Remember the old days, when you had to buy a pass, or wait in line at a ticket office, or get to the station really early to collect a ticket? That's all gone, mostly. Now, you're sitting on your phone—if your provider back home isn't offering you included or low-cost roaming service by now, you need to take a serious look at switching providers, stat—using Apple Pay to buy, say, a $10 sale fare on Virgin Trains from Glasgow to London.
How is this possible? In the United Kingdom and in many countries on the continent, the incredibly useful Trainline app allows you look at timetables, dates, fares, and then select the cheapest fares with a couple of clicks.
With new improvements all the time, the usefulness of the app (actually, that's apps—there are separate versions for the UK and the continent, though they work basically the same) continues to increase. For example, the notorious hassle of trying to buy train tickets in The Netherlands with an American credit card is now a thing of the past; where you once might have spent a half hour getting the run-around at a small town train station trying to buy a $7 fare to Amsterdam (in a half hour, you probably could have been there, already!), now you're booking your fare once you're done with your day out and walking back toward your train.
Looking to book a long-distance trip? In seconds, the app can get you a quote on, say, a trip from Paris to Milan. You can add stops along the way. (Go via Geneva, or Nice, or whatever you like, depending on the time you have.) No need to use all sorts of different web sites and apps to check fares and connections. Just need a Eurostar round-trip for a day in Paris, on your next trip to London? A couple of clicks and you're done.
Ticket collection is getting easier by the day, too—in many cases now, a barcode delivered to your phone becomes your ticket. All you have to do is board. In other cases, the old printed confirmation gets delivered to you as a document (again, barcoded). Not in all cases, however, and that's where you need to be careful—some lines, often some of the busiest ones running out of cities like London, will still require you (only for now, hopefully) to pick up tickets from machines at the train station. This can often mean a lengthy wait in line with a lot of other people who are, like you, visiting from out of town and have no idea how to use the machines. Leave plenty of time, if you're unsure, or, best case, stop by the station beforehand and pick up the tickets when you're in less of a rush. On the whole, however, any kinks or glitches that exist in the system pale in comparison to the massive advantage the app has given to anyone traveling in Europe. Don't plan your next trip without it.