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Christmas travel not sorted yet? The cheapest way to see loved ones

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
21/12/2016
If you’ve left it to the last minute to book your travel to see family and friends this Christmas, we reveal the cheapest option - hiring a car, by train or by coach.

Rail strikes over Christmas are enough to put anyone off travelling. But for those who’ve yet to book their tickets home, we compare the cost of car hire, train and bus travel from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol to see the cheapest options still available for the key Christmas travel dates: Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 December.

Driving home for Christmas

A search on Skyscanner reveals that you can hire a car via peer-to-peer rental site easyCar Club for the five days from London for £251.50 for a BMW 1 series. It comes with a ‘full to full’ fuel policy and it’s down to the individual car owner to set any mileage restrictions.

You’ll need to factor in the cost of petrol, based on estimates from journeyprice.com, which are as follows:

  • London to Birmingham: £44.68 for 252 miles (return trip)
  • London to Manchester: £74.11 for 418 miles (return trip)
  • London to Bristol: £41.84 for 236 miles (return trip).

See YourMoney.com’s How car owners can make £500 per week to find out more about peer-to-peer car sites.

Going through a car hire company, the cheapest we could find on Skyscanner was via Car Del Mar for £330.14. For that price, you’d get a mini car with 2-3 doors, accommodating four people. It comes with a ‘full to full’ fuel policy. But it only includes 360 miles so it could cost more to do a longer journey such as from London to Manchester.

Train travel

The return prices quoted are from National Rail, leaving from London at 6pm, returning at 6pm:

  • London to Birmingham: £28
  • London to Manchester: £82.40
  • London to Bristol: £56.50

Coach travel

The return prices are quoted from National Express, again leaving at around 6pm and leaving the destination at 6pm:

  • London to Birmingham: £19.40
  • London to Manchester: £32.60
  • London to Bristol: £24

The cheapest option

Coach travel is the cheapest option for an individual, but as we get closer to Christmas, seats may be booked up so it’s best to act sooner rather than later.

The next cheapest is train travel, which should also be faster than coach travel. If you have a railcard, you may be able to get a reduced fare.

While the peer-to-peer and car hire sites are more expensive, it may actually work out cheaper for a family or group of friends to ‘car pool’. For example, five people sharing the easyCar Club rental at around £50 each, and sharing the £74 cost for petrol travelling from London to Manchester, so around £15 (£65 each), works out cheaper than five individual train tickets at £82.40.

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