- A travel expert has revealed when the best time to book your trains home for Christmas is to get a good deal, and you might want to get booking asap.
- Advance tickets are available up to 12 weeks in advance - and seeing as Christmas Day is roughly 10 weeks away? Get booking!
With Halloween and Bonfire Night still to come, Christmas still feels like a long way off. But when it comes to booking tickets for train journeys during the festive season, it makes sense to plan ahead.
Advance rail tickets will generally be made available 12 weeks before the date of travel. As Christmas is now around 10 weeks away (!), these booking windows are now open across many networks and there's a good reason why passengers are being advised to book sooner rather than later.
Aside from avoiding the rush as thousands of us make the annual mission back to our hometowns, buying an advance ticket could work out much cheaper in the long run. Yes, we know it's annoying to have to pay for something now when it won't happen for two and a half months, but you'll appreciate it in the long run.
"Advance tickets are usually the cheapest way to travel by train," a spokesperson for National Rail told Cosmopolitan. "They go on sale from up to 12 weeks before the date of travel but you have to travel on the date and train shown on the ticket."
Virgin Trains said that booking in advance for the busier Christmas and New Year periods is "the golden rule." The spokesperson added: "That will guarantee you the best fares and a seat reservation. We have a section on our website called 'Best Fare Finder' which is always a good starting point for those looking to travel on our network."
It might require some forward planning, but the savings can be substantial. According to train travel app, Trainline, customers saved an average of £58.71 per booking last year by purchasing advance tickets.
In comparison to anytime fares bought on the day of travel, an average of £125.18 was saved on the London Kings Cross – Edinburgh route last year. For London Euston - Manchester, the booking data from October to December showed that just over £189 was saved.
Plus, booking in advance also means you have a better chance of getting a seat - and when you're heading home with lots of Christmassy goodies, you want to make sure you're comfortable.
If you don't manage to secure advance tickets, perhaps because your plans are still up in the air, there's still some hope of landing a cheaper deal. "Travellers planning a trip in the next few weeks shouldn't despair as if the advance tickets don't sell out, they can still be available just 15 minutes before departure on some routes, so it's worth doing a quick search on your phone on the way to the station," a spokesperson for Skyscanner told us. It's also helpful to be mindful of travel times.
"The most expensive time to travel is Monday to Friday from 6.00 to 9.30am, and on some trains it’s also 4.00 to 7.00pm – although this can vary depending on the route," Skyscanned added.
To be in with a chance of booking the least expensive journey, and a reserved seat, Trainline has a free Ticket Alert service that lets passengers know when advance tickets become available. You can also find out how far in advance you can book tickets on National Rail's website, where there are details on a range of range of railcards that can being down the cost of travel.
As well as the 16-25 railcard, look out for the Two Together option, which will save you and the person you most like to take train rides with a third off your rail fare for £15 each a year. Plus the newly introduced 26-30 rail card, which will also bag you 30% off rail fares. Happy travels.
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