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Booking Britrail Pass for 9 students traveling around UK this summer - Need Help!

Good Morning!

My daughter and 8 of her friends (none of them UK citizens) are planning a 2 week trip around England and Scotland this summer.

The itinerary - London-York-Edinbugh-Glascow-Manchester-Liverpool-Stradford upon Avon-London.

They had planned to book Britrail Flixipass for 8 trips.

They are all 17-18 so it looks like the regular youth fare works out cheaper for them then the Saver group fares.

HERE is where I start to get confused.

I wanted to make reservations for them. They arrive in London on June 19th and need to go to York that day. When I try to make a reservation using the Britrail site - I am given only three trains - all leaving early in the morning. BUT if I go to Virgin or other sites I see there are LOTS of trains between London and York on that day.

If they do not have a reservation - is that a problem? On this site I have seen people state that trains to not get "full" and you just jump on and take any vacant seat - is that true? Is that what I should advise them?

I am trying to make the trip as hassle free for the kids as possible and wanted to make the bookings. Is it not really necessary?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by
2505 posts

If you know where you're going and when, then a Britrail pass is probably not the best value for money. Simply buy point to point tickets.

So for London to York one would use the virgineastcoast.com site and buy Advance tickets. These come with a seat reservation.

If the flexibility of a BritRail pass is really wanted then passsholders simply take any train and find a seat. If there are no seats, passengers stand. Seat reservations for Britrail passes used to be made at a station prior to travel (though this may have changed) – but this somewhat negates the point of Britrail’s spur of the moment flexibility.

Of the journeys you mention, Edinburgh to Glasgow and Manchester to Liverpool tickets are simply bought on the day. For the other journeys look for Advance tickets and see how much you could save. This can all be done on the virgineastcoast site so don’t waste time trawling through multiple websites.

Posted by
10 posts

Carol - at first yes because most of the hostels that they thought they would stay at have an 18 year age minimum. However, when we booked Airbnb we were very honest with the owners and all of them were very welcoming. For hotels we will have to send the 17 year olds with letters of authorization for one of the 18 year olds.

If they were all 18 - I think they would have done hostels throughout.

Posted by
10 posts

Ramblin'on - thank you! I just broke it all down and costed it out on the Virgin site. Looks like total cost would be about $196 for all trips vs. about $289 for the 8 day Youth Flexipass.

So we will definately do that!

I will see which ones can be booked in advance and which ones cannot be.

Posted by
2775 posts

I checked on the early booking of the tickets (using Nationalrail.com), all but one of the trips can be booked early with great prices....here’s what came up today, I used the date of June 25th.
London-York £16.00
York-Edinburgh £17.10
Edinburgh-Glasgow £9.30
Glasgow-Manchester £16.00
Manchester-Liverpool £11.50
Liverpool-Stratford-upon-Avon £43.00 this is the one that wasn’t discounted
Stratford-London £7.00

If you know the travel dates I would get on today and book them.

Posted by
5326 posts

You may well have this covered, but for immigration purposes it will have to be documented for those that are 18 that adequate arrangements have made for their travel, reception and care whilst in the UK including confirmation of consent of parent or guardian agreeing to this. Otherwise they will be refused admittance.

Posted by
32735 posts

There are railcards available for £30 pp or £30 per two with Two Together Card if they will pair up and travel in those pairs which can knock off an additional 30% with certain time restrictions and minimum fares but that should help them.

I know you don't want to helicopter and at that age these ones should be able to handle it, if they are going all that distance anyway, but you will know which are the ones who will put the group in peril of missing a train, or leaving something in the hotel or hotel equivalent or leave something on the train or have to stop the process for a bathroom break... these are things that the whole group will have to manage.

Posted by
6113 posts

Eight locations in 2 weeks? They are going to spend longer in transit than seeing places!

Posted by
10 posts

@Marco - do you mean in addition to what they have to prove to get their visas? They will all have round trip tickets. Those who need visas will have them. Some of them are citizens of countries that have visa waiver with the UK. These kids are all experienced international travellers who have grown up living abroad as expats in numerous countries.

Posted by
10 posts

@Jennifer - I know! The benefits of being young I guess - I wouldn't want to do this itinerary but the kids are up for it!

Posted by
10 posts

@Emma - good point. They are all experienced travellers - but, they are also all young. I will explain this to them and see what they collectively agree to do. I had already planned NOT to book trains too early in the morning so the chance of missing it would be less.

Posted by
2403 posts

You wil see a fare of £43 quoted above by ‘Robin Z’ for Liverpool to Stratford-upon-Avon. We can get that down to £17.50 by pre-booking a specific train in advance for £9.50. (That is for *Liverpool South Parkway LPY to Birmingham New Street BHM = the main city centre station). Then they could have a wander around central Birmingham before making their way to Moor Street station for the train to Stratford-upon-Avon > where they purchase on the day a one way off peak single for £8. So, this is much cheaper than buying the through ticket and these are the prices without taking into account any Railcard discount. (The 2 together Railcard for £30 does not allow travel before 9.30am on weekdays). http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46540.aspx

https://www.seat61.com/UK-train-travel.htm

Posted by
5326 posts

If they are under 18 they are legally children and therefore it needs to be clear that they are there with their parents' or guardian's permission and who is caring for them whilst in the UK. The 18+ people in the party would count.

I know 17 year olds by and large don't see themselves as children but the law is what matters.

Posted by
10 posts

@James - thank you that was SUPER helpful!

I have (with all of your help) managed to get the plan down CONSIDERABLY in expenses.

As pointed out - the Flexipass worked out to $289. Booking the trips in advance right now was $227 and if the kids get the 16-25 Railcard it goes down to $163 (including the cost of the Railcard).

Thank you all SO much for your insights!

Posted by
8367 posts

I've purchased the "two together" rail cards before and here are some tips.
1. Print off the application and have it filled out ready to turn in at the first train station to purchase the pass.
2. Have the required pictures with you to save time.
3. It is fine to make advance ticket purchases using the pass before you purchase the pass. Buy your tickets in advance and simply "click" two together pass.
4. Upon arrival go to the manned ticket booth at the train station. Buy the pass and provide the agent with your reservation numbers. He/she will make your pass and print out all your prepaid tickets for you.

Posted by
16893 posts

I think you've heard all the costs and trade-offs now but need to talk to the group. I'd be leery of locking in specific trains two or three months ahead for a group of youths. Even if they have accommodations booked, they'd still have a lot of departures that could work for them in a day. For the first leg, it sounds like you'd also be planning around the flight arrival. If a train is missed, the longer legs of their trip cost as much as 100 pounds per person on the day of travel (Off-Peak rate, but could be reduced to 70 pounds by the Two-together or Youth Cards).

I'd consider the hop-on convenience of the BritRail flexi pass to be more hassle-free, which was your original objective. If you purchase the passes before May 21 (don't leave it until the last day), you'll currently get 9 travel days instead of 8 for the same price. It can also be used on the Heathrow Express or other airport trains if you haven't yet counted those in the equation.

Posted by
10 posts

@Laura - you have predicted the conversation now happening!

Few of the kids don't want to be "tied to a schedule" and a few prefer the cost savings.

Now they will have to make a decision!

Posted by
2403 posts

If you purchase the Young Persons Railcard - that will be £30 for EACH person. If you purchase the 2 Together Railcard - that will be £30 for TWO people. Also consider Group Discounts as booking this way should hopefully mean that they are all seated together:>
http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46506.aspx

I have travelled on trains which have not been the one I was pre-booked to travel on and they have not imposed an additional fare. It really depends on the guy on the train as to whether they would demand extra money for not being on a pre-booked train where a cheap advance ticket has been purchased. It also depends upon the train. If someone pre-booked a cheap ticket for a train leaving at noon (when demand is lower) and ended up on one at 5pm - when demand is high, then they would be more likely to demand more money. Virgin are also likely to be more strict from what I have heard.

The greatest risk to catching the ‘wrong’ train would be to do the trans - Atlantic flight and then immediately the train from Kings Cross to York. It would be prudent to spend that first night in London and then look for a ‘cheap’ train to York the following day. Remember, that as time progresses, the price of ‘Advance' tickets for specific trains rises. However, even buying the day before can still result in lower prices than paying on the day for longer journeys. (For short hops such as Edinburgh to Glasgow and Manchester to Liverpool - might as well pay on the day). Tickets are generally cheaper after 9.30am on weekdays. 11 weeks ahead is probably the best time to look & book the cheap advance fares. Video of London to Edinburgh by train:>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVoWSTHcnmo

Posted by
32735 posts

Passengers should never be advised to break the conditions of carriage even if sometimes the penalty fare is not enforced.

Train Managers (Senior Conductors, Conductors, Guards) are instructed to treat passengers presenting an Advance ticket for the wrong train as traveling with no ticket. That means that the passenger is eligible for a Penalty Fare (fine). Not all companies have Penalty Fare areas, but most do, and not all trains of all operators are Penalty Fare trains, but most are.

If the Train Manager decides as a one-off to allow travel the passenger is lucky.

If they come across me or Revenue Officers on the train they should expect a Penalty Fare and/or removal from the train at the next manned station. Revenue Officers will also take personal identification information and if they believe that a person is wilfully evading a fare may involve the British Transport Police.

If the passengers go to the booking office (ticket office in NorthAmericanspeak) prior to boarding the train Advance tickets can be adjusted upon payment of £10 and the difference in fare at the time. Sometimes the booking office or gate line will endorse the ticket and apply a stamp allowing travel at no charge.

On no account should somebody just get on the train with the wrong ticket.

Posted by
10 posts

Ok so -

Youth Flexipass for 8 days is $288/pp

Group Flexipass for 8 days is $384/pp because it is based on the group being made up of ADULTS (who would otherwise be $480/pp).

Is there a GROUP pass for YOUTH? I can't seem to find one.

Posted by
8889 posts

One thing I don't think has been mentioned so far, your 9 x 17-18 year olds will presumably want to sit together. That is ideally two adjacent blocks of 4 seats (two facing two with a table between). They can then spread and takeover "their" space. For unreserved seats, unless they are absolutely the first people on the train at the starting station, they will find every block of 4 seats has at least one person in it, and most seat pairs also have one person.
When I get on a train, like most people, I look for a pair of totally empty seats if possible, so with luck the seat beside me will be empty.

Without reservations your 9 will find themselves spread out throughout the coach. For families and groups this is a big argument for booking seats on all but the shortest trips.

Posted by
2403 posts

I don’t find the fare system of British trains to be user friendly for longer trips. You are faced with the dilemma of either booking yonks ahead for a specific train(s) at a low price or paying on the day a higher price and having more flexibility. Not wanting to be tied to a journey on a particular day - as a leisure traveller - I will not advance pre-book trains as I only want to travel when the weather is good. As a result I hardly use the trains and they lose my potential business and I contribute to road congestion. This is no way to run a rail system.

What they should do is have peak / off-peak and shoulder fares based on the expected demand for any particular train. That would be far more user friendly without all the terrible outcomes that Nigel suggests could happen to people with pre-booked tickets who fail to make it to their advance booked train. Most major rail routes in Britain have very frequent train services - almost a turn up and go service but without cheap turn up and go fares. So, people with pre-booked tickets for specific trains are left hanging around stations watching earlier trains go to their destinations with empty seats because of this ridiculous system.

If the girls want to find a really cheap way of getting around Britain, they might like to consider Megabus - BUT, journeys will take much longer and they could be caught upon traffic congestion. Most trains run on time.https://uk.megabus.com
They could also consider:>https://www.nationalexpress.com/en

Posted by
32735 posts

I don’t find the fare system of British trains to be user friendly for longer trips.

Couldn't agree more, James. And I see it every day.