Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Combining travel discounts

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Tomorrow we’re off to the Trafford Centre to buy a washing machine. You may wonder why we’re travelling all the way to the far side of Manchester for something that we could buy more easily locally. As it happens, we have loads of John Lewis gift vouchers left over from our wedding, plus some more from completing online surveys from Valued Opinions and Ipsos i-Say, so in all it’ll work out cheaper. And we’ll be making a day of it.

Because we don’t drive, we’ll be taking public transport – a train to Manchester, and then a bus, as the trams haven’t made it that far yet. In all, this would normally cost around £30 – £21 for return train tickets and around £8-10 for the bus tickets. But, by combining discounts, we got the lot for £12. Here’s how:

Two Together Railcard

Because Christine and I travel together by train a lot, we have a Two Together railcard, which means we get a third off almost all train fares provided we buy the tickets at the same time and travel together. It costs £30 a year, although there are plenty of discount codes bringing it down to £27, and you can exchange Tesco Clubcard vouchers for one as well.

It’s one of the newer railcards, having been launched last year, and we’re on our second card. We got our money’s worth on one journey alone, when we went to Nottingham, and use it regularly.

Advance purchase tickets

Northern Rail, who operate the trains between us and Manchester, have only recently introduced discounted advanced purchase tickets on some routes. If bought before 6pm the previous day, you can get a significant discount on the cost of tickets versus buying them on the day. By buying advanced purchase tickets with our railcard, we got the price of our train travel down from £21 to £8 – not bad.

Plusbus

Plusbus is a not particularly well-known add-on for train tickets, that allows you to purchase discounted bus travel at your destination. You buy it as part as of the same transaction as your train tickets, and it essentially gives you unlimited bus travel at your destination for one day, on participating routes and operators.

I’ll be honest – this weekend will be the first time we’ll be using it, and I’m still not 100% convinced that it will be accepted on the buses that run between Manchester city centre and the Trafford Centre. But, it only cost an additional £2 per ticket, thanks to a special offer that is only running this month, so if it doesn’t then we’re only out of pocket by £4.

Additional discounts

We bought the tickets online at First Transpennine Express, even though we won’t actually be travelling with them at all. I chose them for three reasons:

  1. They offer Nectar points at a rate of 2 points for every pound spent on train travel, so I earned 16 points for the £8 spent on the train tickets. I can then use these points for money off cinema tickets or shopping, for example.
  2. They offer cashback via Quidco (referral link) – it’s only 1%, but that effectively saves a further 12p off the cost.
  3. There are no additional booking, card or postage fees – you just pay for travel.

Disadvantages

The only downside to choosing an advanced purchase ticket is that it restricts us to travelling on certain trains. If we miss these trains, or want to vary our travel plans, then the tickets will no longer be valid and we’d need to buy new ones, probably at full price. Buying on the day costs more, but at least the tickets are fully flexible.

Normally one advantage of buying an advanced purchase ticket is that you also get a confirmed seat reservation as well. Northern Rail don’t offer seat reservations (despite running some long distance services) so the only real advantage of buying tickets in advance is the lower cost. Other operators do include seat reservations, so you could have two passengers: one who paid, say, £12 and got a guaranteed seat, and another who paid £80 on the day and who may have to stand.

And finally, before you ask – we’ll be having the washing machine delivered. I don’t think we’d get it home on public transport.

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