For our trip to Salzburg this weekend, we weighed the options, in terms of time and money, and ended up taking the “Westbahn” train from Vienna to Salzburg. This is a relatively new train service, and we’d never taken it before — for travel inside of Austria, we’d only ever used the ÖBB service. Using something new is always a little stressful, especially traveling with the kids — an adult might take a setback or an inconvenience with mild frustration and see it as a lesson learned, but for a little kid, it might create a ton of unhappiness (for everyone). So, armed with a recommendation from a friend, and the consolation that whatever happened, it was at least the cheapest option, we headed off to catch our Westbahn train at the Westbahnhof station in Vienna.
It was fantastic.
In addition to being cheaper (which was actually only true because Jo was traveling with us — Dan and I have ÖBB discount cards which would have reduced our fares), it was actually a lot more functional for our purposes.
The very best part is that the access to the train is at ground level — we just pushed the stroller right on board. On most of the ÖBB trains (except for the Regional Express), there are a few steep stairs. Trying to get the kids and the stroller into the train quickly and safely is always stressful and difficult. Then there was a large luggage rack right inside the door, so once we were on, we stowed all of our bags, folded up the stroller, and made our way up to our reserved seats on the upper deck (being upstairs was fun for the kids and gave us a nice view, too). When we were boarding, we saw a special car along the train that looked to be set up for families — we didn’t know anything about that, but we’ll look into it for our next trip.
Once upstairs, we found our seats and got comfortable. The seats aren’t numbered, so rather than having specific seats reserved, there was an entire table roped off for us. Since we were 5, rather than 4, that meant Jo didn’t get to sit immediately next to us on the way home, but she was guaranteed a seat on the upper deck of the same car (and I’m sure we could have asked people to switch seats if it had been an issue). There wasn’t any room at the seats for luggage (which was the only negative we encountered) but they did have coat hooks. The tables were very functional, with no places for pinched fingers. On the other hand, almost all of the seats are at tables, which might be more awkward for someone traveling alone. The seats were easily adjustable with a tiny bit of recline (standard for what we’ve seen in terms of the angle of reclining, but easier to adjust). And, it was so convenient to have power outlets between the seats for recharging . . . especially because there was also free Wi-Fi on the train! It was great — it was no problem to entertain the kids on the trip. We had access to games, tv, everything, for the entire ride. And the ride itself was relatively short (about 2.5 hours to Salzburg, slightly faster than the ÖBB Railjet).
There was a self-service café located in every-other car, which was great, because although having a full-service café car is nice, it can sometimes be tough (and occasionally impossible) to actually reach it and then get safely back to your seat. This was easy. And, each car has its own attendant, so there’s always someone to ask if a question or an issue comes up.
Overall, we loved it. It was much more functional for our purposes and less expensive. I’m so glad we gave it a try!