If you’ve got all your shopping done, slurped three pints and your phone’s got full battery – the train home for Christmas can be a bountiful place of relaxation, entertainment and myrrh. If any of those factors deviate slightly, the train home for Christmas can be a metal corridor of pungent punishment. Here’s how to get to that full fridge and heated living room as tear-free as possible.
DO get to the station 20 minutes before the train leaves
Not because you’re a dork or because travelling makes your mind melt like your parents’, but because the smell of the toilets on Virgin trains are what inhabits Dante’s seventh circle of hell - and there’s going to be plenty of time for smelling that when you get there.
DON’T get dragged into the bottle of Evian + Daily Telegraph deal
This is a broadsheet. Broadsheets are bigger than your kitchen in Lower Clapton.
DO make good mates with the train manager as your board
A “oh hello! how has your day been?” and a “have you done all of your Christmas shopping yet?” or a “you’re well in your right to strike, I AM WITH YOU” will stand you in good stead when you realise you’ve forgotten your Railcard. You definitely can’t afford to pay for another ticket, they cost loads they do.
DON’T think that you’re gonna have a two hour fling
We all romanticise travelling alone. Especially for Christmas. Especially when the girl who you saw on the tube whilst dropping your Eastpak bag full of free newspapers on the floor gets on your carriage. But it’s not gonna happen. She’s got a boyfriend who flies home Business Class for Christmas, not one who gets the Greater Anglia train back to Norwich with a packet of dry roasted peanuts for company.
DO raid a Boots meal deal, and more
If leaves on the track stop your train in the barren greys between Reading and Swindon, then you are going to be a very hungry little elf indeed. Grab yourself some tasteless beige sandwiches, some knock-off Percy Pigs and a smoothie so solid in matter you could use it as a blanket.
DON’T text your ex
She’s not interested that you’ve started working freelance or that there’s a wicked pop-up restaurant right next to you that does black pudding souffle tacos. Really not arsed.
DO buy some M&S own label lager
You know that Aunt who thinks Farage is “such a normal guy” and fills her Fortnum & Mason bags with shit from Marks and Sparks because it’s just “like, you know, an institution”, well start your festive relationship on a positive by turning up a little bit pissed with a can of Marks and Spencers weird lager with the weird deer on the front of it. Have a pop at her after the sprouts.
DON'T think it's suddenly acceptable to make friends with every bugger in your carriage
This is Christmas, not California.
DO charge your phone to the point of overheating
Running out of phone battery as your train passes through Crewe is not a nice thing, especially when you’re already late and you can’t tell your Dad, who’s waiting in the car park with a paper hat on, that you actually get in at 19.34 not 16.34. He gets well mad at stuff like that.
DON’T put literally all of your presents in the shelf above the seats
You're right, it would save you dislocating your knees by having them in front of you, but do you really want to roll the dice of turning up to your parents' gaff without a single gift? People get murdered for less, says ShortList’s Sam.
DO buy some M&S Brussel Sprout chocolate balls
This is just a genuine, whole-hearted tip from Sam’s colleague Dave, “they’re festive and fun”.
DON’T underestimate how annoying children can be
Don’t pull a face at them. Don’t offer them a crisp, even if it is one of the beetroot ones at the bottom of the pack. Don't look them in the eye. Don’t look the mother or father in the eye. Don’t do any of this.
DO take a gamble and stealthily wait closest to whichever platform you guess the train will be on
Only fools get caught in the pre-boarding stampede, so worm your way to the front and get ready to have a light jog once the platform is called. Try not to run – you want to retain a shred of decency if you end up sat on your suitcase...
Merry Christmas and Happy Travelling, to everyone and all.