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Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

Sandy Springs...
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Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

Hello!

My husband and I will be travelling in the UK in December. We'll be doing a good bit of hopping around. I'm trying to figure out the best way to book our train tickets. I'm trying to be economical, but I also need some flexibility. I know the days I'll be travelling, but I think that I'd like some flexibility on the timing. I don't know yet if I'll be wanting to travel in AM or PM etc.

On two dates we're travelling between Worcester and Cardiff . I think there is not a direct train, but we might be able to get a ride to Cheltehnam though I'd like to take the train if possible.

I guess my questions are about booking the tickets. It seems if I use the UK sites to book, that I must choose the precise train that I want, locking me into a time. I could buy a Britrail pass for consecutive days, but it seems a lot pricier. Also seems very pricy to wait and then walk up and buy a ticket. I can provide some of the pricing I've found if that helps you with recommendations. I've looked at the Britrail Point to Point tickets, and that seems ideal from function, but seems rather pricey.

Any advice to steer me in the right way is appreciated.

These are our travel dates:

Edinburgh to Birmingham Dec 17

Worcester to Cardiff Dec 22

Cardiff to Worcester Dec 24

Worcester to London Dec 26

We'll also need some kind of a pass for two days in London, but I should be able to figure that one out on my own. I'm somewhat familiar with the tube and not so overwhelmed by that!

Thanks in advance for any advice. I think the internet has given me information overload and I just dont' know what to do!

Thanks so much!

Dena

UK
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1. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

There are flexible tickets and there are non-flexible (aka "advance purchase") tickets.

Advance purchase tickets are only valid on the train for which they were bought. They work very much like airline tickets - you have a set number of tickets available at the lowest fare, once they've sold out you go to the next-lowest fare, and so on. So - it's advisable to buy them as early as possible (they go on sale 12 weeks before the date of travel)

Non-flexible tickets are valid on any train, and their price does not change closer to the time of departure - you can buy a ticket at 10 am and jump on a train at 10.15 am and the fare will be exactly the same as it would have been if you had bought the ticket three months ago.

If you're travelling from A to B and back to A then you can, in most cases, get a flexible saver return ticket which is much cheaper than buying two flexible single tickets. Check for restrictions on these returns - on many routes they're not valid until after a certain time in the morning, and on some routes there are restrictions during evening commuting times.

Oh, and one very important point: You won't be able to travel from Worcester to London on 26 December (or from anywhere else to anywhere else). Public transport shuts down for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Crazy, I know.... but that's the UK for you.

Edited: 18 November 2013, 01:18
london
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2. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

for a website about all things to do with train travel have you discovered

http://www.seat61.com/

Cardiff, United...
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3. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

As above, you won't be getting a train on Boxing Day. Nor do there appear to be any National Express services scheduled from Worcester that day. If you can also get a lift to Cheltenham that day, there are National Express services from there to Victoria.

Stirling, United...
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4. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

You have to specify a particular train for "Advance" tickets and the ticket is tied to that train.

For other tickets you have to specify a train (a) so the system will not offer you an off-peak ticket if you indicate you wish to travel on a peak time train (b) so the system can offer you seat reservations where available. However, even with seat reservations you are not tied to that particular train.

For Worcester - Cardiff you will usually change at Bristol Parkway or Hereford. You buy a through ticket from Worcester to Cardiff [*] and the system automatically allows you enough time to make the connection.

[*] It *may* be cheaper to buy the tickets for separate legs but that's a bit more complicated.

Buy the tickets from any train operator website linked from nationalrail.co.uk - NOT BritRail and NOT trainline.

London
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5. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

For the Edinburgh to Birmingham leg, I encourage you to think hard how much you value flexibility over economy. The "off peak" single (flexible, no need to buy ahead) is £121 each. There are "advance" tickets available for 17 Dec at £46, but these have to be bought now and have zero flexibility. That's quite a difference. The cheapest advance fares sell quickly and are quota limited, hold off and the cheapest fares will be gone.

There will be less price difference on the other legs of your plan.

Chester
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6. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

I would like to thank the people who have replied because I wanted to go from Chester to London around Christmas time and I have found the prices and timing very confusing.

The last time I did this trip was with British Rail and you just turned up at the station paid for your ticket and boarded the next train, how things have in the last 30 years.

How true this is I am not sure but my friends daughters who are at university say the cheapest time to buy is 3 days before departure and most of the time to buy single tickets.

Easy Jet and Flybe are doing Edinburgh to Brimingham for £33 single on the 17th Dec.

Keith.

Liverpool, United...
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7. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

"How true this is I am not sure but my friends daughters who are at university say the cheapest time to buy is 3 days before departure and most of the time to buy single tickets."

I think they mean 3 months before departure!

London
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8. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

>>> The last time I did this trip was with British Rail and you just turned up at the station paid for your ticket and boarded the next train, how things have in the last 30 years. <<<

And you can still do that. However pick the wrong time and it can work out pretty expensive.

Most longer-distance routes now have 'Advance' fares, and provided you are willing to commit yourself to a particular date and time for your travel there can be some real bargains out there. However the cheapest fares sell out first, especially if you want to travel at busy times (NB: 'around Christmas time' is a busy time, so book ASAP).

Edited: 18 November 2013, 12:18
London
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9. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

@Keith - some confusion in your post I fear. Easyjet do not operate between EDI and BHX.

Sandy Springs...
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10. Re: Trains - please educate me- England, Wales and Scotland trav

Thanks for all this information. I will have to start taking notes and then see what I can figure out. Thanks so much.

Very good info about Boxing Day! I didn't know about this. I thought it was just the 25th. Thanks for saving me making an expensive hotel reservation for that night in London!!

I have a lot of thinking to do! Thank you all so much.

cazinatutu - that link is very helpful!!!

Thanks to all and any additional information always welcome!