Rail fares have continued to rise over recent years – up roughly 6% since 2013 – but savvy travellers can save if they book ahead. According to raileasy, passengers can save up to 80% by purchasing their tickets in advance.

So if you’re planning to make a long-distance journey and you can be flexible with your time of travel, buy your tickets as soon as they’re released.

Book 12 weeks in advance

Network Rail is required to release train tickets 12 weeks in advance, and this is the cheapest time to book!

Reserving your seat months ahead, before demand grows, could see you saving tens or even hundreds of pounds.

Book your tickets in stages

If your planned train journey stops at various destinations, rather than buying one ticket for the entire journey, try booking tickets separately from each station your train makes a stop at.

You’ll stay on the one train, for the same amount of time, however you’ll have tickets for each destination along the way, from your first stop to your final destination.

Surprisingly, the price could reduce significantly, whether you buy tickets from each leg of the journey or just one stop along the way.

Advance, anytime or off-peak

There are three main types of tickets: advance, anytime and off-peak.

Knowing the type of ticket you require could save you a substantial sum – here are the pros and cons:

Advance tickets

This type of ticket must be booked ahead for a specific train journey.


  • If you know the exact date and time you want to travel, this is likely to be the most cost-effective option. Always book 12 weeks in advance for the best priced fare.
  • You’ll usually get an automatic seat reservation.


  • If your plans change, you can’t transfer your ticket. Travel is permitted for the one specific time and date.

Anytime tickets

This gives you the flexibility to travel on any train at any time of the day, but it comes at a cost. 


  • You don’t need to book your ticket in advance.
  • You have the freedom to travel at any time.


  • This type of ticket could cost double the price of an advance ticket.
  • There are some restrictions on the date of travel – a day ticket must be used the same day, a single ticket must be used within two days and a return ticket must be used within one month.

Off-peak tickets

Travel is permitted only at specified ‘quieter’ periods.


  • Because you are travelling at a quieter time (usually after 09:30), your ticket will cost less.
  • You can travel any day, for less.


  • You can only travel outward on the day specified, then return within one month.

Save a third with a railcard

If you regularly travel by rail, you might consider purchasing a railcard to save 1/3 on the cost of tickets for a whole year. There are various types of tickets:

  • Two together railcard

For £30, two people travelling together (aged over 16) can get 1/3 off rail travel for one year.

  • 16-25 railcard

Those aged 16-25 or over 25 in full-time education can get 1/3 off rail travel for one year at a one-off cost of £30.

  • Family and friends railcard

Up to four adults, when travelling with up to four children, can pay an annual sum of £30 to get 1/3 off adults’ fares and 60% off children’s fares.

  • Senior railcard

Anyone over the age of 60 can get 1/3 off tickets, for a whole year, for £30.

  • Disabled persons railcard

For £20 a year, people who have a disability that makes train travel tricky can get 1/3 off for themselves plus a friend.

Book early, avoid travelling in rush hour, split your tickets and consider an annual railcard – you’ll be guaranteed to save money on train travel!

If you know when and where you want to go ahead of ticket release, be the first in the queue and set up an alert with Trainline’s ticket alert system – you’ll receive an email alerting you when the cheapest advance tickets are released.









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