Europe by train is a right of passage for many college students, but can be one of the most convenient ways to get from point A to point B for families as well. When I was pricing out train tickets and plane tickets to get us from Paris to London, the train won on all accounts.
First of all, I only had to buy three tickets for the train even though there were four of us traveling. We also saved a ton of time by traveling by train. The Eurostar from Paris to London (AKA the Chunnel train) only takes about 2.5 hours, while a flight, although time in the air would have been faster, checking in, boarding the plane, flying across the sound, landing, getting our checked bags and taking a taxi from the airport would have taken more than half a day, plus cost us a whole lot more (a taxi from the airport to our friend’s house can cost almost £90!)
Instead of spending all morning at the airport, we opted for an early afternoon train so we could spend a leisurely morning in Paris and enjoy the scenery as we road through the French countryside.
Sample train ticket pricing- Paris to London:
- $121 per adult
- $86 per child
- Total $328
- + car service £40
Important times to remember
You must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your train’s departure. This will give you enough time to go through security and immigration. Trains do run on time and they will leave without you. Don’t miss your train!
Entertainment for kids
There are NO TVs on the train or other devices provided. Pack your games, toys, tablets and books to keep the little ones happy. Being on a train is very exciting, but looking out the window for almost three hours can get a bit boring.
Dining on the train
There are two dining cars on the train, but it is OK to bring your own food on board too. Pack a little picnic of local bread, meat and cheese before you head to the train station. There was one food shop open in the train station once we passed immigration. We were traveling on a national holiday, so most shops around Paris were closed. Inquire about national holidays during your visit so you shop accordingly. If you know you want something else, shop before you go to the 1st Floor to board your train.
Departing Paris Nord
You will need to go through immigration in Paris Nord train station. Take the elevator to the 1st floor (remember that Europeans count the ground floor as Floor 0, so in the US Floor 1 is actually the 2nd floor for us). You will scan your train ticket, go through a turnstile and then get in line for passport inspection. Once through you are now leaving France.
Between the French and UK passport stations you will need to fill out an immigration form (or Landing Card) if you are NOT an EU citizen.
Landing Card information required:
- Last name
- First Name
- Male or Female
- Birthday (day/month/year)
- Place of birth (city and country)
- Contact address in the UK (your hotel or apartment you will be staying in)
- Passport number
- Length of stay in the UK
- Port of Departure
- Flight/Train No./ Ship Name (find your train number on your ticket)
Passing through UK immigration
Get back in line after you fill out your forms. Hand your passports and Landing Cards to the immigration agent. Smile and respond to any questions. They will mostly want to know why you are going to the UK and how long you will be there.
Once your passport is stamped you will need to put all of your bags and strollers through the metal detectors. You can keep your shoes on and jackets on as long as nothing is in your jacket pockets. When in doubt ask (the immigration agents are very nice) or put it on the belt.
Getting to the Platform
Once you get through UK immigration and the metal detectors, you will follow signs to the boarding waiting area. Chances are you’re train will already be boarding. Find your car number (generally 1-17 cars) and seat number. Walk to your train car number, board and stow any large bags in the luggage racks. Proceed to your seats, stow smaller bags under your seat or above your seat.
Relax and enjoy the ride!
Arriving London St. Pancras
Arriving in London can be a bit chaotic with kids, especially when you don’t know where you are going. We were visiting friends in a neighborhood on the border of London. It would take a long taxi ride or multiple trains and a bus to get to their house. I opted to take Blacklane car service instead.
They asked if I would try out their services and I was more than happy to do so. A direct ride with a driver and car seats already in the car was the perfect answer to our complicated journey. We would then take the car service to London Heathrow airport, which was worth its weight in gold.
The train from our friend’s neighborhood would have been too complicated and asking our friends to sacrifice four hours of their Sunday to take us to the airport and then return to their house would have been too much. Booking a Blacklane car was quick and easy. Plus it was more affordable than a taxi in some cases, not to mention I didn’t have to hail a cab with cranky kids in tow.
If you have never taken the Paris to London Chunnel train you need to do it. The ride is smooth and faster than any airplane experience. And for all you Harry Potter fans- St. Pancras is right across from Kings Cross Station. Go push a cart at Platform 9 ¾ if you arrive and have a little time to spare. Kids and kids at heart won’t want to miss it.
Many thanks to Blacklane car service for a complimentary ride from the train station to our friend’s house in London and to Heathrow Airport. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know.