9 Top Tips for Saving on Train Travel
A recent train ticket to London from my home town was five time the cost of taking a return trip to Rome. Which is absolutely crazy, right?
Check out these 9 top tips for saving on train travel……. Have any other ways to save on train travel? I would love to hear from you.
1. Book in advance
When it comes to cheaper train tickets, it always pays to book in advance.
A set number of reduced-price ‘Advance’ tickets are allocated to specific trains and are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Despite train companies almost doubling the number of cheaper Advance fares in recent years, you’ll need to be quick off the mark for the best choice of deals.
Advance fares are typically available to buy up to 12 weeks before you travel – but there are exceptions. For example, you can book on Virgin Trains East Coast services from London to north of York up to 24 weeks in advance.
Most train companies sell Advance seats up to the day before travel (many up to one minute before midnight).
The National Rail website has future release dates for advanced booking listed, so if you have plans for a few months time it’s worth making a note of the date the tickets are released for sale.
Some train companies, including Cross County Trains, Virgin, and Greater Anglia offer an email service. Alerts are emailed so you’ll be the first to know!
If your plans change many train operators will rearrange your ticket for free or a small charge (£1-£2) if you make the change before the time of your travel.
Examples of savings from Advance Tickets –
2. Travel off peak
Off peak travel really shouldn’t be as complicated as it is. The theory is simple enough. Travel during quieter time and save money.
BUT……there are off peak tickets, and super off-peak tickets, tickets that are really great value but are only valid on a specific train, tickets that are valid for any train except between a 2-hour window. Each train operator seems to have a different set of rules.
For me it’s all off peak confusion!
Basically, you are likely to save money travelling during off-peak hours. Your best bet is to check the website in advance and select the right option for you. Sometimes the more flexible tickets are the same price as the ones valid on only a specific train.
If you’re taking a long train journey starting a peak time it’s worth checking out split tickets– you won’t even have to leave your seat to make a saving on train travel!
3. Split your ticket
This ticketing hack allows you to pick up the cheapest fares for different parts of your route, capitalising on advance tickets and off-peak fare changes.
Instead of buying one single ‘through’ ticket for your journey, you buy multiple tickets to cover its component parts – same journey, same seat, no changes.
The only rule to bear in mind is that your train must stop at the stations named on your ticket.
Unless you know to ask for a split ticket, train staff are unlikely to tell you about it. However, once you know what journey to ask for, you can buy these online or at the station.
Examples of savings by splitting your ticket
Travel London to Leeds £98.80
Travel London to Wakefield Kirkgate & Wakefield Kirkgate to Leeds £14.80
No changing trains, no railcard. Save 85%
Bristol to London £103.66
Bristol to Slough & Slough to London £67.84
No changing trains, no railcard. Save 35%
4. Check out slower routes
The less time spent travelling the better, I get that. But even a small tweak to your journey can provide huge savings.
For example, if you took the 08:00 direct train from London to Manchester, arriving at 10:07, your single journey would cost £166 and take 2 hours 7 minutes.
Yet, if you took the 08:07 from London to Stafford, then switched trains and travelled on to Manchester, it would cost £104.20 and take 2 hours 26 minutes. The extra 19 minutes saves £61.80.
5. Railcards – National or Regional
National railcards offer great value. If you make even just a few off peak train journeys a year the cost of the railcard will more than pay for itself.
Some railcards stipulate a minimum spend during peak travel on weekdays.
Regional railcards are also available that typically knock a third off the cost of travel. These include Devon & Cornwall Railcard, Esk Valley Railcard, First Capital Connect Student 16/18 Connect Card, Cambrian Railcard, Cotswold Line Railcard, Dales Railcard, Heart of Wales Railcard, Highland Railcard, Pembrokeshire Railcard, Valleys Senior Railcard and Valleys Student Railcard.
6. Season or Rover tickets
Regular commuters will be aware of the huge savings when purchasing an annual season ticket. But weekly and monthly tickets can also work out far cheaper than booking each day.
Rover tickets are a great choice for exploring an area. These tickets give unlimited travel for a set period. Daily, 3 days, 7 days etc. Some areas also include the local bus services.
If you are looking for a weekend break I would definitely check this option out before you travel. I recently enjoyed a few days in Oxford for the first time.
The Rover ticket I purchased meant we could choose a hotel just outside of the city. Saving on the cost of the hotel, a huge saving on city centre parking costs and total flexibility!!
Megatrain & Megabus offer travel between popular cities at a fraction of the standard cost. Travel from just £1 (plus a 50p book fee)
Tickets can be booked up to 6 weeks in advance andstudents with a valid NUS card are eligible for a further 10% discount.
8. Group travel
I always thought discounts for group travel would need more than 10 people travelling – This isn’t the case.
Discounts starting at 20% for three to nine adults.
9. Cash back websites
Several train companies and train ticket websites, including www.thetrainline.com are listed on cash back websites such as Quidco and TopCashback.
If you buy your train ticket via a cash back website, you will get a small percentage of each purchase you make credited back into your account. If you pay with a cash back credit card, refunds of 5% are common!
With so many options available, across numerous train operators being travel savvy helps you find the best deals.
Don’t leave it till the last minute if you can help it.
Do keep an open mind, split travel, flexibility, and offers. You can find savings on train travel costs!