Train tickets prices seem to be relentlessly rising in the UK, so if you are a frequent traveller you might be getting frustrated with the situation. Learn how to work the system by dodging booking fees, taking advantage of reduced rates and planning your journeys more carefully to cut the costs of your transport.
Timing your ticket purchases can be a big help. Most people are aware that booking in advance is a cheaper option than buying on the day at the station, but did you know that ‘advance’ can apply all the way up to the night before your journey, some as late as midnight. If you prefer to plan things earlier then you can find big savings; Network Rail set their timetables about 12 weeks in advance, so this is the best time to grab your booking and get a seat before the crowds start buying up tickets. TheTrainLine is a useful website for booking cheaper tickets, and they provide a service alerting you to when advanced tickets become available for specific journeys. When using online bookings sites for your train tickets, it can also pay to do some comparisons between the different sites; they can often come up with different prices, and some charge higher booking fees than others.
If you travel frequently and fit into a particular group, you could be eligible for a railcard that would save you up to a third off your journey. Not all times and routes will apply; peak time journeys can stay at full price even with your railcard, but you should be able to get some substantial savings elsewhere. If you are between the ages of 16 and 25 then the Young Person’s Railcard is well worth a look. If you are outside of this age group, but a full time student, you are also eligible. The Family and Friends Railcard is available for journeys where one adult and a minimum of one child are travelling together; this will get you a third off and the kids 60% off. Both these railcards cost £30 for a year or £70 for 3 years, so it does work out cheaper to invest in the full 3 years if you know you’re going to use it. A Senior Railcard is available for over-60s, and you may even be able to get a council discount on the £30 cost of this railcard if you’re a pensioner. If you receive disability benefits or have a particular disability then you could qualify for the Disabled Persons Railcard; this is even cheaper at £20 per year, and the discount will also apply to a travelling companion. If you live in the Network Railcard area, in Southern England, you might benefit from the £30 Network Railcard, so check your travel routes to see if this could save you cash. Saving a third on your travel could mean the difference between putting money into a bank savings account or taking out payday loans.
Sometimes logic doesn’t really apply when it comes to rail travel in the UK, so you can save money in strange ways. Though you might assume that a return ticket would always be the best option for your journey, if you double-check the cost of each single ticket you might find that it actually works out at a lower price. Splitting up your journey instead of buying a direct ticket from A to B also can lead to savings; sometimes the individual journeys along your route will add up to less than the cost of the original ticket. There are even iPhone apps available to help you calculate the cost of split ticket journeys. Just be wary of leaving enough time at stations along the way so that you don’t miss connecting trains and lose out.