This post was written by Ralph Starks, a blogger and traveler who enjoys exploring the world in the best ways possible.

japan bullet train

Riding a train can be an awesome experience, although it can also be quite expensive under certain circumstances. Thankfully, it doesn’t always have to be like that and there are many ways that you can save money while booking train tickets. Let’s take a look at a few money-saving tips to keep in mind ahead of your next adventure.

Book Early

As with nearly everything in life, booking in advance can save you a considerable amount of money over booking at the last minute. You’ll want to aim for at least a month or so out to get the best deals, if possible.

You may be able to get a good price if you book a few minutes before the train departs if there are a lot of empty seats but as not all train companies offer this and it requires a crazy amount of luck, it’s not recommended unless you have no other options.

Off-Peak Hours

Trains are often used by commuters headed to or from work, which makes tickets more expensive around the time people start or finish work. They’re also busy during weekends and holidays, too. If you have a little flexibility in choosing your departure times, aim for midday on a weekday or, if you’re feeling adventurous, an overnight train.

Segmented Tickets

If you’re going over a long distance and there are several stops in major cities or hubs along the way, you may be able to save some money if you purchase the segments separately. For example, let’s say you’re traveling from Chicago to Boston to visit friends, so your timeline is a little flexible.

We’ll use rough figures with nice round numbers, so let’s say it’s $400 for a straight Chicago to Boston itinerary. However, you can segment the journey into Chicago to Indianapolis ($50), Indianapolis to New York City ($200), and New York City to Boston ($50). You’ve saved $100 and, depending on the train schedule, given yourself a few hours to explore Indianapolis and NYC.

Discounts and Coupons

Another way to save is to sign up to receive emails from major carriers. Amtrak, for example, will occasionally send marketing emails with promotional offers, like 15% off for students or discounts on round-trip fares booked on one itinerary. Sometimes, a simple search of Google or Bing with search terms like “Amtrak Coupon Codes” or “London to Edinburgh train discounts” can reveal additional ways to save money.

Discount Travel Site

Using a discount travel website, like Wanderu, that searches for the lowest fares from a variety of sources or other websites can also reveal great savings. These sites provide some of the best ways to travel in general, as they will nearly always offer rates lower than the train, plane, or hotel company itself offers on its own website.

Loyalty Programs

Most railway companies offer loyalty programs that give a certain number of points for every mile you travel. Eventually, these points can be redeemed for a free ticket or upgrades, like moving up from coach to business class at no charge. If you travel frequently enough and combine this tip with the others, your average cost per ticket will drastically go down.

Rail Cards

If you travel frequently, you may benefit from purchasing a rail card or a travel pass. These allow you to travel as often as you want over the life of the card for little or no additional fees (other than purchasing the card itself, of course). This can save a lot of money, especially if you’re a commuter or otherwise travel multiple times per week.

Some restrictions may apply, however, so you’ll want to check the fine print and make sure that the pass doesn’t restrict you to coach fares on 2 AM departures or something similar. You’ll also want to see if you must book your travel a certain amount of time in advance or if you’ll be riding standby.

Final Thoughts

Although traveling by train can be expensive if not booked properly, by using these best practices you can save yourself a bit of money and make sure that you’re getting the best possible rate ahead of your next exciting adventure. Enjoy your lovely train journey!