlessly along the planning and booking and recommending travel phases, making traveler’s feel at ease. Not only does Rail Europe offer Eurail Passes, travelers can also purchase point-to-point train tickets as well. Once the destination is decided, travelers can learn how to get the most out of traveling with detailed information about popular activities, sightseeing tours, and passes, which can be purchased directly from the Rail Europe website.

An AVG S-103 tourist class carriage.

Once I had made the decision to ditch airports for train stations I knew I was in for an experience of a lifetime. The hard part was narrowing down where I wanted to go! Diversity should be a synonym for Europe, with so many different cultures, languages, and cuisines. Researching the possibilities in Europe did not make the decision making process easier so I decided that the best option for me was a Eurail Global Pass. This pass gave me the freedom of 15 stops over two months to over 20 European countries! All I needed was my passport and my Eurail Pass. For more information about the variety of passes available check out the Rail Europe website: http://www.raileurope.com/rail-tickets-passes/

My take off day had finally arrived; my backpack was packed and I was ready to take Europe by storm. Granted, I had a long flight to Paris ahead of me first, but after that I had the freedom to make my own schedule.

In addition to rail passes and point-to-point train tickets Rail Europe continues to help its travelers enjoy the most of their touring with city passes, tours, and other sightseeing packages. I opted for a Paris City Pass because it was low in price compared to other companies, and it gave me priority admission to over 60+ museums, transportation with the metro/RER trains, and my personal favorite, a Chateau wine tasting. After a week of exploring Paris with my Paris City Pass I had checked off several things from my bucket list; picnicking under the Eiffel Tower, visiting the gargoyles of Notre Dame, walking in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette at Chateau de Versailles, and munching on scrumptious macaroons.

Paris' neo-Classic Gare du Nord station.

I was ready to use my Eurail pass and move on to my next destination: the wine country of Bordeaux!  I took the metro directly to one of the busiest train station outside of Japan, Gare du Nord. Although it is one of the most hectic railway stations in the world, understandable and frequent signs made it very simple to navigate.

When traveling with a Eurail Pass you must allow extra time to activate your pass before using it the first time. “Activating” your pass simply means that you officially begin your allotted travel time that the pass covers. You must activate your pass at a ticket window where a railway official must stamp the date and place of activation. After I activated my pass it was important that I filled in my travel information in my rail calendar attached to my pass.

Switzerland's magnificent Jungfrau Railway.

With my Eurail Global Flexi Pass I had 15 travel days over a two month period. My train to Bordeaux was my first official day of travel with my pass. Not filling out your travel calendar is the same as traveling without a ticket and you are at risk of getting a fine. Detailed information about activation and how to fill out your travel calendar can be found on Rail Europe’s website.

There are three types of trains that run throughout Europe and they have different rules regarding seat reservations. There are trains where all travelers, including those with a rail pass, MUST have a pre-booked seat reservation for, this includes all overnight trains. In addition, there are trains which are “reservation optional.” This means that there are a certain amount of seats already reserved for pass holders, which can be full during peak periods. Lastly, there are trains in which travelers can just arrive at the train station and hop on a train; these trains do not require a reservation. To learn more about seat reservations and how to reserve a seat directly, read more at: http://www.raileurope.com.

Spain's high speed Thalys now connects with France.

After I activated my pass I headed to my train. With my seat reservation in hand I stepped into the carriage and made my way to my seat. I was a bit anxious to use my pass for the first time but when the conductor approached my seat, I just handed him my Eurail Global Pass along with my seat reservation and passport. He scanned all three quickly, punched a hole in my seat reservation and handed them back to me with a friendly smile. I was so surprised at how simple that was! Wow! Now I could relax, put my headphones on and unplug from the world. As the hours whizzed  by I felt so lucky that I could see the unspoiled French countryside first hand through my window.

Traveling by train gave me scenic and unbeatable views. Some train trips are not just a way to get from point A to point B, they are known exclusively for their magnificent views. The Chocolate Train through Switzerland is a ride for those who have a sweet tooth. This trip is famous for not only its breathtaking views through the Swiss mountains, but its stop at a Nestle Chocolate Factory. Now that’s a sweet deal!

Switzerland's Chocolate Train has sweet views.

For more information about the itinerary for this exciting train trip visit, http://www.raileurope.com/european-trains/chocolate-train/

Deals are something Rail Europe has in abundance, and not just for seniors or students. They promote their own featured deals such as, partner deals- discounted prices on hostels, SIM cards for mobile phones, and international student cards which give loads of savings!

Rail Europe covers all of its bases, from finding the best pass for each traveler’s needs, to finding and booking hotels, affordable sightseeing tours, and other deals; traveler’s get the most for their buck! Not to mention discounts for families, couples, youth ( 16-25yo) and senior discounts (60+). Traveler’s who meet these requirements get discounted rates on passes, and point-to-point train tickets.

France's high speed TGV in the Côte d' Azur.

By the end of my trip I had met travelers from all over the world; I visited  places and done things I used to dream about. I explored where the gladiators fought for their lives in the Colosssum in Rome, wandered in the shoes of Marie Antoinette around the Chateau de Versailles, I jumped off of rocks for a swim in the Mediterranean in Italy and ended each day with a delightful glass of wine.

Rail Europe’s pledge says it all, “We believe the spirit of train travel is about enjoying simple pleasures, respecting the environment, and connecting to people, places, and cultures. It is the ease with which Rail Europe brings these together that creates a rewarding experience for both our customers and ourselves.”

Germany's Ice train runs to Frankfurt 's airport.

Take the work out of traveling — for incredible views and experiences at the best price on the market — choose Rail Europe. 

— Feature by Kristin Rist, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent; photos courtesy of Rail Europe.