I like to think of myself as a fairly seasoned train traveller. I find that trains are easiest mode of transport if you don’t have access to a car, and sometimes it can be cheaper and quicker than hitting the motorways anyway.
I tend to get the train to and from university, so I’ve got to make it from East Anglia to West Yorkshire and vice versa. After many trips like this over the past couple of years, along with many a jaunt down to London, I’ve become somewhat of an expert on how to survive train journeys.
The three things I can’t speak more highly of are railcards, Oyster cards and advance booking systems. They save so much money and I don’t know where I would be without mine. I have a 16-25 railcard which saves me 1/3 on journeys and this retails for £30 for a year, or £70 for three years. I actually got mine for free with my student bank account and it lasts for four years, saving me a minimum of £100. There are also a variety of other railcards such a ‘Two Together’ railcard, or a ‘Family & Friends’ railcard, so a lot of people do have access to some sort of train discount. My Oyster card is perfect for if I have to pack in a few trips across London in a day, plus it makes me feel like a proper Londoner when I whip it out to get through the gate in a tube station. However, it is worth working out how much it would cost to add a day travelcard to your ticket to London as I’ve had experiences where it is cheaper than using my Oyster. Advance tickets are a lifesaver, especially as a student. If I were to book an anytime ticket home from university, it could cost as much as £41 for a single, and that’s with a railcard. I tend to spend between £15 and £30 on two singles with advance tickets which is a significant saving. It is also great that some train companies (Virgin East Coast and First Transpennine Express are the ones which I am aware of) allow you to collect Nectar points if you book tickets on their websites before travelling. You can also spend Nectar points to get discount off travel so I’m saving mine up to get a significant saving on a pricey journey.
For me, the most important thing once you’re on board is comfort, especially if it’s a journey which is either going to be busy with commuters or a particularly long journey. For this I make sure I’m wearing comfortable clothes and always have a bottle of water on hand. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a sweaty train in the height of summer and you being unable to get a drink. Sure, some trains have trolleys or food bars but they charge through the nose for them when you could pay next to nothing if you bring it from home. If I’m going on a journey which will last more than an hour or two, I like to have snacks. Whether they’re healthy or utter junk, I always buy these before I get on the train as, like water, it’s so much cheaper to do it this way.
Staying fresh is something else I find to be fairly important. For instance, you don’t want to have spent a day somewhere, have makeup running down your face and your hands full of grime. I always keep some makeup wipes on me (which I exclusively use when travelling), as well as some hand sanitiser and tissue. I just feel a lot more comfortable knowing that I can freshen up if I need to. Little perfume samples are great to throw in your bag too if you need a spritz of fragrance at any point during your journey.
Entertainment wise, I make sure I always have all my technology bits (phone, iPod, iPad etc) fully charged before I get on the train. And here’s a trip for Virgin East Coast users – reserve an odd numbered seat and you’ll get use of a plug socket to keep your essentials charged throughout the journey. I also like to throw a book and a Sudoku or two into my bag for when I need some time away from a screen. I find that if I have television to catch up on, I can download these in advance to my iPad and the journey flies by. Another thing that I’ve been doing more recently is charging up my portable charger before I head somewhere. I rarely need to use it but it’s nice for a backup. I tend to use it if I’ve not got access to a plug and I need to send a quick text or email, or, more importantly, make a phone call for somebody to pick me up from the station. Mine is just a cheapy from Curry’s and cost £8. It gives one full charge which is enough for me because my iPhone 6 battery is pretty good as far as iPhone batteries go.
Last but not least, upon exiting the train, as least look like you know what you’re doing. If you’re ambling around, people will get annoyed. Especially me. Just make your way out of the station or just get out of the way until us fast folk have moved on and then at least I’ll have a happier journey.
Do you have any travel tips for when you travel by train? Let me know in the comments below.