Our flight arrives Heathrow at 7 am on August 21. Given the possibilities of plane delays and uncertainties about time in customs, I am reluctant to buy an advance fare, specific time only, train ticket. Even at off-peak times the regular fares seem very high. We are seniors. I noticed some super saver fares at certain times that did not require that you catch a certain train. Is this true? Should I try to buy tickets here before we leave (is there an advantage to doing this?) Thanks for your help.
Sally, London-York trains, and vice versa, run frequently until reasonably late in the evening. Unless you have a pressing need to get to York at a specific time, I'd just suggest padding out that day's schedule with enough hours so you don't miss the train. York trains leave from King's Cross station. It's a busy station where the few seats that are available will almost certainly be taken. If you need to kill serious time, your best bet is a nearby cafe or coffeeshop. If luggage permits, you can walk down the street a couple hundred yards and meander around the glitz of St Pancras station. A of couple blocks beyond that, still on Euston, is the British Library. Pretty sure there's a Left Luggage at King's Cross. You could always park your bags there while you're out killing time. The regulations surrounding rail fares in the UK are huge and hugely infamous. So, when you're looking for the best fare, just ignore that feeling that you really aren't sure you got the best deal. If you can find a decent fare in combination with a little schedule flexibility, I'd say grab it. York station is very near the town center. If you're walking, leave the station and turn left. If not, there's a taxi rank out front. (At the end of such a long day, take the cab! It's easy to get a bit lost; York was laid out well before the grid pattern arrived.)
We did the same thing on our 2010 trip. We bought advance tickets for a train to York - I think it left about 14:30. Since our plane landed at LHR promptly at around 7:00, we had time to fill. We went to Kings' Cross Station, left our luggage at the "left luggage" around the corner (not free, I think that cost us about $20 total for our two suitcases), went to the British Library treasures room (they allowed us to take our carry-on bags in there), then had lunch at St. Pancras (good Italian on 2nd level, next to the kissing goodbye lovers statue.) .....This was on a Sunday, so traffic wasn't too bad - we used the tube, which I do not recommend, it's a lot of hassle when you are jet-lagged and sixtyish.
Since the remodeling of Kings Cross station, the food offerings - especially upstairs on the balcony - are as good as or better than St Pancras. Under one roof then, there are many many choices for decent meals. Everything from Lebanese and Mexican to burgers and Belgian.
Sally, have you heard of the Senior Railcard? ... If you are taking many trains, it will really save you money. Purchasing it online in advance is awkward (I finally gave up) but you can go ahead and book your trains at that discount rate anyway and just buy the railcard when you arrive (at major train stations except Heathrow, so I understand). I booked 5 trains this past weekend and was very impressed by the savings. When searching for trains and rates, look for an optional drop-down to see the lower prices. On this site, for example, http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/planjourney/search it is called Options, railcards & passengers. Good luck! And thanks, everyone for those station tips.