I’m pretty familiar with travelling around the UK. In the past 6 years I’ve travelled up and down this country more times than I could count.
I once worked out that over 2 years I took a domestic flight on average once a month. And I can pretty much recite the east coast train line by heart.
The UK is definitely somewhere I want to see more of. From the big bustling cities, to idyllic coastlines there is so much to discover. But what is the best way to get from A to B? After all that flying and train travel how do I pick which is best?
Sometimes where you’re going to and from can make the decision for you.
While there are loads of airports in the UK, most of which fly domestically, not everywhere is within easy distance of an airport. Always check how long and easy it is to get to the airport first. And, just because you can get to an airport doesn’t mean it’s always the easiest, quickest or cheapest option.
Whereas pretty much very town in the UK has at least one train station and more often than not it’s right in the town centre. Just make sure to check you don’t end up with like 100 changes!
The time it takes
When me & Mark travelled to Aberdeen from my home town, I wanted to get the train, he wanted to fly. Like usual Mark ended up winning but I had some pretty valid points!
My argument was simple, it didn’t actually save us any time and was far more complicated to fly. We had to get a 2 hour train, then sit around the airport for two hours, spend 1 and half hours in the air, then take a 40 minute bus back to his flat. Instead we could have swapped all the faff for a 6 hour direct train and actually saved time. But what do I know?
Remember when you fly it isn’t just the time spent in the air you have to think about. It’s the time spent in the airport, travelling there, and travelling to your final destination. That can also apply to trains. Think about connection times and travel time to and from stations.
Places in the UK maybe a lot closer or further apart than what you think so take time to look into it properly.
Cost is always going to be a big factor, most of the time it’s the deciding factor. Why pay £200 when you could pay £80 for the same journey? But it’s not always easy to know which is cheaper without a bit of research.
The cost of train tickets in the UK varies so much depending on when you buy them and when you travel. Whereas I’ve found flight costs tend to stay quite steady. If you know where and when you want to go far enough in advance you can get train tickets a lot cheaper. But if you’re booking a week beforehand planes often tend to be the cheaper option.
If you think you’re going to do a lot of travel in the UK (which you definitely should!) look into things like a railcard which can save you quite a large amount. Also make sure you try split ticketing your train journey! It’s crazy how much that can save you too.
Don’t forget extra costs as well. Taxis or extra luggage soon add up if you’re on a budget.
Are you planning on taking everything but the kitchen sink or will a carry-on be enough?
Obviously one of the benefits of train travel is that you can take as much as you can physically carry. As well as having no restrictions on things like liquids or sharps. Just be aware, I’ve never been on train where the luggage storage wasn’t full to bursting. And trailing around a major train station with a lot of luggage is a bit of a pain.
Personally I’ve never struggled with only taking hand luggage for a couple of weeks away, even in winter. You can get more in than you think! The only thing that slightly annoys me with planes is the liquid restrictions. But unless you’re going to literally the middle of nowhere, there’ll always be a shop around to pick up the essentials.
Bonus tip: I always fly with a soft sided backpack. I’ve never had anyone question the size (even when it was technically too big!) but most airlines seem to check hard-sided cases they think are too big.
Time of arrival/departure
I know there are 4 flights that go from Birmingham to Aberdeen everyday. Whereas a quick look tells me there is a train on average once every half an hour between 6 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.
If you can’t leave until after 4 the train isn’t going to be very helpful. But if where you’re going only has a flight at 8 in the morning and you live two hours away well, you best like early mornings.
Sometimes it doesn’t make much of a difference but if you need to leave or arrive at a certain time it can play a big part in choosing one method of transport over the other.
There is also lot more flexibility with train travel. If you don’t really know when you want travel simply buy an open return and hop on whatever train you feel like (as long as its going in the right direction!) A life saver if you end up wanting to extend a trip.
Ease of travel
Airports stress me out. I’m 99% sure they always will.
Are my liquids all going to get through? Have I left anything in my bag that I can’t have? What if the queue to security is really long and my gate is 20 minutes away? Even the stuff that definitely shouldn’t stress me out does. That moment of panic when they ask if anyone else has packed your bag for you. I know 110% they haven’t but yet I always second guess myself for a tiny moment.
Trains don’t stress me out. You turn up, get on and go. No silly questions about who packed your bag.
Of course the opposite might be true for you.
I will always be pick trains over planes given everything else is equal. But equally I know people who hate the thought of connections,delays and sitting in one place for hours on end.
If things go wrong
Things go wrong and delays are sometimes inevitable. I’ve experienced delays many times on both trains and planes. Some were more frustrating than others and while it’s not what you want to think about, it’s important to consider.
If your flight is delayed that just means you’re stuck in the airport till you manage to take off. If you’ve got nowhere to be it’s the perfect excuse for a drink and to relax. If not, well than it’s more than a bit annoying.
Whereas if a train is delayed or cancelled, 9 times out of 10 there is another train that can get you to the same place or somewhere similar. A life saver if you need to be somewhere at a certain time. Although if you get delayed on route then you end up stuck on a train in the middle of nowhere. Which trust me is very frustrating and utterly boring.
I love trains. Nothing beats sitting back and taking in the views. But equally, the convenience and price of planes sometimes just can’t be beaten. Obviously those aren’t the only two methods of travel either! Although I’ve only done it when absolutely necessary, you could always chose to go by bus.
Whichever way you choose to travel I hope you get out there and explore everything this country has to offer!