I'm travelling from Newcastle where I stay during Uni, to Liverpool (my home town). If you're getting a train, I follow my little checklist to make sure I'm travelling stress-free, especially during the festive season. Follow these tips and you can too!
1. Pack your bags well
When travelling home for Christmas, everyone will be rushing and throwing as many things into a bag as possible. Pack wisely with only the things you need, it won't be as heavy to carry!
2. Choose your bags wisely
So many people will take a large suitcase with them and try to cram them all into the luggage compartment on the train. Why not choose 2 small holdalls instead of one large one. You can fit them into the overhead storage without taking too much space.
3. Book tickets in advance
There's nothing worse than getting to the train station on time and seeing a huge queue for the ticket machines. If you book your ticket in advance, you can get tickets posted home, print them out yourself or pick them up from a machine a few hours after you've bought them. If you happen to be near your train station days before your trip, you can pick them up then, meaning less of a rush on the day.
4. Get cheaper tickets
If you book in advance online, you can see the prices of the tickets. This means you can pick the cheapest tickets available to your suitability. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy 2 singles than a return, so buying in advance is a huge life saver. Don't forget, if you have a railcard you can use it to book tickets online, saving about 1/3 of the price too.
5. Get a reservation
Booking as early as possible (usually about 12 weeks in advance) means you can get first picks of the seats. You can choose a normal seat or table seat, and aisle or window seat. I personally always go for a table seat at the window as I do uni work whilst I travel. Having your own reservation means that no matter what, that specific seat is yours for the journey. It means less rush during busy Christmas travelling times as you don't have to scramble to find a free seat, and you don't sit in someone else's reserved seat. I can't got on a train journey without a reservation!
6. Arrive 15-20 minutes early
You're at the station and need to find your platform with 2 minutes until the train leaves. You have to go through the ticket barrier and then onto the platform, which could be a few minutes away. There are loads of people looking to find their train. Then you miss it. Arriving about 20 minutes before my train means that I can grab any drinks/snacks before I leave, and I'm ready to board the train as soon as the doors are open. Christmas time is usually incredibly busy, so allowing yourself as much time as possible to get to your platform is a ticket to stress-free travel.
7. Don't forget to pack your presents
You can't arrive home without the presents you've carefully wrapped and added a sparkly bow to can you? If you have a lot, try to make sure any fragile gifts are in between your warm jumper in your bag to keep them protected. If you plan on taking gift bags home, flat pack them in your luggage and re-pack them into their gift bags at home. You don't want them to be creased on Christmas Day.
8. Grab a hot drink and some food
In most train stations there are usually a variety of little shops like Costa, Starbucks, Pumpkin etc that you can buy a hot drink and some food from. Some trains don't have food trolleys to buy things from, as they don't always have a huge selection. You can get your festive food and hot chocolates from stores in the station and carry them onto the train with you. Just remember to put the rubbish in the bins located on the trains or in the station when you're done.
9. Add Christmas songs to your phone/iPod
The train is loud and you want a peaceful journey back home, ready to see your family and friends. Why not make a playlist filled with your favourite Christmas songs to listen to on the way back. Just don't forget your headphones!
10. Get the National Rail App
No matter where you're travelling, you can track your train journey with this handy app. If there is a delay, you can see even when you're mid way through your journey, how long the delay may be. This is handy if someone is picking you up from the end point station as you can update them with what time to arrive there to greet you. It also sometimes tells you which platform you will get off at, so if you know the train station well, you'll know how long it will take you to get from the platform to the exit. Particularly handy in Liverpool Lime Street Station as there are 3 different sets of platforms (Wirral line, Plat 1-6 enclosed and Plat 7-9 near some shops and the exit).
I hope you enjoy these tips! I'll be travelling via First Transpennine Express* this Christmas, where you can find cheaper tickets online. On the home page, you can find their 'best fares' and their student offers which are quite handy. Their destinations include Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Sheffield, York and many more. This means that you can visit the Manchester Christmas Market with a cheap ticket too!