Graduation season has begun — and with it comes backpacking season! Europe is one of the most popular post-graduation trips for North American students, and for good reason: it’s nearby, it’s a good starting point for anyone who hasn’t traveled much outside the country, and it has a convenient train system and variety of hostels that create a budget-friendly, lively community of young travelers.
Here we’ll guide you through the three main itineraries that young travelers generally follow on their post-graduation trips to Europe, and we’ll highlight the best budget-friendly rail products for youth travel. Let’s get started!
The “Grand Tour” Itinerary
The Grand Tour was the original youth travel itinerary: London to Paris to Rome. It was a rite of passage for young wealthy British men just starting off in the world. Now, of course, youth travelers don’t have to be a man or wealthy to embark on their own grand tour of Europe!
If you want to do the classic London-Paris-Rome itinerary, you’ll want to start with a trip on Eurostar from London to Paris. Eurostar offers special “youth” fares — discounted prices for travelers 12-25 years of age. Plus, Eurostar ticket holders receive 2 for 1 entry into some of London and Paris’s most popular museums, like the Tate Modern, the British Museum, the Musee D’Orsay, and more!
Once in Paris, travelers usually want to stick around for a croissant or two, and maybe for a quick Instagram shot of that famous tower we’ve all heard so much about. The Paris Pass (available with a Youth rate) covers public transportation throughout the city as well as priority admission and free access to 60+ museums, castles, gardens, cathedrals and monuments in and around Paris, at no extra charge.
What you need for this itinerary:
Eurostar tickets (NEW for 2017: there is a now a special rate for Eurostar tickets if you’re traveling with a Eurail Pass. Make sure to check the box for “yes” when you’re searching for Eurostar tickets and it asks if you are using a rail pass)
Paris Pass (make sure to select the Youth rate if you are under 25)
Eurail France-Italy Pass (make sure to select the Youth rate if you are under 27, and don’t forget to check out the travel bonuses section!)
Paris Pass Youth rate (up to age 25) starts at $90
Eurail France-Italy Pass Youth rate (up to age 27) starts at $239
The “See As Many Places As Possible” Itinerary
A lot of youth travelers want to cover as much ground as possible during their first trip to Europe. They haven’t seen any of it yet, so now that they’ve gotten an opportunity to go, they want to see it all!
This is where the rail passes come in. The rail pass has come to represent the epic train journey across Europe: hopping on a train in one city in the morning and ending up somewhere totally new a few hours later. Catching some sleep on an overnight train from France into Germany. Meeting an attractive stranger on the train and exploring Vienna with them all afternoon (well, fine, that last one was the plot of the movie Before Sunrise.)
The Eurail Passes that offer youth travelers the most flexibility and benefits are the Eurail Global Pass and Eurail Select Pass. These passes are perfect for youth travel because they are budget-friendly — they are often more cost-effective than point to point tickets if someone is taking 3 or more trips by train — and because they are easy to use. Instead of having a handful of separate tickets to keep track of, travelers just have the rail pass and any necessary seat reservation supplements (for high-speed trains and overnight trains).
Eurail Select and Global Youth Passes start at $154 (Select) and $405 (Global); seat reservation prices vary by route, country, and availability
For those who want to focus on a smaller area, a BritRail Pass is an appealing option. It covers train travel in England, Scotland, and Wales. Even though it’s smaller than continental Europe, Britain still promises some pretty great adventures with its castles, quaint little towns, stunning scenery, lively pubs, and some of the most popular tourist destinations on earth (Stonehenge, the Tate Museum, the London Eye, Edinburgh Castle, Loch Ness, you get the drill).
Train trips are quick, too, so you can cover a lot of ground. A trip from London to Windsor only takes about an hour. London to Brighton — about 1.5 hours. London to Edinburgh is about 4 hours, and Edinburgh on to Glasgow — just 2 hours! You see our point.
If you do plan to cover a lot of ground, the BritRail Youth Pass is a great option. If you’re thinking of just staying in England rather than venturing out to Scotland and Wales, no fear: there is also a BritRail England Pass with a Youth fare!
More Youth Travel Tips and Discounts
Don’t forget to check out the travel bonuses that come with many rail passes — these bonuses can often get you discounts on museum entries, hotel rooms, sightseeing tours, and more!
You can check for more offers and discounts at any time by taking a scroll through our Deals page.
Are you planning a post-graduation trip to Europe? Leave us your questions and comments below!