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Train fare hacks to get cheap tickets this Christmas and New Year

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Nov 28, 2016

Millions of us hit the tracks every Christmas and New Year heading home or to friends and relatives.

But as fares go through the roof, are there still ways to get a ticket for a snip?

Here are eight ideas that could save you lots on the price of a train ticket. 


Use the National Rail Enquiry Site

Use the National Rail Enquiry’s site to find the cheapest fares available. 

This site promises to show the lowest possible fare between all destinations with all operators.

It’s a far better option than going to individual operators or to third party booking sites like Trainline.

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Get cheap train tickets by fare splitting

Consider fare splitting or ticket splitting.

Fares can be hugely confusing with dozens of combinations and options on just one simple route.

But it’s often a much cheaper option to look at splitting your journey into multiple legs and buying tickets for each leg.  

This can save you big money – as much as much as 40%, some claim – but it can be complicated to work out the possibilities.

Luckily there are now plenty of helpful sites out there to do the hard work for you.

Just Google ‘split ticketing’ or ‘split tickets’ and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Do check that you understand how the site makes its money though. Many will charge you a fixed percentage of any saving you make on a normal fare, typically this will be charge of 10%.

The technique works by splitting the journey into segments and buying multiple tickets to cover those segments or legs of the journey.

So, for example, if you were travelling Birmingham to Leeds, instead of buying a ticket for this journey, you could end up splitting it into tickets for Birmingham to Derby, Derby to Sheffield, and Sheffield to Leeds. So long as the train you’re on stops at the places you’ve bought tickets for, you’re fine.

If the journey doesn’t involve any changes, you don’t even need to leave the train. 


Get a discounted 16-25 Young Person’s Railcard

Are you a young person?

If so, well, lucky you!  Even if you don’t use the train regularly but are planning a fairly long journey, you should consider trying to grab one of the heavily discounted Young Person’s Railcards.

For just a few days only, National Rail is slashing the cost of a 16-25 Railcard to £20 – that’s £10 off its usual price.

And one of these cards will cut the cost of a train journey by a third, so it could pay for itself on one expensive journey. 

The cards are available for anyone aged between 16 and 25 and full-time mature students of any age.

You’ll need to hurry, though, as the offer expires this Wednesday. To claim the £20 rail card, which will last for a whole year, you simply need to enter the promotional code BLACKFRIDAY when ordering the card online.

Even if you miss out, but are eligible for a card, it is worth setting that £30 outlay against any travel you plan over the next year, the length of time the card lasts before it needs renewing.

Make sure you order a Railcard if you are eligible for one


No longer young? Get the Railcard that’s right for you

We don’t all qualify for a young person’s card, sadly. But there are lots of other categories of card that may apply to you.

Apart from young person’s cards, there are those for the over 60s, disabled or those travelling as a family. The cost is around £30 for a year. 

A Two-Together railcard will also save you and a friend/partner a 1/3 of your journey.

You can also use Tesco club card points to get cards at reduced rates.

Railcard fares apply to all UK Standard and First Class Anytime, Off-Peak and Advanced fares (but only after 9:30am on weekdays).

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Cashback sites

Use cashback sites.

Cashback sites such as TopCashBack and Quidco often offer money back in the form of train travel vouchers.

It’s worth checking out this route.


Avoid in-station ticket machines

Don’t buy from in-station ticket machines.

These don’t display discounted or best priced tickets and can work out lots more expensive than buying over the counter or online.

It’s best to buy in advance, but if you can’t for any reason, buy at the counter.


Buy in advance

Tickets are usually bookable up to a maximum of 12 weeks in advance and if you can book ahead, even less in advance than this, you can often make significant savings – as much as 80% by some estimates.


Could a season ticket save you money?

If you travel a particular route regularly, check out the maths and see if a season ticket or similar might make things more economical; consider not only monthly and annual tickets, but also other options such as a seven-day travelcard.

Have we missed any top tips? Share them in the comments section below.

Safe travels this winter!


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