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England for a month/ Britrail pass worth it?

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Oct 3rd, 2013, 11:07 PM
  #1
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England for a month/ Britrail pass worth it?

I'm from the U.S.

I am going to spend a month in England with my significant other who lives in Reading, right outside of London from late december to late-January. I've read a lot of forums on here about the Brit-rail pass and it being worth it or not worth it, but I have a unique situation.

I want to buy the flexi pass which is $385(low season) for 8 days. I will be in Reading for the majority of the 5 weeks I'll be spending with him, but I want to be able to go out and explore every now and then. January being a ridiculously unpredictable month for weather, I don't want to book trips now, and then be snowed out, or have to go to Dover castle when it's miserable (relatively miserable to the rest of January I suppose). So I want to be able to go whenever the weather is at least somewhat agreeable to go see Dover Castle, Canterbury, Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-avon, Bath,... maybe even a weekend to scotland.

I'm looking at the tickets and from Reading to warwick on nationalrail.co.uk, it's £39.00, .. and then from warwick to stratford-upon-avon, it's another £5.20, right then and there, the pass paid for itself on that trip alone (385 divided by 8 is around 50 bucks a day).

I want to make sure I'm looking at this right, or that I'm not missing anything. Would it be better if I just showed up at the last minute or last minute bookings as opposed to buying the britrail pass?
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 11:14 PM
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Oh, and by the way, it's for 8 days (24 hour periods) whenever I want within a 2 month period. I think it's a good deal, but I'm looking for a more intrepid traveler to maybe tell me if I'm missing something.
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 11:18 PM
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So what happens if it's miserable for all the days?

You will also find that booking the previous day can result in significant savings over buying on the day.
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Oct 4th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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$385 is £240. The pass is only worth it you take at least £240 worth of journeys. You just have to price the individual trips and see how much they all come to.

If it's a massive saving then it may well be worth it - but of course then you have to use the pass (to get your money's worth) even if the weather's horrible and you don't feel like travelling. So really you're committing yourself to spending £240, whereas if you booked tickets 2/3 days in advance, they may not cost as much. Time to open a spreadsheet and do those calcs.
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Oct 4th, 2013, 10:30 AM
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If you want complete flexibility to hop any train anytime the pass is a boon as full fares which offer that possibility can ber dauntingly steep - but if you want to put up with restrictions like maybe not being able to leave weekdays before 9:30am and lock yourself into a certain specific train in advance that cannot be changed then you may save a little - especially if you do not use all 8 days as planned - but trips into London and back can use that up.

Have you investigated the Days Out of London railpass that is valid on all trains you indicate you will be taking except going to Scotland - but it is cheaper I believe per day and in southeast England and including out to Bath and Stratford it may be cheaper per day plus you get two free trips on the Heathrow or Gatwick Expressed to be used outside the time frame of the pass if you wish.

Anyway for lots of great info on British trains, passes and alternatives check out www.seat61.com; http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id11.html and www.ricksteves.com.

www.nationalrail.co.uk has all the various advance fares, etc.

If you were not going to Scotland the BritEngland Railpass would be cheaper but not include Scotland or Wales in it.

There used to be and still may be a scheme where one Brit would get a free pass to match what the foreign traveler got - see if that is still the deal and your friend can travel free with you.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 09:38 AM
  #6
 
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$385 for 8 days means about $48 a day or in pounds about 30 pounds a day for unlimited hop on hop off travel - seems like a no-brainer given your many projected trips and no advance planning needed, scouring web sites for discounted tickets that often have severe restrictions, etc.
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Oct 7th, 2013, 01:14 PM
  #7
 
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Oh you are going in January then you can get the Off-Peak discount of about 20% of your BritRail Passes - for travel thru the end of February.
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Oct 7th, 2013, 02:20 PM
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Be aware about timings when you book point to point tickets.

We booked tickets to and from London on one trip. We finished at our destination much sooner than expected. When we asked about the possibility of returning on an earlier train than the one we had booked, the cost to change would have been out of sight so we hung around and for several hours.

Perhaps this is minor and perhaps we should have employed some other strategy which I am certain I am about to be lectured about. At the time I wish we had HAD a pass, though.
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Oct 8th, 2013, 02:22 PM
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Well that is one advantage of a pass - say the Days Out of London Pass which covers Bath, Stratford, all of SouthEast England too - you never know when you will be ready to come back - need more time there or planned too much time - with the pass just hop on any train anytime - but check www.nationalrail.co.uk first to see what flexible tickets cost versus buying the pass.
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Oct 8th, 2013, 02:38 PM
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Right, first off unless you are doing lots of long distance trips, you wont save money as most short day trips (i.e an hour or so in each direction) will come in at less than £30.

Being able to just rock up and get on any train, even during peak periods is an advantage? Not necessarily. Would you really want to be on a pre 9:30am train every day in the commuter crash? (And btw check that time, because I'm pretty certain off peak has shifted over the years and could now mean after 10:00am) Do you really want to take the risk of having no seat on a trip up north or down to the west country because you didn't pre-book? It can happen, especially on Fridays when people are travelling home for the weekends. Admittedly in winter this is less of a risk, cos of the reduced number of tourists, but when I see people extolling the virtues of passes on these threads the risk of not getting a reserved seat because you did not prebook is always the first thing that comes into my mind.

Not saying don't do it, but make sure it is truly cost effective when forking out that amount in advance.

Here are some general tips for rail travel in the UK. Prebook well in advance to get the cheapest prices. Opt for 2 singles if it's cheaper than a return (all the rail search engines give you this option now). Consider paying for an upgrade on the day on board - it's often cheaper than prebooking 1st class. Remember that the cheapest tickets are usually inflexible. No changes unless due to rail operator delays or errors.
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Oct 8th, 2013, 03:01 PM
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crush not crash.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 12:39 PM
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but when I see people extolling the virtues of passes on these threads the risk of not getting a reserved seat because you did not prebook is always the first thing that comes into my mind.>

well simply book a seat reservation which I think can be done free of charge - used to be- up until the day before the train.

But for really dependable hop on travel and finding a seat buy a first-class pass - that is what I always have and I've never ever not see empty seats in first class and there is a WORLD of difference between the two classes in the UK - much more than on the Continent IME - on many long-distance lines you get complimentary food and drink the whole way and free WiiFii (sp) - nogt sure about that in Standard class and no food - but seats are much bigger - I always put my bags on an adjoining seat - like RM67, who I believe lives in Britain so knows about what he is talking, standard class can be chock full and finding a place for luggage is also much harder at times - like RM says 2nd class is more and more getting full which means to me kind of a cattle car feeling with seats being much smaller than in 1st class.

and about upgrading to first class well that is possible but it is IME for first class light - a special first class car with a different seating figuration and as the upgrades on weekends can be for a few quid, often chock full - a BritRail Pass in first class puts you in the Gold or Premium first class cars IME on many lines - but with dozens of various independent rail franchises what's true on one franchise's trains may not be so on another's.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 05:36 AM
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'well simply book a seat reservation which I think can be done free of charge - used to be- up until the day before the train'

That makes no sense whatsoever. On many threads you've extolled the virtues of not having to pre-book if you have a rail pass and just turning up on the day of travel and jumping on whichever train takes your fancy. If you do that, clearly you cannot pre-reserve a seat for non existent tickets. And on many routes at busy times that will you mean you have to stand.

As ever you are twisting my words regarding the advice I gave about potentially saving money by opting for an onboard upgrade vs a prebooked 1st class ticket. That was a piece of general advice in its own right, nothing to do with the Britrail passes and not a condemnation of standard class which I use 99% of the time. 1st class is nice as an occasional treat or when the price differential between that and standard is almost non existent, which occasionally happens when you are booking late and all the cheap seats have gone.

It's poor advice to recommend expensive rail passes when people are going to make relatively few, or short, journeys, especially at a time of year when the weather may not be great and they could be subject to a lot of delays and cancellations.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 07:15 AM
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That makes no sense whatsoever. On many threads you've extolled the virtues of not having to pre-book if you have a rail pass and just turning up on the day of travel and jumping on whichever train takes your fancy.>

well I have not ridden British trains the past two years and was basing my comments on 4 devades of riding British trains where I rarely saw all 2nd class cars booked up - though I guess train franchise companies are mow more matching seats to people.

I still that that on most trains you will find empty seats in 2nd class or at worst have to stand a few stops to someone gets out.

You make British trains sound like cattle cars in 2nd class - all the more reason I guess to pay more and go first class.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 08:06 AM
  #15
 
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No I don't. I pointed out that during the rush hour it can be very cramped. I specifically said this because you made a virtue of the fact that rail passes allow you to use trains all day, not just off peak. Off peak is fine and generally not crowded. And cheaper. You really need to stop misquoting or deliberately misrepresenting what people have said. It is of no help to the people asking questions and very tedious.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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You really need to stop misquoting or deliberately misrepresenting what people have said. It is of no help to the people asking questions and very tedious.>

You too Brutae!

I said with a pass you can hop on any train anytime. True. You chastise me for not saying though on some trains at rush hour you may find the seats are all full - but you can still hop on the train - where did I say you will always find empty seats - I say that about first class because it is true.

IMO anyone taking the trip of a lifetime should go first-class on British trains and have a leisurely comfy ride in style - not in some often jammed up Standard class coach.

the difference with Brits like RM and others who disdain first class and always say cheapest is best is that for them that is true - if I were taking trains a lot, say to work, I too would no doubt go 2nd class - but we are talking about the trips of a lifetime - IMO do not skimp - cheapest if not always the best.

I strongly suggest anyone thinking of a British Railpass pay extra and go first class and go in real comfort - heck even free food and drink served at your seat on many long-distance rides - now that is if a railpass warrants it and RE is talking about putting words in someone's mouth I never say everyone should buy a pass - only if they are taking enough trips where a pass may be cheaper than fully flexible tickets and yes the ability to in first-class to just hop any train anytime and find loads of empty seats - nice bigger more comfy ones is a real perk - especially on day trips when as Dukey1 says you really do not know how long you will be in that place.
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