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Train travel in the U.K.

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My 13-year old daughter and I are leaving this week for a 10-day trip to England & Wales. We will only be traveling by rail only over the course of 5 days: from Oxford to London, from London to Cardiff and then back to London. (I'm assuming we can get to Hampton Court from London via tube -- please advise if that is incorrect or you have better travel advice!) I have three questions:
1) Given how few train trips we plan to take, will it be cheaper to buy individual tickets rather than a Eurail (or other?) pass?
2) What is the difference between 1st class and standard class in the UK system? How much more expensive is 1st?
3) What is the best way to purchase rail tickets in London? Should I buy in advance on-line? I know some schools will be on spring break and am concerned about getting reservations.
Thanks for any advice you can offer!

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