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There’s nothing like the freedom of riding the rails around Europe, visiting the sophisticated cafes of Paris one day and the cobblestone streets of a tiny French village the next. But while the Continent’s wide variety of rail passes can save you a pile of euros, don’t assume that you should whip one out for every single train trip you take. In European Train Trips, we offer the following advice:

“Plan your itinerary carefully before you purchase your pass. Flexipass holders may save money and travel days by purchasing separate tickets for shorter trips. For example, say you’ve purchased a Eurail Italy Pass, valid for seven days of travel in a two-month period. At $329 for a second-class pass, your average cost per travel day is $47. Instead of wasting a travel day for a trip from Florence to Pisa — which costs just $9 — you can buy an individual ticket for that trip and save the travel day on your rail pass for a night train or longer journey.”

You can check prices for rail passes and individual tickets at RailEurope.com.

If your itinerary includes any lengthy trips, you also may want to consider flying. There are quite a few discount airlines that crisscross the Continent for surprisingly low fares (though you have to watch out for unexpected fees and inconvenient airports). We break down the options in Europe — By Plane or By Train?.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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