How to travel around England on a budget
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Travelling on a budget? You don't need us to tell you that getting from A to B can cost megabucks these days - even if you're going no further than England's borders. But with our handy tips, you can cut the cost of family trips and holidays dramatically. It just takes a little bit of know-how....
Bag yourself the best fares
Coach travel is very often cheaper than travelling by train, and you can up your chances of finding a bargain by using National Express's online low fare finder to nab one of their limited cut-price FunFares. Key in your location and you'll automatically be given all the routes with availability.
Book a special
Keep a lookout for special deals offered for big sports fixtures, gigs and events. Some tickets include the price of admission, too.
Take the Megabus
No-frills coach company Megabus (and its sister company Megatrain) has a growing army of fans and offers fares from as little as £1 – snap up a bargain online now.
Hire in time
Book early to get the best rates and think carefully about what size car you need. Stuart Liddle, head of car-hire firm Budget UK, says: 'A large estate car will cost you more to hire and use far more petrol.' He adds: 'If you're planning a driving holiday, consider renting a GPS, which will help you take the most direct route to sights and locations. It will also prevent you from getting lost and using more fuel.'
Alternatively, hire a car from one of your neighbours. You can register for free at whipcar.com to check out rates and cars available near you.
Save on petrol
The harder you press your foot on the accelerator the more fuel flows, so get into the habit of keeping your revs under 3,000. You can also keep petrol and diesel costs down by finding the best deals wherever you are. Try registering for free at petrolprices.com: just punch in the postcode or town wherever you happen to be to find the cheapest local fuel prices.
Avoid the extra mileage, hassle and expense of city-centre parking by taking advantage of park-and-ride car schemes. Most offer free parking and reasonable fares into town. You'll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping to ease congestion in overcrowded town centres. Visit parkandride.net for more.
Eat on the cheap
Stops at in service stations can quickly bump up the cost of your journey. Take a packed lunch instead, and look online for picturesque stops along your route. You'll find canal-side beauty spots minutes from the motorway at waterscape.com.
Watch the clock
Booking well ahead of time helps to keep the price of train tickets down. But how far ahead? Take the guesswork out by keeping an eye on National Rail's advance ticket chart. This gives you the latest possible travel dates for all the different train companies, so bookmark it now!
Split your rail ticket
Don't assume that a return ticket to your final destination is the cheapest way to travel. It may be annoying, but it can be cheaper to split your ticket. If, for example, you are travelling from London to Newcastle via Peterborough, you may be better off buying one return to Peterborough then another from Peterborough to Newcastle. Your train must stop at the in-between destination, but you don't actually have to alight there.
Travel off peak
Sounds obvious, but most of us don't think to do it. Travelling on trains that are less busy makes for cheaper tickets, so try to time your journey accordingly. Peak times tend to be mornings and evenings Monday to Friday but exact times vary so check with your ticket agent.
Remember your railcard
Costing £26 for one year (or £65 for three years), a Family & Friends Railcard saves you 1/3 off adult and 60 per cent off kids' fares around Britain. You just need to travel with a child aged between five and 15 to be eligible.
Be a wild rover
Rover and ranger tickets allow you to travel by train as much as you like during a set period, usually within the same region. So, for example, Chiltern Railway's Shakespeare Explorer includes outward and return journeys from London Marylebone to Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway or Stratford-upon-Avon then unlimited travel to and from all stations between Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon once you're there. A four-day ticket costs £45 for adults and £22.50 for children. Bear in mind that you may not be able to use railcards for some rover tickets.
AND DON'T FORGET YOUR BIKE!
Two wheels good...
If your train or coach doesn't go directly to your destination, think about finishing your journey by bike. Most rail companies will take bikes for free (although you may need to reserve a space in advance), while National Express will carry folding bikes that have a protective cover.
For more budget ideas, don't miss our feature, Ten ways to cut the cost of your next holiday!