Editor of  The Holiday Goddess Guide to London, New York, Paris and Rome, Jessica Adams saves you time and money on your next train.

GREAT BRITAIN – CHEAP TRAINS

Every year I travel hundreds of miles across Britain by train for Holiday Goddess – and every year I encounter the same problems. This story is to help you avoid the traps I run into, every year. And also to give you tips for the cheapest fares with the least crowding. My hottest trip is to put on a parka and go in Autumn, by the way. It can even be fun.

 

Jessica Adams

 

GOLDEN RULES

If you are going to commit to a big British holiday by train think about off-season. Not the school holidays. Not the height of summer. British trains can be hideously overcrowded. If you want a seat (the memory of a stand-up London-Edinburgh train trip in Summer still lingers) then go weekdays, after 10.00am and return after 7.00pm. 

THE TRAINLINE – NOT YOUR ONLY OPTION

The Trainline comes up first on Google a lot of the time, but there are other options. I had a bad experience with them which I will share. I booked a London-Dorset return fare to see my aunt. Either I made a mistake, or the website did, but when I’d paid (about $80) it turned out I was time-travelling. The tickets I had set me off on Monday, from London, then turned me around a few hours later. Obviously, a mistake had been made. But…

No help button.
No chance to amend the date and time.

In order to get what I actually wanted, which was a Monday ticket out from London, and a Thursday ticket back from Dorset, I had to waste one ticket (that’s headed for the bin) and then buy another one. What a joke. The Trainline made about $40 from me.
THE TRUTH – THE TRAIN WEBSITES ARE MOSTLY ALL THE SAME

I ran a couple of test trips around the web to see how the sites compared. 

I am travelling from London to Manchester from 9th to 13th November 2017 inclusive, for a music festival. What’s possible? The short answer is, all sites vary by about the price of a chocolate bar. The only real difference is in speed of use, and ease of use. So be prepared.

Trains for a Holiday Goddess

 

TRAINSPLIT

Trainsplit is the best of a ‘whatever’ bunch of train discount websites. With Trainsplit, as with all of them, you will be asked to enter a departure and arrival time. Punch in 10.00am and 7.00pm and see what you get back from their menu.

SPLIT YOUR TICKET – COMPUTER SAID NO
http://www.splityourticket.co.uk

If you register here you get Cashback, but the website didn’t work. 

TICKET CLEVER
Five more pounds than Train Split. That’s a ‘no’ from me.

 

Have Goddess will travel

 

MEGATRAIN – IS THIS THE HOLY GRAIL?

This sounds like the Holy Grail we all expect from train travel. Except it flicks you to the bus for most of the places you want to go.  My London-Manchester-London trip was cheap. Only four pounds, fifty pence from London to Manchester. The catch? A journey of five hours, forty minutes.

THE ACTUAL TRAIN COMPANY – VIRGIN
Here’s the kicker. If you use the actual train company website, like Virgin  (once you’ve found out who you have to use, London-Manchester) the price is virtually the same and you get the best website of them all. No clunks. No messing.

The London-Manchester return fare was fifty pounds. I got to choose a Quiet Carriage and two aisle seats. I took it. 

 

Or you could try Virgin…

 

THE SECOND TEST – LONDON-BATH RETURN

Once again, there is no Holy Grail of cheap train tickets for places you actually want to go to – like Manchester or Bath. This seems crazy to me, given that I have sat on mostly empty trains on weekdays, after 10.00am, going from London to the South Coast. Doesn’t seem as if Thomas the Tank Engine has got the hang of on-the-spot discount seats yet.

IN A NUTSHELL
Put your destination and departure places into Google and see which train company comes up. There is usually just one, and sometimes two. Go to those websites to see, if by some miracle, they are discounting seats. Make a note of the price then zip over to Trainsplit (above) to compare. Always go after 10.00am and come back after 7.00pm to avoid crowds, crushes and hiked-up fares. Always avoid peak holiday seasons and weekends. If you know you’ll be covering a lot of trips in one chunk of the country check to see if one train company ‘does’ that chunk, then pay for a discount card from them. 

Be very hip to the fact that Advance Fares have no refunds. If you make a mistake on the booking website, or there is a glitch online, you may end up with a really expensive error and no refund, as I found to my cost using The Trainline.

One final tip. Photocopy the credit card you used to pay and have a spare just in case it gets lost or stolen. You will need the card to collect your ticket at the station. Allow at least half-an-hour before departure as queues can be long sometimes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Holiday Goddess Editors

Holiday Goddess. Travel for Less.