Sick of sitting in traffic? Bored of seeing your fuel gauge at the wrong end of the dial? Travelling by train can be a stress-free way of getting from A to B – it could even save you some money too, provided you know what you're doing.
Knowing how to get your hands on the best rail fares can often feel like a tricky business, but in reality, all it takes is a few nifty tricks in order to bag a fairly sweet deal. Interested in saving a couple of quid while getting to where you need to be? Start by following these simple steps. . .
The early bird catches the worm
If you've got a commitment – such as a wedding, holiday or party – scheduled, booking your train tickets in advance could prove to be the cheapest way of getting to where you need to be.
Network Rail are contractually obliged to release their timetables 12 weeks in advance, and their tickets normally go on sale soon after. As with any company, the greater the supply, the cheaper the prices – so if you're looking to bag yourself a cheap fare, try booking your seat while there are still plenty available.
For those travelling on shorter journeys, fear not, booking online the night before could still save you plenty. As there are usually many seats available for commuter routes and shorter stops throughout the day, you could find that the price of the ticket the day before can cost less.
Stay ahead of the game
Not everyone wants to place a 12 week reminder in their diaries, and that's fair enough. Luckily, there is another way to stay ahead of the game – all you need is an email address.
Operators such as The Trainline provide an email alert service; in which users can have reminders sent to their inbox about the latest deals and advanced ticket sales.
Split the difference
Splitting a journey across several tickets may sound like a bit of a hassle, but the reality is that it could save you a lot of money. For example, if you're travelling from Manchester to London, a single ticket may cost you £29.90, whereas a ticket that splits this journey can be purchased for £20.90 – meaning you'll have more money to spend when you get there.
Interested in giving it a go but don't know where to start? Thankfully Money Saving Expert is one step ahead of the game and has devised a Tickety Split tool that checks certain routes for the cheapest split ticket fare. All you have to do is enter your starting station, destination and date/time of travel, and the tool will do the rest for you.
Just be aware, although this tool is great at helping you find the perfect deal, it might be worth double checking with your chosen train company to see if there's no further saving to be made elsewhere.
Spend a little, save a lot
If you're the kind of person who spends too much on train travel each year, it might be worth investing in a railcard. Here you’ll find a wide range of deals and offers specific to your age or whether you’re travelling with a partner, group, family or friends.
The ultimate bargain
So you've heard of Megabus, right? Well now there's the Megatrain – a service that combines both coaches and trains for a cheaper price than your average ticket.
Loads of routes are available – all you have to do is select 'train' in the 'travelling by' dropdown, see which routes are available and hey presto, you're good to go! Some routes are train only, while others combine both trains and coaches – so make sure you double check before purchasing your ticket.
Season tickets: not just for football
Season tickets are especially handy for commuters who travel the same route during peak times on a regular basis. What's more, by having a ticket that's valid for months at a time, you'll be able to save both time and money by not standing in line for a ticket each morning.
Network Rail's Season Ticket Calculator has made it easier than ever to see how much you could save with a season ticket – so be sure to check it out.
Spot a bargain
If a railcard, season ticket or Megatrain isn't quite your thing, have no fear, there are still plenty of ways to bag yourself a bargain.
From credit card rewards to newspaper giveaways, special offers can be found all over – all you've got to do is keep your eyes peeled for them. Just be warned though, every competition or giveaway is normally scheduled for a specific time of year, and might not be valid for the time you need to travel.
Thinking of taking the train but don't want to part with hundreds of pounds? These tips should see you right the next time you decide to hit the railroad – so be sure to share them with your family and friends the next time a big trip comes along!