You might have seen in my recent post How I traveled and stayed in Edinburgh for under £100 that one of the biggest way that I saved money was grabbing return tickets from London to Edinburgh for £30 return. I also mentioned in the post that I was hoping to grab some tickets for Glasgow next time the sale came around and I am happy to say I grabbed a return from London to Glasgow yesterday morning for £28, even cheaper than Edinburgh!
Now this is in no way sponsored by Virgin Trains or Virgin East-Coast or anything like that (although if you are reading this Richard Branson feel free to hit me up!) I have just spent a lot of time trying to hunt down good train ticket deals. I’ve moved around a lot and that means I have friends from all over the country and was in a long distance relationship for many years with no car until we moved in together this year. Basically I have spent a lot of time finding ways to get the cheapest train tickets, so I just thought I’d share a few ways to make the most out of Virgin’s regular Seat sales.
Be prepared that the deals might only be one way
This is something I have found a lot with the deals that aren’t plastered on the front page or are in peak times. Sure you can get that killer ticket one way but on the way back the other way there might not be any cheap tickets for the same or next few days. You either need to pay the normal full fare or stay a bit longer and get the cheaper choices in a few days time.
Get an early heads up
Normally I find out about the sale through their email newsletter or twitter, but this time I actually get a heads-up a day ahead of time because of the Martin’s Money Fax newsletter. Martin’s Money Fax is a website dedicated to saving money and the email usually contains upcoming offers or deals, this time it mentioned that the sale was starting the next day so I was able to set an alarm and get planning.
Get online at midnight and hang around for their engineers to work their magic
I set an alarm for midnight when the deal was supposed to start because as we all know, the early bird catches the worm! When I jumped on the website actually went down while the deals were set up but it was back up and running within 15 minutes and I was able to be the first to get hunting.
Make a list of where you want to go and when before hand
If you get an idea that a seat sale is coming, or just if you want to be prepared, look at the list of all the stations the train company services and choose places you’d like to head to. Bare in mind you can buy a train ticket for any uk train route on Virgins website, that doesn't mean that it will be a virgin train route, and you won't get a deal if it includes any other trains. Use this station destination link to find where you can go to and from. l Also look at all the dates it is likely you can head away for a day or two so you have a few dates to jump between. Don’t expect to get them all, I only got one from my list this time and a lot of stations might not be part of the deal, but if you have a list of a few places you should come back with at least one under your belt.
Flicking between all the dates and places takes time and is endlessly frustrating, however after years of this I am used to it. Don't give up, just grab a tea and take your time.
Ignore the website when it only wants to give you deals for the next few months
This is a big one and one I fell foul of myself when booking tickets tis time around. When you go on the site and click on one of the deals displayed or use the cheap fare finder it will give you a selection of dates and prices that cover the next 3 or so months. However, if you check sale dates advertised it actually covers a lot longer, in this case two whole months longer. To get these other dates you just need to search using the regular search function. It is a lot more faffy to do and it takes longer to scan dates but you might get dates others didn’t find.
If you want to get the cheaper dates it goes without saying that off peak times will have more availability, as will dates in term time. I still got my trip over a weekend but when I looked in the summer months there was much less availability for the cheapest tickets, or only had the deal going one way.
Don’t forget your rail cards
If you have any kind of railcard discount get it ready, I miss my 18-25 ones so much! I was never off trains when I had one.
Don’t forget your Nectar Card or Virgin Frequent Flyer points
I didn’t have mine ready so I missed out on collecting my Nectar points and I hadn't realised you could collect Virgin Frequent Flyer points with the train! I have an account from when I went to Florida so this might have been quite a handy help build them up.
So there you have just a few of my tips, happy hunting!