16:29 10 December 2012
Christmas is about spending time with our nearest and dearest, and many of us will soon be preparing to travel to all corners of the country in order to celebrate the festive season with family and friends.
But this comes at a cost, and recent research from Santander claims that collectively we will be spending a hefty £1.2billion on travel as three quarters of adults (73%) prepare to make their journeys around the UK.
With all the usual expenses of Christmas, having to also fork out for travel at one of the busiest times of the year can be prove stressful.
But there are measures you can take to keep costs down. Here's our rundown:
Get your hands on the cheapest rail fares
• The cheapest rail fares are usually released around 12 weeks prior to travel, but even though we are now well past this window for Christmas, it can still pay to buy your tickets in advance. Often advance fares can be available right up to the day before travel, so always check rather than presuming there will be nothing left and buying your ticket at the same time you go.
• Flexibility is key when looking for cheaper fares and varying the date or time you travel even slightly can have a substantial impact on the price pay. For example, it may be that you're looking to travel on a Friday night when a train service is heavily booked by commuters. By simply deciding to go the next morning you could make substantial savings.
• Check also if two singles rather than a return are cheaper, which can sometimes be the case.
• Always shop online for the cheapest rail ticket. You can do this at TravelSupermarket's price comparison tool by simply typing in the details of your journey. The service will search a number of providers to come up with the cheapest option.
Consider other modes of transport
Before booking, check out different modes of transport to see if the fares are cheaper.
• For example, I looked at travelling from Liverpool to London by train on the December 22, after 9am and returning a week later. The cheapest rail fare I could find at the time of writing was £38 for two singles, whereas by opting to travel by coach, the fare would cost £26.20 - a saving of nearly £12. Obviously, you would have to factor in travelling times - the coach took around five hours where as the train took just over two - but if journey time is not an issue to you, it could be an option.
• These days, with the soaring cost of rail travel, it can even work out cheaper to fly to your destination. To find the cheapest flight for your trip, take a look at TravelSupermarket's flight channel. The service compares a number of flight providers and will allow you to find the most economical option.
If you have to drive, do it efficiently
If you have no choice but to drive to your destination this Christmas, you may be concerned about how much the fuel is going to cost you. But by making some simple changes to your driving habits, you could cut your fuel consumption by improving your engine efficiency.
• Keep your tyres inflated, don't overload your boot more than you need to, and accelerate and brake smoothly when you drive. This will all contribute to using less fuel, and in turn, be kinder to your pocket.
• It also pays to find out the cheapest place to buy your petrol from. Log onto petrolprices.com, type in your postcode and you will be shown the five cheapest forecourts within five miles to purchase your fuel. I found that I could make a massive saving of 6 pence per litre simply by changing where I buy my petrol from, so it is certainly worth a look.
Get something back for your miles
It is the time of year when a lot seems to be leaving your bank account, without much cash coming back in. However, by choosing the right credit card you could actually be rewarded when you spend on travel.
• The Santander 123 Credit Card pays you 1% cashback on supermarket spend, 2% cashback on department store spend and a generous 3% cashback on spend at petrol stations and more recently when buying tickets for National Rail and Transport for London.
• According to Santander, if everyone travelling this Christmas used the Santander 123 Credit Card for rail and fuel purchase they would collectively earn £27.3m in cashback. If you can be strict with yourself and pay off your balance every month, the rewards offered by this card are certainly worth it. However, if you don't it comes with a steep representative APR of 22.8% (variable) so be warned!
Keep your home safe while you're away
Finally, while you are away, you will want reassurance that you will be coming back to your home intact. To make sure this is the case, follow these tips:
• It is yet to be seen whether we will experience sub-zero conditions this Christmas, but in very cold weather, it is advisable to leave your heating on a timed setting when you go away. This will help prevent your pipes from freezing, bursting and giving you an expensive mess to clear up on your return.
• Ask a friend or neighbour to regularly check on your home and to remove any post from behind the door. Ask them to draw your curtains at night or invest in timers for lights, your radio and curtains. Christmas is primetime for burglars so don't give them any reason to think the property is vacant.
• With all the excitement of Christmas it can be all too easy to forget the basics. Do one final check of all the windows and doors in your home to ensure they are securely locked.
• Make sure you turn all your appliances off the wall to minimise the risk of fire as well as save you money on your energy bills.
• Don't advertise on social networks such as Facebook that you are going away. It is an open invitation to people you know - and people that they know - that your home is empty.
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