I have been commuting to uni in Winchester for three years now and I can tell you now, it isn’t the easiest option. Whether it’s the packed train carriages, buses running late, difficult weather or simply having to carry so much stuff, commutes are most definitely not glamorous.
I chose to commute for a few reasons. Firstly, I had already had the halls experience living away from home at a different university. I’m not knocking it because I met some great people, it was good fun and I learnt a lot about living independently. What I will say is that as someone a couple of years older, I didn’t fancy going full ‘Fresher’ again and when I considered living with strangers and high accommodation costs vs the familiarity of my hometown with everyone I know and love, Bournemouth won out. These are the kind of choices that only you can make though, so don’t take mine or any other people’s stories to mean that’s what’s best or will work for you.
Before you leave…
1) If you have time, prepare food & drink to take with you.
I cannot stress this enough. Unless you work in a job where your food and drink can be claimed back on expenses, it makes so much sense to bring your own food and drink on your commute. Not only do you save money but you know exactly what went into the food you’re eating and it’s been freshly prepared! A flask is a great idea to bring a hot drink in the morning or maybe soup or noodles or something hot to eat? I always have a bottle of water on me too – I strongly object to paying for water when I’m out and about!
2) Make sure you know where your stops are.
This one’s easy for me because I’ve been commuting to the same place for three years but always make sure that you know where your stops are in relation to where you’re going. It’s also a good idea to know what time you should arrive at each stop.
3) Charge any electronic devices.
To save panic in the morning and to avoid having to take lots of chargers en route with me, I put my phone and my iPod on charge when I go to bed that night. You can’t guarantee that your train will have an available charging point and you don’t want to get caught out.
4) Pre-pack what you can!
Because I have the same timetable every week, I know what texts, books and supplies I need in my bag and I put them in ready the night before. I also throw in essentials like my diary, pencilcase, lip balm, purse and my keys because I won’t be using them before I go!
Optional: minimal make-up kit
I separate my make-up into two bags the night before. One with all my stuff that I might want on before I leave the house (brows, mascara, liner) and the other with the stuff that I can do on the train or later in the day if necessary (foundation, concealer, eye shadows, lip products). Then in the morning I throw my minimals into the bag with my optionals and take the bag with me to uni.
When you travel…
I think if it works out as cost effective to drive there and you prefer your own company/singing out loud embarrassingly then driving could be right for your commute. However, I’ve never passed my driving test -I can’t actually remember the last time I had a lesson! I have to take public transport to uni and because of this, I’ve learnt a few things about travelling round here.
1) Always be at a bus stop early.
Buses are unreliable. Bus drivers are also unreliable. I have known buses to drive past people for ‘not signalling clearly enough’ or because they can’t fit them on but at least if you’re there, it’s not your fault that you didn’t get that bus. I have also known drivers to go past smaller stops before they’re scheduled to be there because no one’s there so it pays to be early.
2) Try and have less than a £10 note for your fare.
Drivers are not keen on taking notes for a couple quid fare, especially early in the morning when they haven’t got notes to give you back. Some can be quite pleasant about the situation but generally, you’ll get a shitty look for trying to pay with a tenner or more.
3) Check if you’re eligible for a Railcard/Coachcard/bus pass.
There are plenty of groups of people eligible for travel concessions, some of the passes are free, others you pay for but you make money back from your fares very quickly! I have a 16-25 Railcard but partners, mature students, families, seniors and persons living with disability are all eligible for their own ones too! National Express offer similar deals with their Coachcards and your local buses will run their own concessionary schemes. It’s worth looking in to.
4) Don’t buy your train/coach tickets at the station!
This one is a serious no-no. I have got Advance tickets before that have saved me up to 75% off the price at the station on the day. Advance booking is relatively simple to do with websites like National Express, The Train Line, Red Spotted Hanky etc and you’ll be sent a number with which you can collect your tickets on the day (or before if you want to be prepared!)
Once you’re there…
1) Find the cheapest/easiest way to get to your destination.
Unless it will be difficult for you to get there otherwise, I would advise you don’t get a taxi to your destination. Especially not in an unfamiliar area where someone could divert the journey to extort you. I realised very quickly that the walk to uni from the train station wasn’t too difficult for me to do and only took fifteen minutes. If the cheapest route isn’t the easiest for you, then that’s okay. If you just fancy being lazy occasionally too, that’s also okay. Just be aware of unnecessary transport costs and check your distances!
2) Don’t rush.
Even if you’ve had countless delays, cancellations and you’re stuck in a queue that feels eternal, there’s no use rushing or stressing yourself out about travelling because it’s not something you can control. As long as you apologise if you’re running late and you don’t disrupt the activity too much, people will understand that the gods were against your journey today.
3) Do something to get you settled before you begin your activity.
If you have been lucky enough for everything to go according to schedule and you arrive on time, do something nice and relaxing before you have to begin the day’s work. Maybe catch up with a friend or colleague? Read something interesting? Get a nice drink? You’ve done the hardest bit which was getting up and getting here so have some down time before your activities for the day commence.
What are your top travelling tips?
Do you commute?
Let me know and leave me links in the comments below!