If you use public transport in the UK, whether that is a bus, train or plane, you will have noticed that prices seem to be always going up. With fuel prices on the increase this will have a knock on effect on all travel. Many people now use cars instead of public transport, so with less people travelling per journey, each person has to pay more to make up for it. It is therefore wise to be aware of all of the methods that you can try to get cheaper travel, so that you do not have to pay more than necessary.
Travel Outside of Peak Times
Travelling in peak times is always going to be more expensive. It is worth finding out when these are considered to be. On a bus, it is likely to be before 9am in the morning and you often cannot get a return ticket before this time or use a bus pass. This means that you will have to buy a single ticket rather than a return on the bus and as a return is less than two single tickets, it will be more expensive to travel at this time.
On a train you may find that fares are cheaper on certain days of the week. It is often more expensive to travel on a Friday as more people use the trains for long weekends away or commuting home after a week away at work. Time of travel will also effect the price, with a peak ticket being dearer than an off peak one.
On a flight you will find that the main holiday periods are dearer. This tends to be in the school summer holiday months as well as Christmas and Easter times. This is because more people travel at this time and so there will be less cheap tickets available. There will be less need to discount in order to guarantee that the plane has been filled up. Short distance flights may vary more in prices depending on the time of day that you travel.
If you are flexible about when you are travelling, both which day of the week as well as what time in the day, then compare days and prices to see whether you can save money. This may vary depending on which type of transport you are using and what time of the year you are travelling. You can use online comparison and booking sites to look at prices with no obligation to buy.
If you travel at night, you may be able to save a significant amount of money. A night bus, for example can often be cheaper than one that travels in the day and it may even have a shorter journey time due to a lack of traffic on the road. These tend to only be available for long journeys. Night trains, may be dearer though particular if you have a sleeper with beds in it. Flights will vary as it will depend on what time of day it is at your destination as well as where you are leaving from as to whether the hours are unsociable and quiet.
Use a Travel Card (family, young person, oap rail card??) (oap/multiple journey bus card)
It can be possible to buy travel cards to reduce the costs of travelling. These are only good value if you are intending to do a lot of journeys.
There is a selection of railcards available to buy. There is one for young people aged 16-25, one for seniors, a family and friends railcard, disabled person and two together as well as regional railcards. The railcards have to be purchased and there is usually limited use with regards to not being able to travel at peak times. For a fixed yearly fee, usually of £30 you can normally save 1/3rd off fares, but it is worth checking the details to see whether you qualify and how much you could potentially save. You would normally need to make three journeys to make it worth buying, but you would need to calculate this for yourself depending on the cost of the journeys that you normally make.
It is also possible to buy travel cards to use on buses. As bus operators vary so widely across the country this will depend on what your local area provides. You are also likely to find that if you have several local bus companies that travel cards will not be transferrable between operators. The only exception to this is the older person’s bus pass. Currently, when you reach female state pension age (whether you are male or female) you can apply for a bus pass in England and in London, Scotland and Wales you can apply for one when you are 60. The pass would usually only be able to be used for off-peak travel and it is free. It can be used all across the country, so if you are on holiday then you may be able to use it to travel when you are in a different town. Do check with the local operator and the terms of the ticket though.
If you are disabled you may be able to get a free pass, usually this applies if you cannot drive for medical reasons. If you cannot travel alone, usually due to disabilities, you can also apply for a companion bus pass, so that your carer can also get free travel.
If you child uses a bus to travel to school, then they may be able to get a free bus pass. Each local authority will have its own rules with regards to how a child can be eligible, but it is worth finding the local authority website and looking into it. Often it is determined by how far away they are and if it is deemed whether they should be able to walk to school or not.
Book in Advance or Last Minute
The time that you book can make a difference, that is if you are able to book in advance. Local bus services do not allow this, but it is possible to book train journeys and flights in advance. Sometimes the timing on these bookings can make a significant difference to the price. It is not possible to book train tickets too far in advance but if you book 10-12 weeks before you travel there will be some cheap tickets available. You may need to check the booking websites regularly to see when these become available. They are limited in numbers though, but if you use The Trainline you can ask for their ticket alert system to email you when cheap advance tickets are available for the journey of your choice.
Booking flights in advance is something that most people do. However, they often do not think about when they book, but just do so when they are planning their travel. However, flight tickets do fluctuate in price depending on how close to the journey it is. Usually when booking flights from the UK it is cheapest to book seven weeks before you fly, however, this will vary depending on your destination. If you are going further they you may need to book further in advance to get cheaper tickets.
Consider a Season Ticket
On some train operators and bus operators it is possible to get a season ticket. These will be really expensive but if you use them for enough journeys they can save you a significant amount of money. You will have to pay all of the money up in advance, but if you commute by train or bus, then it can be well worth looking into. Do some calculations, work out how much you will be able to save and see whether you think that it is worth paying out in advance for.
It is not always possible to choose which company you travel with. If you want to take a journey on a specific route at a specific time, then it is likely that only one bus, rail or airline company will be offering that journey. However, if you are prepared to be flexible, then you may get more of a choice. With bus companies, you may only have one local operator and the same could be true for trains, although there will be some exceptions that are worth checking out. With flights you will find that there is more choice and you could make significant savings depending on who you pick.
There are some airlines that are well known for being cheap and you may just assume that you should fly with them. However, it is always worth doing a price comparison rather than making assumptions as you never know exactly what the prices will be. The cheaper companies also tend to be more restrictive in what luggage you can take, meals provided and flight freebies, so make sure you know whether you will have to pay extras and what for. They have to make their money somewhere after all!
There are websites that you can use which will compare the prices of different airlines when you put in the details of the flight that you want to make. This can be very useful, but it may be wise to then check on that airlines website as you may get an even better deal.
Consider a Package
If you are travelling some distance and using a hotel and/or hire car then it could be worth looking into a package. It can be possible to book train or bus and hotel packages through travel operators as well as flight, hotel and car hire packages. Sometimes a package may be dearer but they could save you a lot of money, so it is always worth checking. Go to several different travel operators as they may have different deals available.
Use Voucher Codes / Cashback Offers
When you book your tickets then it is wise to use any voucher codes or cashback offers that are available. A voucher code is a discount code that you can type in online when you make a purchase and will allow to get some money off the purchase price. If you use a search engine to type in the name of the company you are buying from and the words ’ discount code’, you will be directed to any codes that are available. If you are buying in person, then you may find that there are vouchers available but this is much rarer. If you are spending a lot of money it is worth a quick search online, just in case.
Cashback works slightly differently. There are some websites which will give you cashback when you buy through certain companies if you click through the link on their site. They usually have a big selection to choose from and this can include airlines, travel operators and many other companies that you may be purchasing through. You could get a percentage of your spend back or a lump sum off the price if you are lucky. You will find that with these sites, you have to earn a minimum amount before you can cash out. This can be as little as £1 though, which if you are buying flights, you are very likely to get and so well worth trying for. If you have a cashback credit card then use it to book with and you will make back even more money, but make sure that you pay it back in full so you do not end up paying interest on the purchase.
Check Price Between Single & Return
It is wise to check whether a return ticket is cheaper. This may sound odd, but there are some circumstances, particularly with train and air travel, where it could be cheaper to buy two single tickets rather than a return ticket. This is rare, but it is easy to check on most price comparison tools and so worth glancing at.