Find the cheapest rail fares
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However, with a few hints and tips it is possible to cut the cost of your train journey.
As soon as you know you need to travel start looking for the best deal. In most cases booking early will save you money. It's best to try and book 12 weeks early, as this is when the rail network sets its timetable.
Try www.nationalrail.co.uk as your first port of call. Here you can research your ticket in advance and look for the cheapest deals. Don't despair if your trip is a bit last minute. Some advance tickets are available as late as 24 hours before you travel so it's worth buying your ticket as early as you can.
Check your rail provider's website before booking anything. They might have a promotional discount to lower the price further. There are sites that will help you get the cheapest advance booking, such as www.thetrainline.com, which also operates a Ticket Alert service so that you can keep ahead of the pack, and www.raileasy.co.uk, although you may be charged a nominal booking fee.
If you are flexible with your travel then avoid weekends and travel after 10am. Try splitting your tickets. Check your journey and see if two different providers are carrying you. Surprisingly you may find it cheaper to buy a ticket from each provider for each leg of the journey than one overall ticket. The website Split Your Ticket provides rail travellers with an easy-to-use tool for just this purpose.
Buy a season ticket
If you need to make the same journey on a regular basis it's worth looking into season ticket options. Buying a weekly, monthly or yearly ticket can save you a small fortune. Many employers offer interest-free loans on yearly season tickets, so it's worth checking with your HR department. If you buy a year's ticket and find you don't need it (for example, you move house or job) you can claim back the remaining portion. Though it may take a little research, most routes offer multiple season ticket options and, by restricting your travel to a specific area, you could save a sizeable chunk of cash.
A great way to save money on your travel is to get a railcard, especially if you travel regularly.
16-25 Railcard - available to 16-25-year-olds or students aged 26 and over. These cards will save you a third on rail travel across Britain. Look out for savings on hotels and restaurants. Cost £28.00 per year.
Family and Friends - save a third on travel and 60 per cent off children's fares. You will have to travel with at least one child aged five or over to take advantage but up to four adults and four children can travel on one card. Cost £28.00 per year.
Senior Railcard - aged 60 or over? Save up to a third on rail travel. Cost is £28.00 per year.
Disabled Persons Railcard - save a third of rail travel in Britain. Accompanying adults travel at the same discount. Costs £20.00 for one year or £54 for three.
Network Railcard - save a third on travel in the South East. Take three adults and they will get the same savings. You can also travel with up to four children and they receive a 60 per cent discount.
For more information visit www.railcard.co.uk/network.
From weekly tickets to family tickets, promotions on rail fares change regularly so it's worth checking National Rail's special offers section. Deals are split between specific networks so you can simply click on the one you need to see what's available.
Megatrain is a website that sells massively reduced train and bus fares for over 100 intercity journeys in England and Scotland. The tickets are only released 45 days before the date of travel but, even when the £1 (yes really!) fares have gone, "spare capacity" tickets are available for off-peak times from £3 and upwards. There's a booking fee of 50p and you'll need to be sure that you tick the 'travelling by train' box but it's worth checking availability as it could save you, even if the ticket covers only part of your journey.