I had a great (and slightly crazy!) day out this week. I'd always wanted to travel the East Coast Main Line north of York, I think Michael Portillo's programmes have inspired me but I didn't want to get off the train: it was the countryside I wanted to see and besides, I rather like train travel. My journey was (sort of) free but I decided to look at the pricing.
My nearest station to this line is Newark and usually I would drive to Newark and board there. I wanted to travel first class because I need leg room and it is fun to eat at one's seat. Meals are complimentary in first class on this line. So I started to look at prices.
An open first class return ticket is £366 ! No way!!
So the first trick is to advance book. The train I chose (which was the cheapest that day) was £45.50 each way.
Next apply my Senior Citizen Railcard and the fare drops to £30.50 each way. Suddenly the cost of my day out is looking much more reasonable at £61, less than 17% of the full fare.
But let's take it a step further. Tesco vouchers can be swapped for Red Spotted Hanky vouchers. £5 Tesco buys £10 Red Spotted Hanky. My fare is now just £30.50!
What else can I trim? As I said above I usually drive to Newark and pay £14 for a day's parking on top of the cost of the drive. However, I have discovered that a connecting train from my local station is free if I have booked main line travel so I saved £14 plus the cost of the drive as someone drove me to the station in case I needed help boarding at our unmanned station
And it was a wonderful journey. I had booked disabled assistance at Newark and Edinburgh so my transfers were easy. I had a delicious breakfast, a tasty lunch and an unending supply of coffee, all included in my fare.
So my trip cost me just £30 in Tesco vouchers plus £2.50 for ticket postage and booking fee. Not bad for a great day out.
PS Tesco vouchers can also be used to purchase a railcard.