Like nearly everyone else that travels by train I always have an eye for a bargain - because the "ordinary" walk-up fares are so high. So I look out for Advance purchase tickets and take advantage of split-ticketing whenever the savings are great enough to compensate for the loss of flexibility of route and timings. And of course I always travel "standard" (or "second" as I still think of it) class.
But recently I've begun to think about First Class. After a lifetime of being a second-class traveller but now with a reasonable income and very few financial commitments I've started thinking that it's now or never if I am to enjoy the benefits of joining my betters in First. It started two Christmases ago when Hilary and I booked a rail package holiday to Switzerland. It offered a decent hotel (far better than anything we'd have booked ourselves), inclusive rail travel (at least from London) and unlimited train and bus travel when we got there, so naturally it cost an arm and a leg. But for just another arm you could go First Class - and as the second-class price was far more than we'd ever spent on a holiday before we decided to bite-the-bullet and go First. All the way. To Switzerland.
Now I'm hooked. Not completely though. When I can get to London from Lancaster for £65 (with railcard) on a ticket that allows me to travel on almost any train I'm not going to shell out £330 for a First Class equivalent. That would be stupid. But increasingly I've noticed that it's possible to get a First Class Advance ticket for less than the cost of a Standard Class "any train" one so quite often that's what I do.
In February, Hilary and I went to Glasgow for the weekend travelling First Class on exactly that basis. The outward journey was spoiled somewhat when we were all turfed off the train and put on coaches at Carlisle due to a problem with the overhead wires, but the ensuing delay meant we got a 100% refund for that leg of journey - and we got to keep the free food and drink that we'd consumed as part of the First Class package.
Then, a fortnight ago I got a bargain fare to Crewe and back. £7 each way Advance First Class as against £29 for a standard return. Admittedly Advance standard class tickets would have been even cheaper, but that's hardly the point. Food is included by Virgin Trains in First Class fares but it doesn't always work out on short journeys. Due to a crew change in Preston the staff didn't start taking orders for breakfast until we were at Warrington, where I had to agree with the server that there wouldn't be time for them to cook and serve me a meal and for me to eat it before we got to Crewe, so I had to settle for toast and a coffee although that more than made up for the extra First Class fare.
Coming home, my train was too late for "Dinner" but I was offered cheese and biscuits and then asked if I'd like a glass of wine - which turned out to be a VERY large measure* of a very palatable red. (* not that it was measured in any way!)
The reason for my trip to Crewe was to restart - tentatively - my paused bus excursion around the county towns of England. I completed a stage from Cheshire to Staffordshire and you can read about it here.
Oh, and if you are tempted to try First Class travel based on my experiences a word of warning. The food offer varies enormously between the different companies. On a recent Trans Pennine journey from Sheffield to Manchester we were all offered a cup of coffee and then told "Well, I've only got one packet of biscuits left - who wants 'em?"