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It is this time of year when I start to look for Christmas travel. There were many options I could have taken from London to Inverness, but we settled on taking the train and had two direct options.
The first was the day train, otherwise known as the “Highland Chieftain” service operated by Virgin East Coast from King’s Cross which takes a little over 8 hours, while the second option was the legendary overnight “Caledonian Sleeper” from Euston, taking over 11 hours. We have done both before, and they each have their own merits but in the end we went for the sleeper. There is something quite magical about boarding at night in London and waking up in the dim dawn of a highland morning, hopefully with snow on the ground making it look like a scene out of Narnia.
The deciding factor was a combination of price and bookability – the sleeper can be booked 12 months in advance, whereas the day train is only available 12 weeks before, meaning that Christmas tickets are not out yet. So, the best I could do to estimate the price was to look as far in advance as possible.
For the sleeper is it much easier. Travelling as a couple meant that we can book into a cabin with upper and lower bunks. The return ticket for two came out at £530.
But, there is a way to cut this down significantly.
The Two Together railcard from Network Rail is available to anyone – no age restrictions or personal circumstances matter: the only requirement is that both people on the card travel together at the same time.
The card costs £30 and can be ordered in 5 minutes with digital photographs from your computer. You don’t need the card to book the tickets, but you must travel with it.
Having spent £30, I was able to book tickets with the Two Together discount, making them less than £350, which gives me a total saving of £150.
Not only that, but any time I travel with my wife for the next year on the train, we will be able to save 1/3 on the ticket prices of an enormous range of tickets, further increasing the saving. Certainly worth the little outlay for such decent savings!