Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Travelling To Cardiff With National Express

The world really is your oyster! There is no need to think you cannot travel because of the cost or time getting somewhere. We decided to put a challenge to the test last weekend with National Express and took a weekend trip to Cardiff. You might not think this is a big adventure, but we actually live in a small seaside town outside of Dover and anywhere away from there is an adventure for us.

Matilda finished school at 3.15 on Friday afternoon and we went on our merry way. We travelled to Dover to get the National Express coach to London. This was going to be a big journey and involved a change of coach in London, we weren't going to get to Cardiff until after midnight but the night was young! We got on the coach and it wasn't very full on the way to London and before we knew it we were sailing down the motorway. Matilda logged on to the internet and used her Kindle to pass the time. The WIFI is free and they even have their own channel onboard called VUER, where they have some great movies and programmes to watch or just browse your own web pages. You can also charge your phones up with a plug and/or USB socket and if you need to work from a laptop, you can even plug that in too.

The seats are comfortable and leather, but if it's hot, you do tend to stick to them! and there were booster seats available to Matilda to use, so she could see out of the window a bit better. As a parent, I travel a lot on coaches with Matilda, but something that I have never noticed on other coach providers is that the seat belt comes as standard and one seat belt fit all. With National express, it pleased me to see that the seat belts have a child-size as well as an adult size. You simply slide the seat belt up and down to fit the person in the seat. The seats also slightly recline if you are travelling a distance and you want to sleep, but I always think you should be conscious of the person sitting behind you. There is plenty of legroom for a coach and there is a feet rest to pop your feet into as well

We arrived at Victoria Coach station arrivals and then we had to cross over the road to find the bay that our next coach would leave from. This weekend was a surprise weekend for Matilda, so I gave her a piece of paper with the coach number on it and asked her to find out where we were going. In the end, she asked the lady behind the National Express customer services to help her. We were directed to the correct bay and she discovered we were in fact on our way to Cardiff - the capital of Wales.

We used the mobile coach tickets to get onto the coach, I love modern tech BUT if you're going to do this, you need to make sure that you have enough charge on your phone otherwise you cannot prove your ticket. Always print it out as an emergency in case you need it. The journey to Cardiff was actually really pleasant! I have trouble sitting still for a long time but as I watched the countryside go by, it made a pleasant change from being on a dirty train full of drunks on a Friday night. The coach wasn't busy and we were lucky to have a seat each, but this is actually a perfect coach for people living in London and popping home to Wales for a weekend. The coach driver was really helpful and advised us where to get a taxi to get to our hotel.

National Express coaches are accessible for everyone and even if you are travelling in a wheelchair, some of them have wheelchair lifts and they have a dedicated department to help you if you need it. You just need to ensure your wheelchair and passenger weight is under the limit for the lift. Also, make sure that each stop is wheelchair accessible before you book. We used 4 coaches altogether for the weekend and each coach driver reserved the front seats for accessible passengers, these were then used when the coach was filled and nobody else was getting on.

So what was there to do in Cardiff?

We had 38 hours to enjoy a weekend away and we had to make every minute count! We visited the Principality Stadium, Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Bay, Barry Island, the shopping centre, did a Hop-on Hop-off bus and visited Techniquest. Cardiff was also a really busy place for weekends away and there were plenty of stag nights and hen nights happening whilst we were there.

It wasn't a rush and as we had a fully flexible ticket, so if we decided we wanted to stay a bit longer, then we could have done. Instead, we decided to be sensible and stick with the 2pm coach from Sophia Gardens and that got us back to London for 6pm. The coach was fuller on the way home and people were sitting next to other strangers, I LOVE this about travelling because although people get on a coach as strangers, they often get off as friends. It's great for sharing travel stories and making the journey even more enjoyable.

We had an hour and a half turnaround at London Victoria before we got on the Dover coach, but there are places to eat and drink and you can always pop over to Victoria train station for more options for food and drink. The final bus back to Dover was delayed, but with traffic being so unpredictable these days, it is really inevitable that you might get held up in traffic. Although some passengers were complaining, it was not the fault of the driver and he was so apologetic about it.

We travelled on 4 National Express coaches over the weekend and it gave us 4 different experiences of drivers. We cannot fault any of the drivers or the National Express staff at Victoria or Sophia Gardens and they all did an excellent job. Our trip was enjoyable and we look forward to many more journeys using National Express. My next visit is going to be Edinburgh by coach!

Will you be as adventurous as us and just book a weekend away, or even a day away somewhere nice this summer?

What Route Did We Travel?

007 Dover To London Victoria
509 London Victoria To Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

Who Travelled

Matilda Aged 9
Kimberley aged 26 ( my oldest daughter)
Myself (the mum)

How Much Does It Cost?

We were gifted a journey from National Express but we booked our tickets 2 weeks in advance and for you to do the same journey, you could do it for approx £98.55 for three people on the restricted tickets, meaning you get no refund and no changes. Or you have the fully flexible ticket that costs approx £233.80 ( prices are correct as of today 24/07/19, and can change any time).

How Do I Book?

You can book by going to or calling 0871 781 8181. Sometimes you can also buy a ticket from the driver subject to availability.

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