The flight-free summer: your road travel guide by train, road and sea

Or a lot of things, the so-called “slow travel” has taken on a new meaning in the wake of the pandemic-related pause in international airplane mode, which has caused some to rethink our navigation. And with airport chaos disrupting summer vacations, it’s no surprise that many of us are considering no-fly options.

Interrailing for adults is making a special comeback. “There’s no better way to see Europe than by train. It has one of the most comprehensive and efficient rail networks in the world, and there’s plenty to experience if you’re happy with your time,” says Karen Edwards, author of The Responsible Traveler. “Slow travel simply means your trip. Where you travel is just as important – every part of the trip should be savored and enjoyed.”

Given that we are in a climatic emergency, there are of course many ethical reasons to travel more responsibly. With an estimated 100.000 flights that take off around the world every day, aviation is believed to be responsible for 2.5 percent of global CO2 emissions. So if we can travel by other means, such as by train, it is important that we do so.”

Slow travel means that your journey is just as important as the destination of your trip. Every part of the trip should be enjoyed

If you’re planning a fly-free trip, No Fly Travel Club founder Catherine Livesley advises, think of it as an adventure in itself, rather than just using trains as an alternative to flying. “Ask yourself: how much time do I want to spend traveling and what kind of vacation do I want?? Are you looking forward to commuting and staying on the road for a few days? Or would you rather travel further to take one Walk in beautiful surroundings or relax on a sunny beach?From here you can start planning your route and stopping points.

You don’t know where to start? We asked the experts about the best flight-free trips to Europe this summer.

Gastronomy from the field to the plate in Tuscany

For the eco-conscious foodie, Amanda Ho, co-founder of boutique booking platform Regenerative Travel, recommends a gastronomic tour of Tuscany and a stay at the sustainability-focused Hotel Oasy, located in a 1.000-hectare nature reserve is located. Take the Eurostar from London to Paris early in the morning and spend a day or so exploring the French capital like the locals do.Visit the Marche des Enfants Rouges for lunch.Then take the train directly to Milan, where you can spend another day exploring at night. Finally, take the train from Milan to Florence and then change to a regional train to Pistoia. From there you can take the local bus or go to the hotel.”

Eco-friendly cottages at the Oasi Hotel

With 18 simple lodges surrounded by the picturesque Apennines and acres of restored wildlife, it’s a stunning place to reconnect with nature. Guests can dine at one of three restaurants, all featuring fresh produce from the hotel’s lively farm. After long days of trekking, kayaking and climbing, enjoy daily yoga classes and invigorating spa treatments. “Make the most of your trip on the way back by exploring other Italian cities like Florence and Siena along the way. You can take a longer route by train back to Paris via the Italian and French Rivieras and Provence.”

Opal coast on two wheels

Cyclists should replace the crowds in southern France with the quiet Opal Coast, suggests Cat Jones, founder of Byway Travel, a booking company that offers vacation-free travel by train, boat, bus and bike. The area is home to stunning sandy beaches and great bike paths. “With a flight time of an hour and a half from London to Hauts-de-France, not to mention saving time without airport screening and checked baggage, northern France is the perfect choice for a short trip to Europe without CO2 cost air travel,” she says. Explore the burgeoning renewable tourism region and the wide, dune-lined beach of Le Touquet before heading to the bustling town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

slow travel in norway

The road from London to Norway (via Brussels and Copenhagen) is relatively easy by train. You will arrive in Oslo, where Up Norway ( offers a number of scenic slow-rail routes. The Arctic Circle Express is a 12-day trip to Bodø that takes guests through the Arctic Circle from May to September. Surrounded by a very peaceful landscape full of mountains, fjords and waterfalls, you will enjoy local dishes and enjoy long summer nights in golden light.

If you have more time, Up Norway has organized a four-week trip designed to sum up the Norwegian term “kos” (which is essentially their version of the Danish word “hygge”). Stay at a local-run eco-lodge and explore the Sunnmøre Alps before heading west to Lofoten and ending in rugged Finnmark in the far north of the country.

The road begins in France

Lavender fields in Provence

Like the rustle of vineyards and lavender fields and the dip of a lake? Rent a car and spend a few weeks sailing through France, Edwards suggests. “Head west from Paris to Giverny and spend the day at Monet’s famous water lily pond before heading south to the Loire Valley to sample France’s best wines. Back to the west, Mont Saint-Michel is the beautiful tidal island and home of the Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel and to the south, beautiful Bordeaux and Saint-Emilon, where rich, locally grown red wines flow in abundance.”

Continue on to Provence in the center of the country, where lavender fields and river valleys sprawl through towns with cobbled streets and bustling central squares. “On the way back north, Lake Annecy is a must see for a few days. In summer, spend hours at the lake sipping apple crumble at one of the many restaurants and bars. The mountain roads in the area are great for biking and hiking too.”

Island hopping on the Wadden Islands

For a lesser-known beach destination, Jones of Byway Travel recommends the Dutch Wadden Islands, a tranquil group of islands off the coast of the Netherlands. After a direct train from London to Rotterdam, make your way to Texel, the largest of the islands.By ferry or rented boat, hop between islands and explore peaceful beaches teeming with wildlife by bike. The free island of Vlieland is an absolute must-see.With handy boats for bikes that you can reserve for the day, you can travel spontaneously without the stress of checking in at the airport.”

Glacier Express

Who said the Swiss Alps were only worth visiting during ski season? In fact, many enjoy this hike best in the summer, when you are less blind than the beautiful snow-covered peaks. Edwards recommends the Glacier Express, which can be divided into sections to walk between the elements. Take the Eurostar to Paris, where you’ll be transformed into a high-speed train. “Depart from the resort town of Zermatt in Switzerland and drive over the Matterhorn, the Rhine Gorge and the Rhône Glacier before visiting St. Reach Moritz. Stop and wander among the most beautiful and famous mountains and valleys of Central Europe while enjoying good food and drink (Don’t miss the raclette on the Matterhorn).

Sicily by night train

Canceling flights doesn’t mean crossing classic summer vacation destinations off the agenda. Take Sicily: Byway Travel offers a 14-day tour to Sicily and back for 1.£589 per person to. “If you stop off on your trip through Italy, get a taste of Turin’s thriving art and gastronomy scene before heading to Rome and catching the overnight Intercity Notte train to Catania in Sicily,” Jones says. “Intercity Notte will not only experience the magic of a night train, but also board the ferry to cross the sea. Get off the train and head to the upper deck for a rare opportunity to see the coast approaching at dawn. This adventurous journey is a true testament to the joy of travel, not evil.”

Train travel tips to Europe from No Fly Travel Club

When booking trains in Europe, book as early as possible – usually three months (six months for Eurostar) – as this will give you the best option at times and lowest prices.

Check if an Interrail pass will make your trip cheaper – this is especially useful for families, as two children under 12 can travel for free with each adult pass purchased.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from an expert. Booking trains can be overwhelming, but a little knowledge of the system is all it takes and can save you valuable time and money.

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