I’ve got into a bit of a habit recently of not making the most of my weekends. The last few months, instead of going out, I’ve hardly left the house, preferring to sit inside and watch Netflix.
It feels pretty amazing at the time (mixed with pangs of guilt), but you do get a sense of dissatisfaction on a Sunday evening when you’ve achieved nothing.
When I first moved to London eight years ago, every weekend would be out exploring the city and it’s not that I’m bored of it – I just feel like I’ve seen it and it’s easy to get lazy.
So with Christmas coming up, and wanting to get into the spirit without putting the Christmas decorations up yet, I decided to have a proper weekend day trip – to a Christmas market.
I ADORE them, and I know what you’re thinking – there must be loads in London, but no! There was a good one on the South Bank, but that got cut back dramatically so now there are 10 huts tops. There’s a good few in Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, but you’ve never seen crowds like it because you’re fenced in.
I’ve been meaning to go to the Birmingham Christmas market for absolutely years now, so decided to just book a train ticket and go for it!
The Trainline Price Prediction feature
Most people know that the further in advance you book a train ticket, the cheaper the ticket is. That said, so many times I’ve put it off knowing that because… well, I don’t know why I put off booking tickets. It’s an odd one, right? I’ll go right out of my way to save 50p on a tin of beans, but sitting down and booking a train ticket as soon as possible to save money, can seem like a faff.
I think it’s because it’s hard to tell what money you’re losing by waiting. If you can’t see what the cost is now, compared to what it will be in two weeks’ time, then what makes you act, right?
Well, I’ve discovered a cheeky little tool in Trainline’s app, which ‘predicts’ price increases.
How Price Prediction works
So most operators release train tickets around 12 weeks before a train journey, and as the days go on, the price goes up.
Trainline has done a load of price analysis based on historical pricing trends from billions of customer journey searches to predict the price. Nifty eh?
You’ll then get a list with all the times etc. If you look at the bottom right of each journey option, you’ll see a coloured arrow with the words ‘View price tracker’.
Now, this is the exciting bit, you’ll then get a list with the cheapest price and how many days you have until they are likely to sell out.
It also gives you the dates of the likely price increases, and by how much.
Of course, even though this data is based on billions of journeys, they can’t guarantee the dates and prices are 100% correct all the time, but Price Prediction continues to get more accurate as it collects more data.
My trip to the Birmingham Christmas market
So I decided to pretty much go to the Christmas market that week, so didn’t have a huge amount of advance time to play with. That doesn’t matter though – I know people think that you have to book weeks in advance to make a difference, but sometimes just the day before will cut the price down for you.
So, I wanted to go on the 18th Nov and a few days before I checked out the Price Prediction tool in the Trainline app. If I got the ticket on the Wednesday, it showed me the cheapest price would be £39.60 for me and my boyfriend (with a two together card), whereas if I waited till the 17th November, it would jump up to £52.80, which is a massive leap, and then up to £68.80 if I waited until the day of travel to book.
As you can imagine, that pushed me to book the tickets ASAP.
Is the Birmingham Christmas market worth the train journey?
The German Market in Birmingham has been running for over 15 years and runs up the 24th December.
It’s MASSIVE (It’s the biggest market outside Germany and Austria) and had all sorts of huts including traditional goods and gifts, handcrafted decorations, toys, jewellery, food and drink (ALL the pretzels schnitzels, and beer that was actually smoking – not sure how the made that happen).
We went opening weekend, and going to be honest, was pretty hectic. It wasn’t unbearable though, you just had to have a chill attitude about it all because people were just slowly meandering around.
Of course, if you could avoid the weekend, it will be quieter – but it really wasn’t too bad at all, had a really nice spirit to it. Even the huts and the decorations were the best I’ve ever seen.
Basically, if you’re a fan of the Christmas market (and don’t live a million miles away from Birmingham), I think it’s well worth going – especially if you need to do a load of shopping, the Bullring is right by the market.
A load of us will be travelling more over Christmas (I’ll be going back to Swansea, AND going to Gatwick before the end of the year), so if you are getting a train, it is 100% worth downloading the Trainline app and using the Price Prediction tool because it will save you a packet.
This is a collaborative post with Thetrainline.