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Gatwick to York Rail Travel

Hi All!

I'm planning a trip to England, and we plan to head straight to York from Gatwick airport.

We're planning to get there by train and want to be economical in our travel decisions. I've read that purchasing advance tickets are the cheapest route to go. Last time I was in England I only took one trip without a car, and just bought at the station, but the train was quite a bit more than I thought it would be!

Anybody have experience purchasing advance tickets and whether it's a true cost savings? Right now prices are reasonable. My concern with booking an advance ticket is that if my flight is delayed or we get hung up in customs/immigration (forums have said anywhere from 10 min - 3 hours to get through at Gatwick for a 7 AM landing), we could miss our train and be out the money we spent. The opposite is also true, I don't want to purchase a ticket that is four hours later and wind up spending hours at the airport if we make it through quickly.

Anybody have suggestions on best way to book a train when the arrival time could be variable?

I should also mention that we're only taking 3 trains while in England (renting a car while up in York), so purchasing a rail pass doesn't make a ton of sense.

Tips greatly appreciated!

Posted by
4636 posts

Any chance you can re-plan to arrive in Manchester Airport instead? Would make it quicker, easier and cheaper plus advances from there are semi-flexible allowing travelling up to 3 hours late in the event of a delay whereas from Gatwick (or Kings Cross) they are totally fixed.

Posted by
7 posts

Unfortunately, we are locked in for Gatwick.

If I just purchase on the day of do you know if the fares typically increase a lot?

Posted by
16883 posts

Your understanding of the trade-offs is correct - price versus flexible timing. BritRail (whole island) and BritRail England (without Scotland and Wales) Passes are available for three days of travel within a month (from $211 per person, not the consecutive-day version). Whether or not that option "makes sense" depends on the route. Certainly it would allow you flexibility on this leg, which costs £120 (maybe $155) at the Off-Peak rate if you end up buying on the spot.

Posted by
3662 posts

The Man in Seat 61 is the bargain-seeker's best friend, with an enthusiasm for the many complications in schedules that can reduce fares considerably. www.seat61.com

Posted by
6536 posts

Last year we purchased advance tickets, London Kings Cross to York for about £13 per person. That should give you some idea of the magnitude of the savings.

Posted by
2107 posts

Don’t book from Gatwick to York. Just buy a walk-up ticket at Gatwick to St Pancras for £10.70. No need to hang about the airport.

For Kings Cross to York on 20 Sept Advance tickets are currently on sale from £16. As you know this type of ticket locks you in to a particular train and comes with a seat reservation. So it’s your call on which train you commit to.

If you want flexibility buy a Super Off-Peak ticket for £54.50 – these are walk up fares for any train from about 9.00 to about 15.00.

Posted by
4636 posts

Unfortunately, we are locked in for Gatwick.

Ah, so a bit beyond planning and already into booking …

To give the best advice on lowest cost please indicate

  • day of arrival (you give the time)
  • number of travellers and their ages (know more than one)
Posted by
4674 posts

I agree with ramblin'on - book tickets from London to York in advance and get a flexible ticket from Gatwick to St Pancras (still get it in advance if you can, buying a ticket at Gatwick Airport station can be very time-consuming). Then if your flight is on time and you get through Gatwick quickly you can store your luggage in St Pancras station if its too heavy and explore the area around Kings Cross for a while - British Library is worth visiting but be aware that they are very strict on not allowing large luggage, due to a history of tourists abusing their own luggage storage facilities and filling them up so much that actual library users couldn't use the cloakrooms.

Posted by
8889 posts

get a flexible ticket from Gatwick to St Pancras (still get it in advance if you can, buying a ticket at Gatwick Airport station can be very time-consuming).

The problem with that is, if you are flying in, you still need to queue up to collect the tickets from the same ticket machines you buy tickets from - no difference.
I came through Gatwick a few weeks ago and had to collect pre-booked tickets. I was amazed to find a queue for the ticket machines. Not just one or two people at each machine, but a full queue with the same zig-zag barriers they use at the check-in and security queues and a man to direct people. I have never seen this anywhere else, even at the biggest stations.
It took about 10 minutes to reach the machine. I nearly missed my train, I was rushing down the stairs as it was about to depart. My ticket was valid on any train, but the next would have been 1 hour later.

Posted by
4636 posts

Indeed. Getting or collecting a ticket on arrival at Gatwick is a miserable experience these days. However, to London at least if you have contactless payment (card or phone) you can use this directly and not have to join the scrum.

Posted by
7 posts

This is all wonderful advice!

We get in on October 9th at about 7 AM (assuming the flight goes smoothly without delay -it is a non-stop direct flight at least!).

This is my second time to London, so I am at least familiar with St. Pancras and King's Cross. We have never flown in and out of Gatwick!

Right now I'm thinking the rail pass may provide the most flexibility and while it would save us $100+ to advance book tickets, having flexibility is probably worth the expense of the rail pass to ensure we can just pop on whichever trains, but I'm still mulling over the suggestions here to make a final call. Luckily, I think based on the information I got from the website given above I think I can probably wait a couple weeks to book without consequence so I do have some time to think it over.

Thanks so much everybody!

Posted by
4636 posts

The reason I asked on numbers was to see if any of the railcards, or group arrangements could work out for you - especially with your other trips which you haven't I think detailed.

Posted by
7 posts

Awe yes, we have a rental car while in Yorkshire so won't need trains up there. We will return it once we're done in the north.

Will need a train to get back to London and then we plan to take one more day-trip via trains while we're in London. We plan to be in London for three days. Works out to needing Train from Gatwick to London, London to York, York to London, one round-trip undetermined side-trip (thinking the south, seven sisters maybe, but possibly north to Colchester - we have a short-list of about 9 excursion ideas), and one return ticket to Gatwick from London.

Works out to 6 train tickets over 4 days during the duration of our stay. If we go railpass it seems to make sense to purchase a 3 day flexible pass and then just buy the return ticket to Gatwick in advance? Our plane back to the states is around 9:30 on the 19th. Not enough time to take advantage of a 4th day on a rail pass.

Posted by
898 posts

Hi WATheresa -

One advantage of pre booking your LNER (London to York and return) tickets in advance is that you can also at least reserve a seat. All the East Coast trains seem to be well filled and the terms and conditions of a ticket don't guarantee you a seat (reading the small print you're not absolutely guaranteed a train either, but that's just some backside covering I think).

It's not to say you won't find any unreserved seats but you may not be able to sit together, or face in the direction of travel you prefer and your chances of getting a table seat are practically zero.

You may of course reason that flexibility is more important than comfort and that you've already been sat on an airplane for rather a long time, but I think it's more comfortable to be seated on the train as well!

Just a thought!

Hope you have a grand time in my neck of the woods!

Ian