Either if you are European or not, the most important thing when it comes to plan your vacations in the old continent is to select and optimize the means of transport. What I mean with that is not only to find the best airfare hunting for hot deals on the net 8 hours a day, but to make the process of trip planning in an intelligent way. As everyone can notice, it makes no sense to find the best airline ticket if then you realize it would have been better with train.
Here is the real discussion and what this article is about. Of course my idea is not to provide with an answer, as I can promise there is no answer at all to this topic as conditions keep varying every day, but to take an approach to the topic by giving some guidelines to follow to the reader.
Who hates waking up very early to stand up in front of a queue for 2 hours just to give a couple of suitcases to the always smiling lady at the end? Is the prize to see her smile? Well, most probably it is to get this small piece of paper that supposedly authorizes you to get into the plane. And I say supposedly, as you will need to pass the thousand barriers (police control, passport control...) that are placed between you and your dream destination.
Of course things are getting a bit better recently with the possibility to check-in online or with machines, but still the process of getting on a plane can really be annoying. What I mean with all this is: have you really checked that all this is necessary? Are you serious that a train service could have not worked in the same way avoiding all this time lost at the airport?
No. I don't work for the rail service if that was your question. Let's put this in another way. You plan your quick trip with train, 6 hours in one of those super-fast machines that will take you to your destination for about... 300 euros. Well, don't take me wrong but it exists something called Low Cost Airlines, which could have made this 6 hour trip last for only 1 hour plus the 2 you waited on the queue... for 50 euros the round trip with taxes and fees included!
In the end, the results vary around only two factors. Time and money. As a general rule, and exposed to thousands of external factors that can make it change, I wouldn't recommend to take any flight if you can make the same itinerary for less than 3 hours by train, as possibly train will be cheaper and faster. When the number of hours increases, this balance tends to approach the plane option, as actually in Europe the price to get from Barcelona to Madrid (30 minutes flight) is the same as to get from Barcelona to Stockholm (3:30 hours flight). Why? Because airlines have managed to drop so much the tickets they sell (of course if you book with time enough) that the only thing you are paying in the end is just taxes.
As a final note, I would like to mention an exception to this rule, that appears when you get a eurail or inter rail pass. Those tickets allow you to take a certain number of travel days within a determined amount of time, restricted to 1 or 2 countries or zones, or even can provide a global pass with some traveling days restrictions also during an amount of time that can be 1 or 2 months. This is a very good option for the railway lovers. And you need to really get in love with the rails as you are going to spend very long hours looking through your window. To put it in different words: if you are able to enjoy the trip by train as much as when you walk in your destination, this option is for you.
So, after all, if you are looking to travel within Europe, simply keep in mind that it is not only about price, but also about time invested and how much you are able to enjoy this time you spend between one place to another.
Make sure you know the meaning of the following words and expressions and insert them in the appropriate gaps in the text:
flight attendants carry-on luggage plane crashes fly non-stop taking-off
disengage oxygen masks crash landing possessions landing
turbulence air pockets motor vehicle overhead compartment