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Advance rail purchases: online vs at station

Hello there!

I will be traveling by train through England (and Wales). Using "two together" rail card and advance anytime tickets, is it better to book all at once or each journey separately from my current location? Once at Heathrow, I will be purchasing my rail card there and thought to make maximum use of my time while at the station. Using the advice previously garnered from additional RS inquires, I am not interested in purchasing a rail pass as the cost of two passes will exceed the total of individual tickets required for my itinerary.

Thank you,


Posted by
3956 posts

Some train tickets, like some budget airline fares, can be far cheaper purchased in advance. Some can be printed at home; some require attendance at a train station. And some will allow you to indicate a seat preference, presumably with better availability early on. So there is no one answer. It is always reassuring to go to to see if he has any guidance. A recent experience at one of the Heathrow stations suggests it is a busy place but the customer representatives worked hard to keep the line moving and give the customer a good choice of fares.

Posted by
533 posts

There is no such thing as an "advance anytime ticket." Tickets are either advance (purchased in advance, valid only for a specific train, and sometimes much cheaper than the alternatives) or anytime (available for purchase up until the moment the train leaves, valid for any train, but quite expensive).

Can you clarify what you want? If what you want are anytime tickets, there's no benefit to buying them in advance, other than the few minutes you might save waiting in line at the station. If you want advance tickets, obviously you need to buy them in advance - and the farther in advance, the better, as the cheapest fares often sell out quickly.

Posted by
2424 posts

You need to be clear on the terminology.

If you want to buy Advance tickets they must be purchased in advance of travel (whether online, by telephone or at a station). They are sold in limited numbers and are subject to availability. In general, the further ahead you book, the cheaper the Advance fare will be. I think they must be bought before 6pm prior to your day of travel, though not 100% sure on this.

If you just want to buy Anytime tickets then just buy on the day or you can buy prior to travel - there's no cost saving.

Plus, you won't be buying your card at Heathrow as it doesn't have a National Rail station. Yo need to go somewhere like Kings Cross or Victoria etc.

Posted by
31507 posts

yup, not at Heathrow to buy a railcard.

Advance and Anytime are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are Off-Peak singles and Off-Peak returns, for off-peak travel on one day out or out and return.
And Off-Peak period (30 day) returns.
And Super Off Peak singles and period returns (with extra tight restrictions but a very low price).

And regional tickets and rovers and rangers.

Posted by
5249 posts

There are now machines at Heathrow that allow you to collect pre-booked rail tickets situated close to the Heathrow Express ticket desks in each terminal. There is no facility to buy a railcard though.

Posted by
92 posts

Ah Ha!

Now I see the possibilities. More research….

Dependent on which rail companies offer accommodations to my varied destinations, I must first determine their requirements.
Got it.

I will be selecting standard class on all but one.

For one who does not live her life on a schedule, this will be an education!

Furthermore, is it my understanding that I must journey from Heathrow to either Victoria Station or Kings Cross Station to purchase my rail card and first day's fare to my hotel in London?

Many thanks to all for the information.


Posted by
31507 posts

Furthermore, is it my understanding that I must journey from Heathrow
to either Victoria Station or Kings Cross Station to purchase my rail
card and first day's fare to my hotel in London?

Not exactly. Or not entirely.

You cannot get a Railcard at Heathrow because it does not have a National Rail station.

You can get one at any staffed National rail station. Kings Cross or Victoria are possibilities, certainly, as major terminals, but so is Paddington, St Pancras, Vauxhall, or any of the dozens of other (for the moment) staffed train stations. Just not at TfL (Underground) stations or Heathrow.