Hopping in the car might seem far less hassle than catching the train, but you might be missing a trick by steering clear of the railways.
Here’s how to work the trains in your favour:
1. Always book in advance
You don’t want to end up standing in the aisle or sitting on the floor by the toilets because you forgot to book a seat. Booking in advance is not only cheaper, but means you can secure a coveted window seat and avoid a mad panic to be first in line on the platform.
2. Sign up for alerts
National Rail and Trainline offer alerts services where you sign up, plugging in specific destinations you’re planning to travel to. Three months before your travel date – which is when the cheapest tickets go on sale – they’ll send you an email telling you it’s time to book. You’ll then get the pick of fares and seats.
3. Get a railcard
Railcards are not just for students. Families, seniors, couples, friends and members of the armed forces can all get one, and there are certain regional ones available too.
Better yet, with railcards you can get discounts on attractions, theatre tickets and UK holiday destinations, including 20% off all full price Virgin Experience Days.
4. Try first class…
Believe it or not, sometimes it makes perfect sense to upgrade. You can bump yourself up to first class for as little as £5 on some routes, and – particularly on Virgin trains – can make that back instantly by taking advantage of the free on-board catering. Virgin even serve hot meals as well as sandwiches, snacks and hot, cold and alcoholic drinks.
5. …Or sit as near to it as you can to pick up the wi-fi
If you can’t afford the luxury of first class, make sure to bag a seat as near to the first-class carriage as possible – that way you’ll still be able to make use of the free wi-fi.
6. Get an upgrade during busy times
First-class seats are often left empty, but when a train is rammed or overbooked, some kindly train operators will allow non-first-class ticket holders to use the empty seats. Make sure to hover by the carriage to get picked.
7. Avoid the carriage with the toilet
If you want a journey that doesn’t smell, pick a seat away from the one that has the toilet – it means you’ll get the combined benefits of fresh air and a chance to stretch your legs if you do need to go and use the loo.
8. Take the scenic route
Don’t be in such a hurry and take the scenic route instead. Your train will be less crowded, cheaper, the views more beautiful and you can make the journey into part of your trip rather than just a means to an end.
9. Don’t always go for the table seat
If you’re planning to work on the train, or you just like having the space to read a newspaper properly, it makes sense to rush for a table seat. But if you have long legs, it might not be the best plan. The comfiest, most spacious seats are often those on the aisle of a two-seater – and remember, you’ll feel less travel sick if you face the way the train is going.
10. Which seat is safest?
Aisle seats are also considered safer than window seats, while the first and rear carriages are often the most dangerous in the case of collisions.