How to get cheaper train tickets
Train travel may be seen as more expensive than coach travel but it tends to be a lot quicker and comfortable. Find out how to slash the cost of your ticket!
As we all know, train prices are always rising and as a student you can really start to feel the pinch! Here are a few helpful tips that might save you a few quid:
How to save money on rail travel
Get a 16-25 railcard
Seriously. You will kick yourself if you don’t because this card will save you a bucket load of money in pretty much no time, especially if you’ve moved to the opposite end of the country.
A student railcard will save you one-third off every train ticket you buy and it costs just £30 a year. It may sound like a lot but if you travel just a couple of times a year you’ll be making a saving.
Update: You can currently get a 4-year railcard for free with a Santander student account.
Never travel at peak times
To avoid the risk of a seat deprived journey make sure you reserve a seat when you book your ticket.You’ll find the price of your train ticket rockets at weekends and during rush hours (before 9 and just after 5).
It’s also more likely that you’ll find yourself without a seat and having to stand for the entire journey, and no one wants that hassle.
Specialist rail booking sites such as RedSpottedHanky will have a little graphic to notify you when the peak times are so be careful that you avoid them.
Book in advance
The optimum time to book your tickets for cheaper travel is 10-12 weeks but even if it’s just by a week (or even 1 hour) it can make a difference.
This is particularly relevant to those travelling across the country who may find themselves paying £50 plus on the day, but a week or two in advance will save you some of that sacred dollar.
Also, your train journey can be made a lot easier by booking in advance as you can not only book a seat but play around with different train times in order to find the best deals. Sometimes travelling just an hour later or a day later could save you around £10 and for a return student train journey (which could add up to £20+ savings) this is a lot of money.
It is worth mentioning that there are tools out there called ‘fair finders’ which show you the cheapest time to travel. Try out the search on RedSpottedHanky.
Split up your journey
If you have a long journey that passes through several major stations, or perhaps has connections, then check the price of booking each leg of the journey separately rather than buying a single ticket.
Amazingly it can sometimes be much cheaper even though it’s the same journey!
It may take you another 10 minutes to look around for the tickets and split your journey in a number of ways but you could really make some savings.
Return isn’t always cheaper
Similar to splitting your journey into sections, you can split a return journey into two singles which might make it a bit cheaper.
Usefully, sites like thetrainline.com actually show you the price of two singles in comparison with the cost of a return so that you can make the choice right there and then.
There have been examples where buying two first class singles has been cheaper than a standard class return!
Bring your own snacks and drinks
Take your own munch and if you have a thermos flask use it to take your tea, coffee or in (rare) good weather your smoothies to replenish you throughout your journey.
Lunchbox type snacks such as cereal bars are great to fight off hunger, or use small Tupperware boxes to transport sandwiches and prevent them from getting squashed in the hustle and bustle.
The best train ticket companies to book with
There are a lot of places to get your tickets for any train journey and it can be confusing to know who will be the cheapest. The truth is that many of the sites have similar priced tickets, but it’s small differences in the useful tools and postage charges that can save you time and money.
Here are the top train tickets companies for students:
Advantages: Money saving tools, loyalty scheme.
Disadvantages: New £1 booking fee.
RedSpottedHanky were by far the best in the past due to not having any booking, card or postage fees. However, they’ve recently introduced a £1 booking fee as well as £1 for ticket postage.
The card fee is still free and you can pick up your tickets from the station for free so they’re still one of the best value.
Advantages: Great money saving tools, free ticket postage.
Disadvantages: £1 booking charge, credit card fee.
We like thetrainline because of their best fare finder tool. It finds the best deals around the dates you want to travel without having to do it yourself.
Advantages: No booking fees, no card fees, free ticket postage.
Disadvantages: Slightly basic site.
In recent months this site has become a favourite among train travellers. They are one of the only sites left to charge absolutely no fees (and we hope that lasts).
Advantages: Great farefinder tool, no booking fee.
Disadvantages: Fairly limited site.
The Virgin Trains website is great for getting deals on journeys between London and places such as Birmingham and Manchester.
First TransPennine Express
Advantages: No booking fees.
Disadvantages: Few helpful tools.
First Transpennine Express can sometimes be cheaper than the rest for booking long distance journeys so be sure to use it when you are booking yours.
Take these student train travel points into consideration, particularly over the summer as you shuttle your way around the country to festivals, visiting friends and then back to uni. You should be able to earn back a little extra money.