Driving Home For Christmas may be one of the most festive songs of the season, but it really doesn’t take into account the hassles of leaving the car at home and travelling by train for Christmas. Our Christmas travel tips can help you leave the car parked up and let the train take the strain this Christmas.

Christmas travel tips to leave the car behind

While most people will clog the motorways and struggle through traffic jams and snarled roads during the festive season, a huge number of people are turning to rail to get home or see relatives. And while trains will be running over Christmas, you can take on the crowds with our 9 travel hacks to get the best from your rail journey.

Make sure that you bookmark travel sites such as National Rail, which provides up-to-date information on train times. There’s a handy app version for smartphones, too, which will let you know if your train is running late.

The stress of Christmas getting you down? Read Wise Living’s guide to a stress-free Christmas.

9 Christmas travel tips for travelling by train

1. Book your Christmas train early

Booking cheap train tickets up to 12 weeks in advance could save you anything up to 80% on the standard cost of walk-up tickets. If you’ve already left it too late, check out a cheapest fare finder website (like raileasy.co.uk) to try to save some pennies. It’s the best option if you don’t need to travel at a specific time.

2. Avoid travelling during rush hour or on Christmas Day

Avoid travelling by train on Christmas day or during the rush hour
Avoid travelling by train on at peak times, and remember most trains don’t run on Christmas day.

Not everybody knows precisely the difference between anytime tickets, off-peak and super off-peak tickets – and this can cost you.

Anytime tickets are the most flexible, but also the most expensive. Off-peak tickets are way cheaper, but you will need to adapt to specific times, dates, routes or train companies, while super off-peak tickets will be issued for the quietest time of the day and are the cheapest. So when buying tickets online, always check the fare properly.

Most train services don’t run on Christmas day, and there may be limited services on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Some days will see weekend or Sunday services running during the holiday season, so check with your train operator when planning your journey.

Also, be aware of any planned engineering works. Network Rail, which runs the UK’s railways, has a dedicated page that lists planned Christmas rail improvements.

3. Split your train tickets

Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, let’s say from London to Manchester, you could actually save money by splitting your route. So, try to buy a ticket from London to Birmingham, and then another one from Birmingham to Manchester, for example. You could even be sat on the same train for the whole time, as long as the train calls at all the stations you have bought tickets for.

4. Car share

Either with a friend or with a stranger, according to Uber, passengers can save up to 9% of what they would spend on an off-peak train ticket.

Uber Pool allows you to share and split the cost with three other passengers, while BlaBla Car – another car share service – offers daily discounts on specific journeys.

5. Look into flying instead

Weirdly, it can sometimes actually be cheaper to fly. Ryanair offers huge sales for regional flights, or compare flight prices on SkyScanner. Bear in mind though the cost of the train to go to the airport.

6. Settle down on a coach

A top Christmas travel tip is to skip rail altogether. Coaches are really convenient if you don’t have too far to travel and have time to spare, and tend to be considerably cheaper than train fare.

7. Are you eligible for a railcard?

With a 16-25 Railcard, which is £30 a year, students can get 1/3 off most rail fares, but it’s not only youngsters being offered railcards.

There is a railcard designed for the over 60s which gives 1/3 off most Standard and First-Class rail fares for £30 a year, as well as a disabled persons railcard with the same advantages. There’s also the Two Together Railcard which any couple (whether friends, family or in a relationship) can use, as long as you’re travelling together.

8. Wrap up your Christmas presents on the train

Instead of sitting on the coach, car or train and spending two hours just staring out of the window and thinking about how you are wasting your time, why don’t you buy some wrapping paper, tapes and ribbons and wrap up all your presents during the journey? This only works if your gifts are small, and you’re a whizz with pocket-sized sticky tape. Failing that, writing a few last-minute Christmas cards can help pass the time.

9. Remember snacks for longer rail journeys

For long back-home journeys, especially at Christmas, decent snacks are an absolute must. Now we’ve just got to hope for no rail strikes, and no snow until we’re holed up at home…