Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
5 tips for a good journey
- Double-check bus and train times, especially the last one home
- Allow plenty of time to get to your bus or train
- Make sure you’re waiting on the right side of the road for the bus
- Don’t forget mac/brolly, comfy shoes, good book and cash for bus
- Smartphone is handy to check times and maps or rustle up a taxi
More top tips for smoother and cheaper travel…
The train is the ultimate day-off transport. Sit back, relax and watch the landscape roll by. You can drink a coffee, read a book and use your phone without risking arrest (you might risk a tut if you shout “I’m on the train”).
10 top tips for a good journey by train
- Check for advance (cheaper) tickets online – available as late as the night before if they haven’t been snapped up – buy online and collect at the station (you’ll need the booking reference and payment card).
- If you’d rather not be tied to specific trains, or there’s not much difference in price, you can buy an ordinary day return ticket at the station on the day (see ‘Tickets on-the-day’ tab).
- Bus, bike, walk or taxi to the station to avoid parking worries and enjoy the full car-free experience.
- Allow plenty of time to buy/collect your ticket and get to the right platform.
- If you’re super organised pack a flask or a picnic, or you can bag a ‘meal deal’ from shops on bigger stations.
- Once on board, you can usually find empty seats by walking up the train.
- Trains often have free wi-fi, a quiet coach, refreshment trolley and loos.
- If you’re changing trains you can check which platform numbers on the National Rail app, or ask the guard.
- Double-check times of trains home.
- On the way back you can enjoy a drink or a snooze (don’t try these while driving).
Buses have come a long way in the last few years – newer buses have comfy seats, air con and free wi-fi (though in some areas you can still enjoy the no-frills retro experience!). So why not take your eyes off the road and enjoy the view over the hedges from the top deck instead. And you’ll be free to sample local tipples and to snooze on the way home. Another big plus of the bus or train is that you can do a linear walk without having to go back and pick up the car at the end.
10 top tips for a good journey by bus
- Plan your journey on Traveline – where you can plan door-to-door journeys and print off timetables. Jot down your bus route number.
- Once out and about, you can check bus times on nextbuses.mobi or using the UK Bus Checker app.
- Get to the stop a few minutes early and make sure you’re waiting on the right side of the road.
- Look out for the route number on the front of the bus and stick your hand out to stop it.
- Buy your ticket from the driver – you’ll usually need to pay in cash (£20 notes can cause a kerfuffle), although contactless is starting to pop up in some areas.
- If you’re making more than one journey in a day, it may be cheaper to buy a day rover ticket – ask the driver.
- If you’re 65 or over (60 in Wales and Scotland) you can get a bus pass from the council and ride for free!
- Ask the driver or a local to let you know when you reach your stop, or use a map app to follow your journey. Some buses (mostly in cities) now have handy displays and announcements for the next stop.
- Press the ‘stop’ button when you want to get off.
- Ask the driver where you’ll need to wait for the bus home.
For the full car-free experience, start your day out by cycling to the train or bus and save pounds on parking. Or make the bike the main attraction and explore the quiet lanes and paths of the National Cycle Network – some cycle routes along canals or disused railways are hill-free.
5 top tips for a good journey by bike
- Leave your bike locked at the station or take it on the train…
- Bikes go free on most trains, if there’s space, but on some services you have to book.
- If you’re keen to take a bike on the train more often, it’s worth thinking about a folding bike.
- There’s a growing network of Bike&Go and Brompton cycle hire points at stations, as well as lots of local cycle hire shops.
- You don’t have to wear lycra, cycling is for everyone!
There’s nothing like stepping out of your front door and heading off on a car-free adventure (fuelled only by Weetabix!). And walking a mile or so at the other end of your journey is a great way to take in the sights, sounds and scents of a new place – a more memorable way to reach a castle, a cove or a café…
5 top tips for a good journey on foot
- No need for any special gear, just some comfy shoes and a mac or brolly (well this is the British Isles).
- It’s also worth taking a small daysack for snacks and souvenirs.
- Attractions on this website have a handy map of the walking route from the nearest bus or train stop. Or to go more free-range, pick up an OS map or download a map app.
- There may be a back way into an attraction saving you a long walk round (phone and ask), or sometimes it’s worth a longer walk for a quieter or prettier route.
- Always allow plenty of time to make it back to your bus or train.
Travelling (or doing anything) with kids can be a nightmare, but trains are often much better than cars because you can move about – the kids aren’t strapped in and you’re not craning round to reach them – you can walk about to soothe a sleepy little one or go exploring with an energetic three-year-old…
15 tops tips for a good journey with kids
- Book in advance to make sure you have a seat and preferably a table for train picnics, games, cards or colouring.
- Advance booking can also throw up some cheap first class fares, which might be worth looking out for. Some trains offer a “weekend upgrade” for £10 each.
- Up to two under-fives travel free on most routes with an adult. But since the free tickets don’t include a seat reservation, for long or busy journeys you might decide to buy a ticket for them all the same (you can use a family railcard).
- You don’t have to be related to use a Family & Friends Railcard. As long as one named cardholder and a kid are travelling together, you can bring along any three other adults (34% off) and three other children (60% off). If you buy a 3-year railcard online for £70, you can use it until your child turns 17.
- Some companies offer family tickets, like Abellio Greater Anglia’s cheap family travelcard for days out in London.
- Try to avoid peak times. Extra seats for napping toddlers can make things much more peaceful.
- And allow plenty of time for any changes between trains.
- A few little snacks and drinks will help keep costs down and ensure you’ve got something they’ll like.
- Small books and other lightweight entertainments (and/or game ideas) are crucial. From iPad apps to good old eye-spy, distraction is key. Collins publishes a pocket i-SPY On a train journey for £2.99.
- Although provisions are important, don’t overload yourself. There’s nothing worse than struggling up and down station stairs with kids and too many bags. Rucksacks leave hands free and if you can manage at your destination without a pushchair (or borrow one), you might want to travel with a sling or baby carrier instead, especially on the tube. Bigger kids can take some things themselves in a little daypack.
- A lot of trains have baby-changing-friendly loos. Bring your usual kit, but keep it minimal.
- Use the wi-fi to help entertain them (free on some trains) or bring pre-downloaded films. For sound, some little headphones are handy (you can buy a splitter so two headphones plug into one devise).
- The shops on Virgin trains have free activity bags for kids with puzzles, crayons and things (they’ll also warm up baby food for you).
- Some treats to use as last-resort bribes might be useful.
- As they get older, train journeys give you uninterrupted time to hang out with kids who’re otherwise busy with their own lives.
Seat 61 (European travel)
Train tickets on-the-day
How to find cheaper train tickets without booking weeks ahead…
For a shorter-distance day trip it’s often simplest to buy an ‘Off-Peak’ day-return ticket on the day. For longer trips (over about 50 miles) it’s worth looking into ‘Advance’ tickets (see ‘Tickets in-advance’ tab)
3 top tips
- Get a railcard and save around 33% on most tickets. If you’re under 26, a couple, a family, or over 60, you’ll be quids in with a railcard. Buy online at railcard
- Search online to find the cheapest ticket for your journey. You can check times and prices on nationalrail.co.uk and then buy at the station, or buy online
- Check for split-tickets if you’re doing a longer journey, it can be cheaper to buy more than one ticket – find out at trainsplit.com
Advance tickets are available until 6pm the day before, or even on the day (if not sold out). These are often the cheapest tickets, sold as singles, and are only valid on the booked train.
Off-peak tickets are the cheapest on-the-day tickets. They are generally available after 0930 Monday to Friday and anytime at weekends.
Anytime tickets are the most expensive (and most flexible), but for shorter journeys, especially with a railcard, they can be fine.
There are other ways to hunt down cheap tickets for longer-distance journeys – mostly by booking ahead – see ‘Tickets in-advance’ tab.
National Rail (for times)
Rail Europe (for tickets)
Train tickets in advance
Tops tips for bagging the cheapest tickets for longer journeys…
If you’re doing a shorter day trip (under about 50 miles) it’s often simplest to buy on the day (see ‘Tickets on-the-day’ tab). But for longer journeys, if you know your travel plans in advance, you can save 50% or more by booking ahead.
5 Tops tips
- Get a railcard and get 1/3 off most tickets (some peak-time restrictions). There are railcards for under 26s, couples, families and over 60s. Find out more at railcard
- Book well ahead for the cheapest ‘Advance’ tickets. These are released about two months ahead*, commit you a specific booked train, and are non-refundable.
- Book a bit ahead and you may still save. Advance tickets (if not sold out) are still available until 6pm the day before, or sometimes even on the day of travel, so it’s always worth checking.
- Search online for the best fares. You can avoid booking fees by using any of the train companies own websites (they all sell the same tickets) or Rail Europe
- Pick up your tickets from any station ticket machine/office (free and handy for late bookings) – you’ll need a payment card and booking reference number.
Other money-saving tricks
- Be flexible about when you travel – you can find cheaper tickets by avoiding peak rush-hour times and holiday dates.
- Take the slow train if you’re not in a rush – you may get a cheaper fare by choosing a different company (especially to/from London) or a slower route.
- Search city to city if you can’t find a cheap Advance ticket for your whole journey. Try searching for the main part, between two cities, and get separate tickets for the local bits.
- Split-tickets Strangely, it can sometimes be cheaper buy separate tickets for bits of your journey (but stay on the same train) – you can check for this at Trainsplit.com.
- GroupSave offer gives 1/3 off many ‘Off-Peak’ (not ‘Advance’) tickets for a group of 3 to 9 people travelling together – Rail Europe automatically applies this saving.
National Rail (for times)
Rail Europe (for tickets)