How to cut your Christmas travel costs
Want to cut your travel costs? Follow these top tips to cut the cost of travelling over the Christmas period, whether it's by plane, train or automobile!
In an ideal world we would all plan ahead and book our train/plane/coach tickets weeks in advance. But when it comes to Christmas, things can get a little hectic and it can be far too easy to forget to be organised.
Here are some top tips for cutting your travel costs.
Use a discount card
Before you buy your train ticket, check to see if you qualify for a railcard which will deduct a third off your train fares throughout the UK. The 16-25 Railcard, the Senior Railcard, and the Family and Friends Railcard (if you travel with children aged between 5 and 15) cost £28 a year (or £65 for three years). If you want a Disabled Persons Railcard, it will cost you slightly less at £20 a year.
Although this will involve paying out upfront, it will save you money over the long term.
If you live within commuting distance of London, the Network Railcard will save you a third on off-peak travel within that region.
Book the right way
Generally, the earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper it will be. However, if you're booking last minute, it's still worth checking to see whether you can buy 'Advance' tickets. As strange as it sounds, you can often still buy Advance tickets the night before you travel, so make sure you investigate.
And when it comes to actually making the booking, it's always better to do it at a station or on the rail company's own website. That way, you'll avoid the booking fee charged by some websites. The Trainline, for example, charges a booking fee of £1, as well as £3.50 for credit card payments! Shocking!
In comparison, the East Coast website will allow you to buy tickets to all destinations in the UK without charging a booking fee, or charging you for using a credit card.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for special offers which are often advertised on these websites, as well as checking out the Megatrain website to see whether you can bag yourself a journey from just £1. And if you're travelling on a Virgin train, have a look at its Best Fare Finder tool, as sometimes there are cheap fares on there.
Finally, if you collect Tesco Clubcard points, you can exchange them for train tickets via redspottedhanky.com at twice the value of the points. So if you have £10 in Clubcard vouchers, you'll get £20 of e-vouchers to spend on train tickets on the site. Find out more here.
Split your ticket
Splitting your train ticket is a great way to save money – in other words, it can be cheaper to buy two single tickets instead of a return ticket covering the same journey.
What's more, if your train makes several stops enroute, find out whether it's cheaper to buy separate tickets for each part of the journey, compared to buying a standard fare. Of course, this can be time-consuming and may seem like a lot of effort, but it could be well worth it. You can read more about ticket splitting in Seven ways to beat the train fare hikes.
Go by coach
Travelling by coach can be one of the cheapest ways to travel, providing you don't mind a slightly longer journey. National Express and Megabus both offer some great value fares which start from just £1 and 99p respectively.
That said, most of these ultra cheap deals need to be booked in advance. But if you've left it to the last minute, it's still well worth checking out both of these websites because it's still likely to be cheaper than going by train.
Driving home for Christmas
If you're planning to hit the road by car, make sure you get the cheapest petrol for your journey by using price comparison website petrolprices.com to locate the lowest-priced fuel in your area. Simply register your details and type in your postcode. The site will then locate the lowest prices for petrol, diesel and even LPG fuel near where you live.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for supermarket offers – Sainsbury's and Tesco often run promotions where you can save 5p/litre of fuel if you spend £50 in store.
Of course, if you have a friend travelling to the same place as you, you could always consider car sharing and split the cost of the petrol, saving you even more.
Getting into a few good driving habits can bring down your fuel bills significantly. So always make sure you drive in the correct gear as driving in a lower gear than you need to wastes fuel.
You should also try to avoid sudden braking and accelerating as this can add up to 30% to your fuel bill. Drive smoothly and anticipate the road ahead, slowing down gradually for red lights. And don't drive too fast – around 55-65mph is said to be the most fuel efficient speed for driving – any faster and fuel consumption increases.
Try to also avoid using the air conditioning as this can add 10% to your fuel bill.
For even more tips on driving techniques, read this free guide.
Finally, don't forget to check out how to protect your car from costly winter crises to make sure you're fully prepared for driving in difficult, wintry, conditions.
If you're catching a flight over the Christmas period and you're booking it with a budget airline, watch out for hidden fees. Ryanair, for example, charges fees to check-in online, for priority boarding and for each bag you check in.
Of course, Ryanair is not the only budget airline offender when it comes to hidden fees. As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay lots of fees when you book a budget airline flight!
Once you're at the airport, you should also be wary of airport rip-offs. Food and drink are generally far more expensive in the airport than outside it! So try to stock up on food at home and bring some extra snacks with you.
Unfortunately, of course, if you try to bring a bottle of water with you through security, it will be confiscated. You could try to bring an empty bottle through and see if there's anywhere to fill it up on the other side, but you may not have much luck – in which case you'll be forced to buy a bottle.
Finally, if you're going abroad for Christmas, make sure you get your currency sorted before you get to the airport! Foreign currency exchange bureaux in airports generally charge high rates of commission, and you're also likely to be lumbered with a rubbish exchange rate. So make sure you plan ahead and know the best way to get your foreign currency.
You should also be wary of withdrawing money from ATMs at airports as many will charge you for the privilege.
This is a classic article which has been updated
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