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How to nab cheap Christmas train tickets

Want to travel by train as cheaply as possible over the festive season? Now’s the time to start booking advance tickets

Now here’s a legitimate reason to be mentioning the ‘C’ word in October… Thinking ahead to your Christmas and New Year plans now will pay off when it comes to booking cheap train tickets over the festive period.

By booking an advance ticket, you can save money compared to other ticket options or buying on the day. Considering how expensive Christmas often is, you’ll likely be grateful for the saving – and avoid the stressful seasonal rush, too.

Below, we explore how much money you can save by booking in advance, how to be the first to know when advance tickets are released, plus a few festive travelling considerations you need to bear in mind.

10 tips for finding cheap train tickets – everything from booking in advance to splitting your ticket.

How much money will I save booking in advance?

There are some impressive savings to be made when booking in advance.

Most train companies release cheaper advance tickets around 12 weeks before the departure date so we’ve been keeping track of what’s being released and when.

At the time of writing, the following train companies now have advance tickets on sale from Friday 21 December: Abellio Greater Anglia; CrossCountry; East Midlands Trains; First Hull Trains; Grand Central; London North Eastern Railway; Southeastern; and Southern. We’d expect others to follow suit with more dates and tickets soon.

Even though Christmas is now less than 12 weeks away, some train companies are yet to confirm journeys and release tickets.

We looked at potential savings to be made on some of the routes already offering Christmas tickets. On 11 October 2018, we looked at the price of single tickets on Friday 21 December 2018:

  • London Kings Cross – York (Grand Central) £55 for many times across the day, with some even cheaper trains – a £29 direct service departing Kings Cross at 15:06. In contrast, a typical super off-peak single costs £109, while an anytime single costs £131.50.
  • Nottingham – Liverpool Lime Street (East Midlands Trains) £29.60 for the service departing Nottingham at 16:47, while an anytime single costs £54.10. Some journeys on this line are yet to be confirmed, so keep an eye out if you want to travel at a different time.

If advance tickets aren’t yet available for your journey, try signing up for ticket alerts – either via the train company directly if it offers this, or via a third party booking website such as Trainline (though note, booking fees apply for buying tickets through this service).

Ways to make Christmas travel as stress-free as possible

As well as saving money by booking in advance, there are a few other things you can do to avoid a stressful start to the festive period.

  • Consider off-peak travel Train stations will be packed in the run-up to Christmas but, if possible, try to travel during less busy times.
  • Download a travel app With the National Rail or Trainline apps, you can see live status updates for your journey – including the platform number.
  • Use mobile tickets, where possible Many journeys let you use a mobile ticket rather than a paper one – but double-check first.
  • Reserve a seat You’ll appreciate this if you’re carrying lots of presents with you!

Are you fed up with poor rail service? Demand improvements now by signing our petition to pressure change.

Do trains run on Boxing Day?

While there are no trains on Christmas Day, some services resume on Boxing Day.

If you’re desperate to make it to the Boxing Day sales and you need to travel by train, it’s worth checking your route – and, again, book in advance if you’re certain you’ll be prepared to take on the crowds.

What happens if my train is cancelled or delayed?

If the train for which you bought an advance ticket is cancelled or delayed and you consequently decide not to travel, a refund will be offered on unused tickets and you won’t be charged an admin fee, according to National Rail.

If your train is cancelled or delayed but you still want to travel, special arrangements will be made to accommodate you on another train – but you won’t be guaranteed a seat.

We have a range of guides to help you get to grips with your refund rights:

For the full list of guides, check out the Which? Consumer Rights train delays hub.

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