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How to find and book cheap train tickets

How to find and book cheap train tickets
Image source: Getty Images


Finding cheap train tickets might not seem like a big deal until you realise just how much you can save.

As an exercise, I scoped the net for the best price for a train ticket from Leeds to Birmingham and decided to pit Nationalrail.co.uk, Trainline.com, and Raileasy.co.uk against each other to see who came out on top. 

I chose 1 November as my travel date and selected a one-way trip for a single passenger any time after 4pm. The cheapest ticket from National Rail was £25.70 and, and I got the same price on Trainline. Raileasy came in at £23.34; however, at that price, the journey included two changes that could be a bit disruptive.

While the provider is one of the factors that determine the cost of the train ticket, there are several more ways to travel Britain on a budget

Plan your travel itinerary (well in advance if you can!)

Seasoned travellers with fixed travel dates should consider Advance tickets, which are usually on sale around 10 to 12 weeks before the date of your journey. Some Advance tickets may even still be available up to 30 days before the travel date.

While this might not work for everyday exploration or impromptu adventuring, the savings are well worth the effort for those trips that can be planned down to the smallest detail. 

Compare cheap train tickets from different vendors 

It helps to compare all of the options out there, as you never know who might be running a special promotion. But it’s not just about finding a once-off ticket vendor for a holiday in the Midlands. Comparing might just allow you to shave a few quid off the cost of your daily commute too. 

Combine offers from rail partners 

Programs such as Commuter Club offer cost-saving deals for both National Rail and Oyster cardholders. Commuter Club boasts savings of over £300 per year for regular commuters. Tickets are easy to manage online. 

Source alternative ways to find cheap train tickets 

Sites such as TrainPal allow travellers to find the best prices on lengthy journeys through ticket-splitting. This means that each leg of the journey is calculated on its own and the best prices are sourced to ensure that commuters truly have the cheapest tickets. For those hoping to take advantage of cheap travel around the mainland, this a good option. 

There are also a number of ticketing companies that offer reduced rates to families with small children, and to seniors. Commuters should also keep an eye out for voucher companies who partner with rail companies to offer tickets at reduced prices. 

Consider season passes 

If you’re travelling the same route for more than a few days, a seasonal pass might be a cost-effective solution. Compare daily ticket prices to weekly and monthly prices to find the best offer.

Check for hidden fees 

Booking fees and commission can push up the price of your train tickets. When booking through a travel agent, it’s worth comparing the cost of the ticket with those offered online or at the train station. 

Register an online profile 

Online vendors provide safe and secure portals where commuters can book their tickets. Simply register online or download the app (if available), set up notifications, and book. Many online agencies allow you to keep track of your tickets and discounts, and also manage your trips without ever having to set foot in a ticket office. 

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