Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Train Travel On A Shoestring

If you live in the UK you are probably aware that train travel on a shoestring is nigh on impossible these days.  So, with recent colossal train fare price hikes,  it was in trepidation that I embarked on the purchase of train tickets from our home to the North East of England, a distance of some 300 miles,  to get me and the two kids to a family occasion.  I ruled out the other travel options, driving and flying, pretty quickly.  It's a long way to drive with two children, and although flying worked out at a comparable ticket price to the train (if we flew at silly o'clock) the cost to the environment couldn't be justified.

I don't know about you, but to my mind £136 (plus £28 for a family railcard) doth not a shoestring make!  However it could have been worse, and was of course worth every penny for us to be present at this VERY special family birthday.  So how did we keep the costs down? We: 
  • Booked as far in advance in possible.  'Last minute' is often advised for hotels, package holidays but for UK trains the opposite is true.  I dithered around for a couple of days, (in disbelief most likely)  and the price went up by a fiver.
  • Bought a family railcard.  For such a long journey it virtually recoups its cost straight away.
  • Booked using the trainline.com.  I always check raileasy and the train companies themselves but the trainline usually always comes in cheapest.  splityourticket is also worth checking out - their website will check out whether it is cheaper to buy separate tickets for parts of the journey.
  • Took our own picnic, including a flask; we were NOT going to be seduced by that catering trolley that rattles past your seat laden with kitkats and other goodies positioned right at the height of a child's head!  (On the return journey the children were allowed the reward of a hot chocolate for good behaviour, but ever frugal, I made them share one between them and the catering lady kindly let them have an extra cup.*) 
  • Took all our own entertainment, books, paper, pens and rubik's cube.  The electronic kit (ipod and DS) was forgotten by the kids and was not missed.
  • Took a Granny and a Grandad with us on the way there.**
OK, so maybe that last one didn't really keep down the financial costs, (although we shared their tissues, crisps and fruit salad!), but having two doting grandparents along for the ride certainly made the 5 and a half hour journey much more bearable for me and the children.

If you have any more tips for frugal train travel please share them in the comments below!


* This is not as cheapskate and mean as it sounds; they were very large cups and neither Daughter or Son would have drunk a whole one!

** G and Gdad did NOT book in advance, as they were worried about missing their very early train, and paid considerably more than we did.  On A Shoestring sincerely hopes that they will take on board (excuse the pun) all the advice contained herein!

And yes, the photo at the head of the blog is really a photo of our tickets/seat reservations and yes, there really were just three of us!

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