I never get tired of thinking about personal finance. As usual though, I’m tired in general. I can’t wait for Christmas and New Year – mostly because I have a 10 day stretch without any work, half of which I’ll spend with my family and the other half in my own house.
However, going *home* for Christmas means travelling – which is never free. I don’t have a car, so I go by train. The standard open return fare for my trip home is over £100. Buying in advance, with a non-flexible Advance Purchase ticket, it cost £10. That’s like a 90% saving.
book in advance
Travel in general is cheapest booked well in advance. Plane tickets need to be bought more than six months in advance to get the cheapest deals, and rail tickets probably a month in advance – depending on the popularity of the route/time.
If you need to fly somewhere at Xmas you probably should have bought your tickets already, although you may still be able to snap up a relative bargain if you’re willing to travel on either Christmas Day or (possibly) Boxing Day.
The following screenscrapers, metasearchers and brokers are reputed to give good results:
If you need to get the train, now is the time to pin down the exact details of your journey(s) so you can try and bag one of the remaining advance purchase tickets.
thetrainline.com sent me an email telling me about a new farefinder tool that they have. If your journey is on one of their top 100 routes (generally between major cities), then it will tell you the lowest available ticket prices in four time categories in the week around a date you specify.
It’s a little convoluted to get to the ticket booking page, but it’s a nice idea. There’s similar functionality at Find Cheaper Rail Fares @ Transport Direct, which also has its limitations.
Wherever you buy your train tickets, watch out for booking fees, and don’t pay them. You can always get the exact same ticket without paying a booking fee as generally all the train operators can book tickets from anywhere to anywhere.
If you’re going to be driving, don’t forget to allow plenty of time – you can work out the best route and see anticipated congestion using the Transport Direct car journey planner – it also calculates the likely fuel costs of your journey.
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