Friday, 7 March 2014

Frugal Friday...

We've been booking travel again - this time to get to and from Scotland to visit lovely Fay next month. We tried to get the same deal with the sleeper tickets that we got last year, but they were either never released, or went too fast for us to book, for the day we need to travel. Then the flights to return suddenly shot up in price - putting the cost of flying home, convenient as that is, out of our reach. It felt as though this time, everything was conspiring against us - and that's annoying!

After a bit of a grump, we set too to explore other options - first, the journey up. To be up at the very top of Scotland for a ferry leaving at 7pm, from "doon Sooth" where we are, you really have to start out the previous day - and this is where the sleeper really scores points - you get a bed for the night and to travel while you sleep, waking up already well north of the border. We looked into flying to Edinburgh or Glasgow the night before, then travelling on, but by the time a hotel was factored in the costs just escalated, so we looked back at the sleeper again, and found a special offer (yes, we like those) from Scotrail offering a third off sleeper fares if booked before the end of February. That saving brought the cost of the sleeper fares down to within our budget, AND allows us to get all the way to Aberdeen on the first stage of the journey. £135 to get two people in a mobile hotel-room all that way North? Yes, we booked it.

The rest of the journey up is pretty much set in stone and there's not much negotiation available on price, but there are still ways of saving - or possibly saving. The ferry for a start - we go from Scrabster, sailing across to Stromness. Scrabster is walking distance from Thurso so there are not additional costs involved in that bit, nor any reliance on buses which might potentially cause delays. There is no difference whether we book the ferry in advance or not, but we have been pointed in the direction of a rather useful link to a "Ballot" where VisitScotland are giving away ferry tickets on some routes - needless to say we've entered - and should find out next week if we have been successful. The rail tickets from Aberdeen to Thurso have been booked via RedSpottedHanky using Tesco clubcard vouchers converted to twice their value - so £29 of tickets = actual cost to us £14.50.

Then we turned our attention to the return journey. We checked all the options on flights - sometimes just going via somewhere different, or booking across two different airlines rather as one through ticket can be cheaper (although a note of caution - if your connection is tight for time, or you foresee problems, be cautious about doing this as it can leave you with problems if you miss the connection). For us, this time, there were no cheap loopholes to be explored. So - what other means are there of getting back? Well the same means we've used to get up of course - ferry and train! Our planned departure time from Orkney if flying was to be 10.25 in the morning, but leaving on the overnight ferry back to Aberdeen the night before doesn't actually mean we lose any "useable" time - as with a 23.45 departure time, we'd not have been doing anything then anyway! Cost to get back to Aberdeen? £25.50 each. The final step was getting back from Aberdeen to London. With a 7am arrival in Aberdeen, we had plenty of flexibility regarding train times, and managed to snag tickets on a direct train departing at 10am for just £34 each - or £22.45 each once our new "Two Together" Railcard is taken into account!  The departure time from Aberdeen gives us plenty of time for a slap up breakfast, and to buy lunch to be eaten on the train too. That's a whopping saving of over £85 each on those flights we found first!

Peedie says that £85 buys a LOT of doggie treats!
Taking that little extra time to research the options when booking travel like this can really pay off - and it needn't leave you tearing your hair out for hours behind a keyboard either - all the research I've mentioned above from checking the flight prices to booking the train and deciding on the ferry was done in a single hour's lunchbreak at work - and when you consider the saving, that's a pretty good hourly rate, no?!



Caroline said...

I've been on the scrounge for Sleeper tickets this morning too, the Bargain Berths for my trip down to see Mum in June should have been released this morning. By 9.05 the price was up to £102 already :o( Guess it's the MegaBus....

If the Pentalina works out cheaper (and it usually is), I will happily take you from Thurso to Gills Bay :o)

Caroline (cazmanian_minx!)

Robyn said...

Caroline that's such a kind offer - thank you! It's a rather longer journey for Fay to pick us up at the either end though which is why we go for Scrabster/Stromness. The bargain Berths seem to have gone a bit odd of late - last year we had no problem getting them at all - and it's not usually a problem so long as you're "armed and dangerous" to get the £49 ones at least, this time though - nothing. I never found ANY for our chosen date on any route as we'd have been happy to go to Glasgow/Edinburgh and travel on from there if there had. I wonder whether they are no longer releasing them in a set pattern?