Website compares Europe plane/train/bus trip lengths and costs. Also, credit card coverage change

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the July 2018 issue.
A Trenord train arriving in Stresa, northern Italy. Photo ©Anton Yanchevskyi/123rf

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 509th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine.

This publication prints articles, letters and pictures sent in by its subscribers, of course, and I thought I’d explain a little about sending in pictures.

We can accept prints, so long as they’re professionally processed prints, not just computer printouts or photocopies. These days, however, most people just send us pictures by email.

With an email, each picture should be attached as a separate file saved as a jpg; the pictures should not be “embedded” in the body-text portion of the email or in an attached Word document or PDF.

Size is also important. Each digital photo file must be a big-enough size and at high-enough resolution (i.e., have a sufficient number of dots per square inch). If the file size is at least 500 KB (or, for a Feature Article, 1 MB), then it’s usually OK for publication, but the bigger, the better. (If you’re not sure, just send the pictures and we’ll let you know if they’re large enough.)

Most smartphones take excellent, high-resolution pictures, but whether you’ve got a smartphone or a digital camera, be sure that you save the original photo files directly to your computer’s desktop first.

The trap that a lot of people find themselves in is they first upload their pictures to a photo-sharing website, such as Picasa or OneDrive. If you do that, the images likely will be automatically “compressed” to maximize storage space. While the pictures will look great on a computer screen, they might be too low in resolution to be printed in ITN.

A note for those of you who are using an email address — any pictures that you email will also be automatically compressed for faster transmission. You’ll need to send pictures to ITN from a different email account.

Once you’ve saved your pictures onto your computer’s desktop, you can email the photo files (as jpg attachments) directly to ITN and they most likely will be high-resolution.

Those of you with, specifically, an iPhone or iPad, you must choose “Original size” or “Full size” when emailing; otherwise, the images will be automatically sent at low resolution.

Another option — some people load the images from their desktop onto a thumb drive or CD and mail that to us.

Lastly, no matter how you send us pictures, include captions, and number or label each to correspond with its photo-file number or label. (It does no good to number a list of captions 1, 2, 3, etc., if the photo-files are not numbered the same way. In front of or above each caption listed in your cover email, put the correspondingphoto-file title/number.)

As for the caption, tell us what we’re looking at, approximately where the picture was taken and, if known, who shot it. (We like to give credit to each picture’s photographer, even if it was your Aunt Mary.)

We require pictures with any Feature Article submitted, but they’re also always welcome with any letter, no matter how short, for our “Travelers’ Intercom” section.

And we can always use another mystery photo for our “Where in the World?” section or an impressive, arty or attractive picture to “break up the gray” in our Mart classifieds pages.

While ITN is printed in black and white, any pictures you see will be in full color when the article or letter gets posted on our website, so color versions are preferred, as are undoctored, unedited versions.

Let’s see what you’ve got.

Here’s a handy tool for any of you who are planning independent travel on the Continent.

On the transportation-booking site GoEuro (, you can compare the trip lengths — and costs — of flights, train trips and bus trips on routes between many cities in Europe.

Start by typing in the names of two cities, choosing a specific date and clicking on “Select.” A page will come up comparing the prices and durations of trips (if available) by train, plane and bus. (If one is unavailable, try a different date.)

You can sort the results by clicking on “Recommended,” “Cheapest,” “Fastest, “Departure time” (earliest) or “Arrival time.”

Below that, click on the icon of a train, plane or bus and it will bring up, underneath, the top choices of that mode of travel, showing, for example, various bus companies’ offerings, ranked according to your preference. Included for each trip are the departure time, trip duration, price and more.

Note: For any flight, the time shown is only the time spent in the air, so the amount of time it takes to get through the airport (check bags, go through security, etc.) is not part of the calculation.

• As an aid to travelers, GoEuro separately created a list of 14 popular city-to-city trips in Europe that are faster by train than by plane and for which the trip durations listed INCLUDE the average amount of time it takes to get through the airport.

In some cases, as shown at the webpage, the time saved is significant. Between Brussels and Paris, the average trip by air (from your arrival at Brussels International Airport until picking up your bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport) takes 5½ hours, while a train journey between the two cities takes only an hour and 22 minutes.

Significantly, Brussels seems to be the city with the most time saved when traveling from or to it by train rather than plane, with more than three hours saved between it and London or Amsterdam and more than two hours saved on a trip to Lyon or Frankfurt.

Similarly, by taking a train versus a plane, more than an hour can be saved between London and Paris; Barcelona and Madrid, or Madrid and Seville (when including the time it takes to navigate the airport).

On other routes, the time saved is mere minutes, but it still might be worth going by rail when considering the hassles of going through an airport, not to mention other perks of train travel, such as freedom of mobility or sightseeing en route. The same might be considered even for trips that take slightly longer by train.

As for the amount of money you might save by taking the train, it would, of course, depend on the airline and seating class chosen. Low-cost airlines like easyJet or Ryanair can get you between European cities very cheaply, but, after paying for each add-on (like baggage, snacks or assigned seats), you still might end uppaying more for your flight than you would for a train trip.

ITN subscriber Carol Anderson of Delray Beach, Florida, wanted to alert travelers to a major policy change regarding the trip-cancellation/interruption insurance coverage provided by the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card. She learned about it in an email from Chase in mid-May.

Before the change, the Chase United credit card provided coverage up to $10,000 per trip for travel expenses paid for with the card (including airfare, hotels and tours).

However, the email informed cardholders that, as of June 1, “You can be reimbursed for up to $1,500 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable passenger fares, if your trip is cancelled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations.”

Ms. Anderson asks, “Are there any other cards that do trip-cancellation coverage better?”

So let’s pool the resources of ITN subscribers. If you have a credit card that offers comprehensive trip-cancellation/interruption insurance on travel services purchased with the card, tell us about it by emailing or writing to Credit Card Trip-cancellation Coverage, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.

Now, the following details are important. Let us know the precise type, title and level of card you have (tell us all of the brand and copyrighted names shown on the card, as Carol did, above). When describing your credit card’s trip-cancellation/interruption coverage from the card’s current Terms & Conditions literature, please quote the exact wording. (If possible, email or send a copy of the fine print.) Lastly, as always, include the mailing address at which you receive ITN.

Responses will be printed in a future issue.

CORRECTION to note —

In the Travel Brief “Budget British Airways” (June ’18, pg. 4), about British Air’s new budget one-way fares, the correct phone number for the airline is 800/247-9297.

More from the mailbag (or emailbag) —

Bill Jakeman of Penn Valley, California, wrote, “I never discard my copy of ITN after I’ve read it; rather, I leave it with my barber. He tells me that it’s quite popular with some of his customers. They even take it back home to read.

Diane Long of Santa Barbara, California, wrote, “Whenever we travel on a cruise ship (usually Holland America Line), we take three or four of the latest issues of ITN and leave them in the ship’s library near the magazines and newspapers. They’re always gone in a few hours. Hopefully, it will get you some new subscribers.”

Sally Bingley of Richmond, Virginia, wrote, months back, “Incidentally, my husband and I recently ran into a couple who, at our request, received a complimentary copy of ITN. I’m happy to write they are now subscribers! Keep up the good work.”

We will send a free sample copy of the next-printed issue to anyone, anywhere. Send us the names and addresses of travelers you know. We do not share or trade anyone’s address with any other firm. We just want as many people as possible to hold the magazine in their hands. It will speak for itself.