HOW TO GET CHEAP TRAIN TICKETS

How To Get Cheap Train Tickets In March 2024

We are aware that navigating the world of train travel can prove challenging, particularly when it comes to discovering cheap train tickets. Consequently, this article aims to simplify the process, providing a comprehensive guide on how to find the best deals for your journey. 

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a first-time train user, this guide will prove beneficial.

Reading this article will provide you with:

– Further understanding of how train fares work

– Useful tips and strategies on how to source cheap train tickets

– Insights into the various benefits of railcards, as well as how they can save you money

– Guidelines on the best times to travel and how advance booking can help to further reduce costs

– Information on how to make the most of additional offers which are provided by train companies

Topics that you will find covered on this page

Background to Cheap Train Tickets

In order to source cheap train tickets, you need to understand how train ticket prices are determined. In the UK, train fares are influenced by several factors including the distance travelled, the time of purchase, and the type of ticket bought. 

Train companies often release tickets 12 weeks in advance, with prices generally rising as the departure date approaches. 

This means that an advance ticket from London Paddington to Manchester Piccadilly will likely be a lot cheaper when booked 12 weeks ahead, compared to booking it a week before departure.

In addition, you should also think about the type of ticket. There are several types of tickets including single tickets, return tickets, and season tickets. 

Whilst single tickets are for one-way trips, return tickets are for a round trip. Alternatively, season tickets allow unlimited travel between two stations for a specific period.

How to Get Cheap Train Tickets

Now that you are aware of how various factors affect ticket prices, let’s explore how to get cheap train tickets. One strategy is to book your tickets as early as possible. 

As mentioned before, tickets often go on sale 12 weeks in advance which means that they are usually cheaper at this stage.

You could also consider split ticketing, which involves purchasing multiple tickets for different parts of a single journey. This is instead of buying one ticket for the whole trip. 

For example, if you’re travelling from Gatwick Airport to London Euston, you could buy one ticket from Gatwick to London Victoria and another from London Victoria to London Euston. This can often result in a cheaper overall fare.

Lastly, consider travelling off-peak. As train fares typically increase during peak hours, travelling outside of these times can lead to significant savings. 

It is important to note that off-peak hours typically include late morning to early afternoon during weekdays and all day during weekends and bank holidays.

You can also watch this video on Youtube here.

Saving Money with Railcards

Railcards are one of the most effective ways to save money on train travel, and there are several different types of railcards available in the UK. The 16-25 Railcard, for instance, offers a third off rail fares for anyone aged 16 to 25 or in full-time education. 

Alternatively, the Senior Railcard offers the same discount for anyone aged 60 and over. Similarly, the Disabled Persons Railcard offers significant savings for disabled passengers and a companion travelling with them. 

On the other hand, Network Railcards offer discounts on journeys in the South East.

To make the most of railcards, it’s important to consider your travel habits. This means that for those who travel regularly during peak hours, a railcard might not offer much benefit. This is because discounts are usually applicable to off-peak journeys.

Off-Peak and Advance Ticket Tips

As mentioned earlier, one way to secure cheap train tickets is by travelling off-peak and booking tickets in advance. However, you might be wondering when off-peak times are, as well as how far in advance to book.

Although off-peak times vary depending on your train operator and route, they typically include times outside the morning and evening rush hours during weekdays. Weekends and bank holidays are usually considered off-peak too. 

When it comes to advance tickets, they are generally released 12 weeks before the departure date. However, some train companies may release them even earlier. 

You should also be aware that advance tickets are limited, meaning that you’ll have to buy a more expensive ticket once they have sold out.

Splitting Tickets for Lower Costs

Making the Most of Special Offers

Finally, keep an eye out for special offers from train companies as many train operators offer discounted fares or 2-for-1 deals. For instance, the London North Eastern Railway frequently offers discounted fares on specific routes.

In order to stay informed about these offers, you might want to join a train company’s mailing list. Some train companies also offer loyalty programmes which can result in further savings. 

Another tip is to check third-party booking sites. These sites often have exclusive deals and can also help you compare prices across different train companies. However, you should consider any booking fees before making a purchase, as these sites might charge you.

"Train companies often release tickets 12 weeks in advance, with prices generally rising as the departure date approaches."

Maximising Railcard Benefits

As we have already mentioned, railcards are a great way to save on train travel. There are several types of railcards available, each catering to a different group of travellers. However, you should consider which railcard suits you in order to use it effectively.

Although the 16-25 Railcard, Network Railcard, and Friends Railcard each offer a third off most rail fares, they feature different eligibility criteria. 

For instance, the 16-25 Railcard is for people aged 16 to 25 or those in full-time education, whereas the Network Railcard is for people travelling in the South East.

In addition, some railcards, such as the Friends Railcard, allow you to share the benefits with your loved ones. So, if you often travel with friends or family, a railcard that allows group travel could provide even more savings.

Avoiding Booking and Card Fees

Navigating the Rail Network

In order to source cheaper tickets, understanding the rail network can prove beneficial. For instance, knowing which train companies operate on your desired route can allow you to compare prices and find the cheapest fare.

For example, there are several trains in London, including the London Underground. If you’re flexible with your travel plans, you could compare prices between these operators and choose the one offering the cheapest ticket.

Additionally, some train companies, like the London North Eastern Railway, frequently offer discounted fares on specific routes. This means that you should look out for special offers when planning your train journey.

Making the Day of Travel Work for You

Finally, the day of travel can significantly affect the price of your train ticket. This means that you should assume that travelling on weekdays, particularly during rush hours, is more expensive than travelling on weekends or bank holidays.

However, consider travelling during off-peak times if you need to travel on a weekday. As mentioned earlier, off-peak times typically include late morning to early afternoon during weekdays and all day during weekends. 

Not only does travelling off-peak get you a cheaper ticket, it also is likely to lead to a less crowded train.

Additionally, try to book your tickets in advance. Train companies usually release tickets 12 weeks before the departure date, and these tickets are often cheaper than those bought on the day of travel. This means that you could make significant savings if you plan in advance.

Splitting Tickets for Savings

The Gold Card and Cheaper Tickets

In order to secure cheap train tickets, the Gold Card is worth considering. Available to Annual Season ticket holders in the South East, the Gold Card offers a third off rail fares for the cardholder and up to three adults travelling with them. 

It also offers discounts on Off-Peak Day Travelcard tickets for journeys starting within the Network Railcard area.

The Gold Card can make a significant difference to your rail journey costs, particularly if you’re a regular commuter. However, it’s worth noting that the card is most beneficial for those who often travel during off-peak times, since the discounts do not apply during peak hours.

In addition to the discounts on rail fares, the Gold Card also offers a range of other benefits. This means that for just £10, you can purchase a one-year Railcard for yourself or someone else. 

This could be a 16-25 Railcard, a Two Together Railcard, or any other Railcard, offering even more savings on your rail travel.

Although the Gold Card offers significant savings, it’s important to consider your travel habits and routes before purchasing. The card is most beneficial for regular commuters in the South East, meaning that a different railcard may be more useful to those travelling outside of this area.

Advance Booking and Arrival Station

As mentioned earlier, booking your tickets in advance is one of the best ways to secure a cheap train ticket. Advance fares are usually cheaper than those bought on the day of travel, and they are available for both single tickets and return tickets. 

However, they are limited in number which means that they can sell out quickly. This is particularly relevant to popular routes.

When booking in advance, it is essential to consider your arrival station carefully. This is because some cities have multiple stations, meaning that the price can vary dramatically depending on the station. 

For instance, a ticket to London Paddington might be cheaper than a ticket to London Euston, even though both stations are in London.

Another tip for advance booking is to be flexible with your travel dates and times. This means that for those who are not tied to a specific day or time, you can often find cheaper fares. 

For instance, travelling on a Tuesday afternoon might be cheaper than travelling on a Friday evening.

However, you should note that advance booking is not always the cheapest option. This means that you should compare prices before making a purchase, and consider other factors like travel times, convenience, and any booking fees.

Background to Cheap Train Tickets

A Case Study On Finding the Cheapest Train Tickets

To bring the strategies of how to get cheap train tickets to life, let’s consider a real-world case study. For people who regularly travel by train and are looking to save on their rail fares, this example should prove relevant.

Meet Sarah, a 22-year-old university student who travels from Manchester to London twice a month to visit her family. In order to make this regular rail journey more affordable, Sarah is seeking cheaper train tickets.

To begin, Sarah books her tickets 12 weeks in advance on the National Rail website. This is because she knows that advance fares are usually cheaper than those bought on the day of travel. In addition, she uses her 16-25 Railcard to save a third off most rail fares.

Next, Sarah looks at her travel times. As off-peak tickets are cheaper than peak fares, she wishes to schedule her journeys outside the morning and evening rush hours. She also checks the prices for different days and finds that travelling on a Tuesday is cheaper than on a Friday.

In addition, Sarah considers the idea of split ticketing. This is because buying separate tickets for different parts of her journey can sometimes prove cheaper than a single ticket. 

For instance, instead of buying a single ticket from Manchester to London, she buys one ticket from Manchester to Birmingham and another from Birmingham to London.

By applying these strategies, Sarah consistently manages to secure cheap tickets for her journey. Consequently, this case study highlights that planning and flexibility is essential to finding cheaper train tickets.

Key Takeaways and Learnings

This article has provided a wealth of information aimed at helping you navigate the often complex world of train travel fares, supporting you to find the cheapest tickets. 

Let’s summarise the key aspects to help you remember the important points and guide you in taking the appropriate actions.

– Booking tickets in advance can often secure you the best prices, particularly when combined with a railcard such as the 16-25 Railcard.

– In order to source the best option for your journey, it is vital to understand the different types of tickets. For instance, single tickets, return tickets, off-peak tickets, and season tickets.

– Using strategies like split ticketing can dramatically reduce the price of your rail fare. This involves buying separate tickets for different parts of your journey, rather than one ticket for the whole trip.

– Travelling during off-peak hours can lead to significant savings. It is important to note that off-peak times generally include late morning to early afternoon on weekdays, as well as all day on weekends.

– Utilising railcards can provide significant discounts, which is particularly helpful for regular travellers. There are several types of railcards available, catering to a variety of travelling groups. 

– Keeping an eye out for special offers from train companies and third-party booking sites can also lead to cheaper train tickets. However, you should be aware of the website’s booking fees before making a purchase.

In conclusion, securing cheap train tickets involves a mix of advance planning, understanding the ticketing system, and utilising various strategies and tools at your disposal. 

Although this process may seem challenging, practice and the knowledge will allow you to save on your rail journeys. Remember, every penny saved on travel is a penny that can be used elsewhere, making the effort to find cheaper fares well worth it.

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Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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