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.
It's now 12 weeks until Christmas and if you want to save as much money as possible, it's also time to start booking your festive travel.
Whether it's a train, coach or plane, if you can book in advance you'll save money as travel providers will ramp up prices the nearer it gets to the 25th.
With that in mind 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 £30 a year (or £70 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
The earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper it will be. For example, a train ticket from London to Edinburgh today would cost you £152. But on the week before Christmas, if you book now, the train journey will be £63. Similarly, the train from Sheffield to Glasgow is £108.77 today but just £29 if booked with 12 weeks' notice.
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.
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.
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.
These ultra-cheap deals will need to be booked in advance and can take up to twice as long as the train but you're guaranteed to save money with this option.
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.
The supermarkets are currently caught up in a new round of price cuts so keep an eye out to see which one is offering the cheapest.
Teaming up with a friend and car sharing will also save you money and websites such as liftshare.com will show you fellow travellers making the same journeys.
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.
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.
Booking in advance will save you money so try and book early and avoid peak times, if you can. A flight from Newcastle to Belfast, for example, could cost around £25.99 if booked 12 weeks in advance but £70.99 the day before.
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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