Rail Europe has introduced a number of changes this year that may affect how you plan your next trip to the Continent. Here are some of the most important:

Select Pass Early Bird Special: Buy this 3, 4, or 5-country pass before March 30 and get a free, extra day of travel in the 6, 8 and 10-day versions. In other words, you’ll get 7 days travel with the 6-day pass, 9 days with the 8-day pass and 11 days with the 10-day pass. (The 5-day and 15-day versions of the pass are not part of the deal.) For example, two persons traveling together on a 3-country pass covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland can get 7 days first-class travel for $360 per person. Passes are valid for 6 months after issue, so a pass purchased on, say, March 25, will still be good for travel on September 24.

New Swiss Pass Benefits: One of the significant deals of the year is the inclusion of a Swiss Museum Pass with the purchase of a Swiss Pass or Swiss Flexi Pass. Your rail pass will cover admission to more than 400 museums and exhibits throughout the country, including the Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, the new Paul Klee Center in Bern, and many other popular destinations. See museumspass.ch for a complete list.

Tired of dragging your luggage through one train station after the next? Try the Swiss Rail’s new Fast Baggage service for same-day delivery of your belongings in 45 cities and destinations across the country. Simply drop off luggage by 9am, pay the $15 dollar handling fee (per piece), and the bags will meet you at your final destination by 6pm the same evening. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that.

Price Changes: This year, for the first time, the price of Eurail passes will be based on the euro instead of the dollar. You’ll still pay in dollars, but unlike in years past, prices will fluctuate, depending on the exchange rate. Overall, prices are increasing about three to six percent.

New Rail Pass Products: Planning a two-country itinerary? Now you can combine Germany-Austria or Germany-Switzerland or Austria-Switzerland into one rail pass. The cost for one adult traveling five days in Germany and Austria (first class) is currently $324. For two to five adults traveling together at all times, the price for a five-day Saverpass comes down to $275 per person. Prices are slightly higher for the Germany–Switzerland pass: $349 for an adult traveling alone (five days, first-class), and $298 per person for a small group. The existing four-day, first-class Switzerland-Austria pass starts at $328 for one adult and $280 for two or more.

These new passes offer flexibility for those planning to visit just two of the three countries. They provide unlimited travel, and travel days need not be used consecutively.

Individual country passes are, of course, still offered, and for travel to more than two countries, the three-, four-, or five-country Eurail Selectpass is still available.

The Gemütlichkeit travel department is a Rail Europe-authorized issuer of all European passes and tickets. Phone 800-521-6722.

2006