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I usually travel to France for a weekend once or twice a year. Most of the time by train, the Netherlands to Paris by Thalys and Paris to wherever I go often by TGV and then the return journey a couple of days later.

For the Thalys it is important to buy the ticket the day, often the hour they become available, as the cheapest tickets sell out very fast on popular days.

I know people in the trade can put a hold on flight tickets and I have heard that some train booking sites also allow that, so you can buy both outgoing and return tickets at the same time for the price of buying at the time of the outgoing journey going on sale.

I mostly use one of the SNCF sites, but if it is only possible on the Dutch international or the Belgium rail site I can use those for at least the Thalys ticket.

Ideal would be to hold both Thalys and TGV outgoing and buy the four legs on the day the return journey comes available.

It seems this question is not clear enough. I am looking to select a ticket for the outgoing journey 3 months before the date, put it on hold for a few days and when available select the return journey and pay both tickets in one go.
Or, if that is the way it works, select the outgoing journey when they come on the market three months before travel and make a reservation for the return journey a few days later, (which will not be available yet) for the low 'early buyers' price.

I am often bound for the dates by events I travel to. But I know quite a few people who would rather travel an other date if they can not get both legs of the travel for a price they can afford. They rather not commit to the outward journey till they can be sure the return journey is also (relatively) low priced.

While I hope for a 'This is how you do it' I will also accept a sure 'This is not available for private people'.

  • That might work, as far as I understood you would reserve or put a hold on the outgoing tickets, so you do not go on with paying but can do that a few days later. – Willeke Dec 22 '16 at 21:22
  • With the train sites, you can not select a ticket or even get details for the tickets before the come available, not as a private person. – Willeke Dec 22 '16 at 21:31
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    The question is about whether and if so how a private person can do it. – Willeke Dec 22 '16 at 21:45
  • I don't know what is or is not possible but note that booking all legs at once is less important for trains than it is for flights. The operator's assistance in case of irregular operations (e.g. accommodation or an alternative route) is a bit hit and miss but it's not contingent on having booked all legs as a single ticket. It's enough if you meet some published guidelines about minimum connection time or the like. Similarly, you always have to carry your luggage yourself. – Relaxed Dec 23 '16 at 22:50
  • @Relaxed, it is more the convenience of only having to pay once and only getting one set of tickets instead of two or sometimes even three sets. – Willeke Dec 23 '16 at 22:52
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+50

Disclaimer: I'm not sure if I correctly understood the question but here it goes: you can put a SNCF train ticket on hold, and buy the return journey later under certain conditions. But I'm not sure if you were expecting to combine the two trips to get a cheaper price for the round trip. You'll get both early prices but no "round trip discount" (which I'm not even sure exist). Also, this will depend on the type of ticket you're buying, many times, you won't be able to do that, as the duration for which you can put a ticket on hold might be very short.

You need to book your ticket in a travel agency. The most popular one is Voyages-SNCF, and another growing one is Trainline (formerly Captain Train).

With Voyages-SNCF

After you've selected your journey, you can put it on hold instead of paying by clicking "poser une option" (in the French version). You'll need to enter an email address to receive an email when the booking is about to expire.

I'm not so fond of Voyages-SNCF, which I often find confusing.

With Trainline

It's easier if you create an account but you don't have to. First, select your journey. Then, if you have an account, it'll automatically put it on hold, if you don't, you'll be asked to enter contact information. One of the reasons I like Trainline better is because they always put your ticket on hold first and tell you right away when it'll expire. Sometimes it'll expire in 1 hour, sometimes in a few weeks, it depends on the ticket. But at least you know.

It's also worth noting that if you already paid for your ticket, there are some types of tickets for which you can get a partial or full refund. Both Voyages-SNCF and Trainline should give you that information (here again, I find Trainline clearer).

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    Good answer. Please notice that Captain Train has fully changed names since a couple of months ago and is now (almost) solely known as Trainline (website, App Store/PlayStore app, etc.). To me it would be relevant to remove mentions to Captain Train since this name is now obsolete. – Estey Jan 3 '17 at 15:47
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    @Estey They'll always be Captain Train in my heart. But you're right, I've edited my answer ;) – 7hibault Jan 3 '17 at 17:41
  • I did not see the 'hold' option as I never signed up and so never signed in. I will try that the next time I need to buy tickets, this time I plain forgot to book till both legs were available so bought them in one go, indeed as outgoing+return journey, no extra costs and no reductions. – Willeke Jan 3 '17 at 18:05

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