There are under twelve weeks left until Christmas, meaning that rail tickets for the festive season are now on sale.
Get your plans sorted and snap up these tickets quick, or you may find that they have rocketed in price or become unavailable in the meantime.
Book the right way
The earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper it will be. For example, the cheapest train ticket from London to Edinburgh today would cost you £128.20. But if you book now to travel on Wednesday 21 December, you can reserve a single ticket for £20 if you are able to travel at 10.43am or £41 if you want to travel at other times.
As another example, a train from Sheffield to Glasgow is £107.60 today but can be as little as £20 if booked with 12 weeks' notice.
If you can be flexible with train times on the date of travel, remember to scroll through the day's trains to find the cheapest tickets. You can pay vastly different sums of money even for the sake of a few minutes' in departure time and arriving at a different station as the example below shows.
There's no real problem with the destination difference. Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street are less than 10 minutes' walk away from each other.
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 75p, or £1.50 if the sale is over £30.
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.
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 are eligible for a Disabled Persons Railcard, choose this as it will cost you slightly less at £20 a year (or £54 for three years).
If you're already 25, you can still buy or renew a one-year 16-25 railcard up to and including the day before your 26th birthday, and use it until expiry. If you're a frequent train traveller, don't forget to get a new one before you turn 26.
Although railcards will involve paying out upfront, it will save you money over the long term. If you're travelling a long way, you might even find that you've already saved the cost of the railcard and more on just one return ticket. So it's definitely something worth considering.
If you live within commuting distance of London, the Network Railcard will save you a third on off-peak travel within that region.
Christmas is a time for giving, but your fellow passengers aren't (quite rightly) likely to want to hand over their seat to your suitcase, so think about the amount of luggage you're taking.
Depending on cabin space, you’re allowed two large items such as suitcases or rucksacks and one piece of smaller luggage, like a handbag. One of these must be kept on your lap. You’ll be charged for extra luggage that can be carried by you and may take up another passenger seat.
Sadly, more cumbersome items like canoes and livestock are not permitted on board.
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 £5 and £1 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.
If you're catching a flight over the Christmas period and you're booking it with a budget airline, watch out for hidden fees.
Booking in advance will save you money so try and book early and avoid peak times, if you can. A flight from London to Edinburgh with easyJet, for example, could cost as little as £37.49 if booked 12 weeks in advance, but between £68.99 and £77.99 if you wanted a seat tomorrow (at the time of writing).
Tickets do tend to ramp up in price towards Christmas though, even if you book well in advance. So always try to get in early.
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, 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.
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 generally get caught up a fuel price war around the holidays 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.
Earn cashback on travel spending
These sites offer a percentage of what you spend back with selected retailers when you complete your purchase through tracked links.
Alternatively, you could save by booking tickets or buying petrol through a cashback credit card.
The Santander 123 Credit Card, for example, offers 3% cashback on train tickets and at petrol stations.
This is a classic article which has been updated