If, like me, you have friends up and down the country or travel a lot for work, it can something end up rather expensive. Below are my best tried and tested ways to buy discounted train tickets. Give some a go this year and start saving on rail travel.
#1. Buying Off-Peak
We will start off with a tip I feel most of you will probably be aware of already if you buy discounted train tickets – but it’s still a useful tip. If you have no rush on what time you need to arrive, always pick the off-peak train time as they are often considerably less.
• Stoke – Norwich is £125 peak
• But the same journey off-peak is £97.50
• Which saves you £27.50 to arrive at 2.13pm rather than 1.13pm (or earlier) which is a saving of 22%.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s count as off-peak too and in the day it’s dependent on what time you arrive, not what time you leave so always make sure you check all prices and if you can go later, go later.
#2. Splitting Your Ticket
Splitting your ticket mid-journey is a fantastic way to save some money on your next lengthy train journey and it’s fully allowed by the National Rail Conditions of Travel. It requires a little extra work but is worth the extra few minutes to buy discounted train tickets with.
For example, an open return on the below journey:
• Stoke – Norwich is £97.50
• Which is usually 3 trains consisting of Stoke – Derby – Nottingham – Norwich
However, if you break the tickets up and buy them individually it works out as below:
• Stoke – Derby = £10.10
• Derby – Nottingham = £7.65
• Nottingham – Norwich = £73.60
• Which equals £91.35 – saving you £6.15 which is 6.3%
You don’t even have to do this manually though, there is a great website called SplitTicketing that will do it all for you – so no need to go investigating yourself.
#3. Booking In Advance
Advance tickets are obviously booked in advance. They are usually much cheaper however the downside is that you can only travel on that specific train and time. If you miss your train, you’ll have to buy a whole new ticket. Not recommend when you’re coming off a flight or anything else that could delay you.
• Tomorrow’s off peak open-return journey from Stoke – London is £73.60
• But an advance ticket can be purchased (in two halves) for £16 there and £32 back which is a saving of £25.60 or 35%.
Advance tickets are sold 12 – 24 weeks in advance so always pre-check if you have a journey coming up and want some buy discounted train tickets options.
#4. Take the Long Route
If you have no rush, or you’re happy to leave earlier in the morning, always check to see if there are different companies supplying the same arrival and destination stations. Often the longer / more budget company can work out cheaper.
• Stoke – London via Virgin on an off-peak open return is £73.60
• However, the same journey on a West Midlands train as an off-peak open return is just £33.00 – which is a saving of 45% for a 2.5 journey over a 1.5 journey.
Always check – if you don’t mind taking the scenic route! Discounted train tickets always come with a pretty view!
#5. Using a Railcard
I’ve been using railcards since I got my first one with my Natwest student account. They’ve recently released a 26-30 railcard that I’m extremely happy about. It costs just £30 for the year and gives you 1/3rd off all travel. How amazing!
The latest railcards they offer are:
• 16 – 25 (For those aged 16-25).
• 26 – 30 (Valid for those aged 26-30).
• Two-Together (For two named people travelling together).
• Family and Friends (Up to four adults and four children can travel on one card. Children aged 5-15 get 60% discount on kids fares).
• Senior (For those aged 60 and over).
• Disabled Persons (If you have a disability that makes travelling by train difficult, you may qualify for a Disabled Persons Railcard).
All railcards are £30 a year apart (from the disabled persons one which is just £20) and some offer a 3 year option for a cheaper rate such as 16 – 25 railcard which is only £70 for 3 years. Find out more here.
Extra Tip #1 – Travel by Coach
This tip is just an alternate option to trains to consider. Coaches often run from the bigger train stations and are a great budget alternative to trains.
• Derby – London by train, single, off-peak is £65.50 (1h.34m)
• But Derby – London by coach (via National Express), single, off-peak is £26.10 (4h.0m).
Which is a moderate saving of £39.40 which is 60%. That’s not bad if you’re in no rush.
And don’t be put off by the idea of a coach over a train; a lot are now fitted with WiFi, toilets and charge points these days. I know this isn’t technically a ‘discounted train tickets’ tip so I’ve popped it near the end!
Extra Tip #2 – Delay Repay
If you’re ever delayed, ensure you claim compensation for your delay repay. The delay limits vary between companies but usually you can get a portion of your train ticket back depending on the delay. This is based on the arrival time, not departure time.
For Virgins, depending on what ticket type you have, it’s as below:
• If you’re delayed 30 – 59 mins you get 50% of the cost of a single ticket (or 25% the cost of a return).
• If you’re delayed 60 – 119 mins you get 100% of the cost of a single ticket (or 50% the cost of a return).
• If you’re delayed 120 mins you get 100% of the cost of a single ticket (or 100% the cost of a return).
You can usually ask for it back in the form of Paypal, Bacs payment or rail vouchers. I always get rail vouchers because then I can purchase my next personal journey guilt free. However, remember that change is not given from rail vouchers so if you get £30 on a voucher, make sure you have a journey costing £30 or more.
And those are my top tips for the best ways to buy discounted train tickets. Leave me a comment if you have another idea!