South Wales/ London 2022

Old May 6th, 2021, 08:47 AM
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South Wales/ London 2022

I may have more start/stop vacation plans than any other Fodorite, and my little binder with information continually grows. I had asked this forum about a trip to the UK many years ago and life just got in the way of us actually being able to go. And that was even before the pandemic! I truly believe this time the stars are aligning, and if things continue to progress with this awful COVID situation, we are going to be able to make it.

We’re looking at late next May or possibly late June -trying to take advantage of the long weekends of either Memorial Day and the 4th of July. We thought we’d fly into London. Here’s my first tentative plan:

Day 1 arrive from overnight flight at Heathrow, take train to Cardiff. Explore Cardiff shaking off jet lag. Spend night in Cardiff. Is Cardiff a good spot to train to for the start of the Wales portion?
Day 2 rent car and head to our South Wales home base- explore area around there
Day 3 South Wales
Day 4 South Wales
Day 5 South Wales-Return car catch train back to London
Day 6 London
Day 7 London
Day 8 London
Day 9 London
Day 10 fly home

i would like to see what you all think of this initial plan. Also, get ideas on the timing- Is one month better than the other?- as well as accommodations, then places to see I’m starting to copy/ paste many threads about this area from searching the forum.

It will be myself, husband and two adult kids, a son and daughter. I will need to be budget conscious and realize that with four the bulk of our saved $ will go to accommodations. I just recently learned of the National trust properties. Are there any in Wales that you all would think is a good base? Also for London, any good selections with our mix of adults? Way back my daughter and I had investigated rooms through the universities there that opened some of the halls for tourists. She stayed in a flat in London during a study abroad trip, so we’re looking into that as well as using her previous experience as a little bit of a guide.

I’m excited about the prospect of seeing Wales! We originally thought about doing London then heading north, but she’s been to that region now, and all of us would love to spend time in Wales. For this trip we are going to center ourselves in the south of England. Thanks in advance for any thoughts and advice!

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Old May 6th, 2021, 01:13 PM
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National trust can be very expensive. The YHA is far nicer than normal hostels and good value.
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Old May 6th, 2021, 03:08 PM
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Thank you for the info on the YHW hostel option. I never considered that for us. Is the original thought of training into Cardiff upon arriving ok?
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Old May 6th, 2021, 04:52 PM
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"Is the original thought of training into Cardiff upon arriving ok?"

Just quick -- there is no train from LHR. You either will head in to London Paddington and then catch another train west to Cardiff, or take a bus to Reading and train from there. The train to Paddington option is a little faster than bus to Reading. A 3rd option is a National Express coach from LHR to Cardiff. It takes a little longer (not much) but one advantage is it is direct LHR to Cardiff w/o schlepping luggage through busy Paddington or Reading
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Old May 6th, 2021, 05:45 PM
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That would be easier! We’re coming from the east coast, so while it’s an overnight trip probably, and not as far as some have to fly, Even a little bit of less movement (and schlepping) would be good. I thought Cardiff would be a good compromise, but open to any other ideas. Would arriving on a Saturday morning work? The one thing I was thinking about was if we arrived Saturday am and checked into a hotel in Cardiff with our luggage, spent the night, could we then hire a car Sunday am to go to wherever we base ourselves? Are car rentals closed Sundays? Maybe we should arrive on a Friday? I’m trying to alleviate our kids taking more time off from work, but they could work it out if needed I hope.

What are your thoughts about end of May vs. end of June?
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Old May 6th, 2021, 06:41 PM
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Are car rentals closed Sundays?

City centre ones often are (or have very limited hours). But I wouldn't rent in central Cardiff anyway. Just take public transport out to Cardiff airport and collect your car there. All the national/major rental agencies are there and open 7 days a week. CWL is west of the city and is a much easier place to drive from than through the city.
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Old May 6th, 2021, 08:10 PM
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This is the site to check for university accommodation outside London:

https://www.universityrooms.com

I don't see anything for Cardiff for this summer, but they will list some other options that might not show up on the big sites.

In London I always use LSE, although I don't know how well they would work for a group:

https://www.lsevacations.co.uk/Home.aspx

The National Express coaches are comfortable, and would save schlepping your luggage around the train stations. Any special reason you are visiting south Wales rather than the north?
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Old May 7th, 2021, 04:03 AM
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thursdaysd I’d like to be able to see both and tour London, but for the amount of time we have, 9 days on the ground, I just didn’t think it possible. The trip is a year away, 2022, so I’m doing some early planning. But I am sure some of these properties rent early. I prefer to have a home base and not have to resettle in various accommodations as well. We love the coastline so Pembrokeshire looks amazing, Breton Beacons, St. David’s, Cardiff Castle, they all appeal to us. But if you have an itinerary or way to fit more in up in beautiful North Wales, please share!

janis, you are so amazing! The number of travelers you have helped over the years, thank you! I’ll do that if we rent the car there. I was reading on another thread last night about the difficulties of driving in Wales. Is it harder than other parts of the UK? I’m the one who will be the driver- husband is a wuss but I may be one too, if it proves to be too nerve wracking!

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Old May 7th, 2021, 05:10 AM
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Driving in North Wales is similar to other hard to drive areas. You need to get to "feel" the width of your car, obey the rules and on single tracks (yes there are singles) start to watch out for the passing-spots so if you need to negotiate with another car you reverse if your passing spot is closer. On the upside, the hedges on the side of the road are softer in Wales compared to Cornwall on the down side there will be more escaped sheep on the road. As Brits we like to have the passenger alert to possible issues and reminding about possible problems. Good news, North Wales has less lunchtime drinking than the South so finding drunk drivers is less likely.
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Old May 7th, 2021, 05:21 AM
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Are you planning on seeing Snowdonia? You could do an open jaw ticket and fly into Manchester, take in a Beatles tour of Liverpool, and then do Wales flying back out of London. We are doing a genealogy tour, husbands granny came from Holyhead so on our list. We also thought about a Rabbie's tour but seems like the rail system is very good in Wales so might do it ourselves. Rabbie does Wales tours from Manchester and London I think. Small bus. Be careful driving, I lost a friend in Wales over a year ago. She was driving to her house and we think she swerved to miss sheep. Tiny roads. You would need a large car with four adults and luggage.
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Old May 7th, 2021, 05:41 AM
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I had the same thought as Macross about Snowdonia and flying into Manchester, although I would visit Chester rather than Liverpool.

The Pembrokeshire Coast is absolutely worth seeing, and if you're going to Cardiff I would include St. Fagan's open air museum (although it has been a looong time since I was there): https://museum.wales/stfagans/

I take it you know about the heritage railways? https://www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk/ and https://railtracks.uk/wales

My last visit to Wales I was in the north, using public transport:

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...stle-and-more/
https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...he-great-orme/
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Old May 7th, 2021, 05:42 AM
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The trick to all travelling is to heavily restrict luggage especially when you have 4 adults. Trains get easier and cars stay small and economic. Take fewer toys, so maybe just a mobile not a laptop plus ipad and separate GPS. It might mean you have to do a few hours of laundry (YHA has access) but I recommend take clothes you were going to throw away and wear them once. The bag gets lighter and if you decide to buy stuff there is space in the bags. The shoes you might want for Wales and London are very different. London does not have many cobbles but you will still end up walking a lot (a big city) but Wales is really all about the country not the city. The UK has thousands of miles of country paths, open to all to use (maps and links exist) so get out in the country. London is full of parks and many free museums.
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Old May 7th, 2021, 06:40 AM
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UK has school holidays and bank holidays at end of May so both London and the countryside can be busier then. School doesn't end for the year until mid-July so June perhaps not as busy. Weather may be a little better in June than May. Overall not a huge difference. So I would book based on what timing is easiest for your family and what flight prices you find.
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Old May 7th, 2021, 07:09 AM
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This is one such footpath map https://footpathmap.co.uk
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Old May 7th, 2021, 07:59 AM
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Hmmmm, now you all have me thinking differently about several things, thank you. Im getting a bit anxious over the prospect of trying to drive (for the first time abroad) with my whole crew in tow. Macross, Im very sorry for the loss of your friend.

i was under the assumption that if I based us in one town, having a car would be the most optimal option in terms of time and convenience to see a lot. But... If there were a way that we could do it by public transportation Id probably be less stressed and happier. Id readily forsake convenience for anxiety, but what would all suggest in that case?

again, your input is so appreciated!
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Old May 7th, 2021, 08:43 AM
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OK -- I thought you were sticking to South Wales (picking up the car in Cardiff and all?) so not sure what the talk about Snowdonia and North Wales comes from. Driving in Wales is no harder than driving in the Cotswolds or Yorkshire or Scotland . . . and is a often a darn sight easier than driving in Cornwall.

Re Late May vis Late June . . . Late June every time! Bank holiday at the end of May means big crowds and more traffic. Then kids go back to school so crowds not much in the way of crowds til mid July.

With places like the glorious Pembrokeshire coast/St Davids, castles/Tintern Abbey, the Breacon Beacons etc etc you can have a terrific trip just in South Wales and London. Sure - North Wales IS great but I wouldn't second guess yourselves and re-imagine the whole plan. You could play 'what if' for months and people will continue to throw in new options til your head spins. London/South Wales is a perfectly reasonable choice.
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Old May 7th, 2021, 08:58 AM
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Janis, yes my head is starting to spin! I feel like one of the lessons that is continually impressed upon is don’t try to do too much. So, yes, to me staying in South Wales would be preferable I believe. I know we could push it and be in the car a lot trying to traverse the whole area, but we’re more of a stay in one place or two , venture out, sightsee and come back “home”.

I think I could do the diving, I know I’m up for it for sure. I may google a few videos and tutorials in the meantime! Where in South Wales would be a good base after our first night in Cardiff? I was thinking Tenby? I really want to see the Brecon Beacons and my two bibliophiles would die for Hay on Wye. So after Tenby maybe somewhere up in that area for a couple nights before returning the car?

Your input about the late June arrival is better too for us if we were to look for LSE or other universities to stay in. So that part at least is settled! Lol

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Old May 7th, 2021, 09:14 AM
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Tenby would be fine -- a neat smallish seaside town and an easy drive to places like St Davids. Especially if you pick the June time frame.

For another base -- maybe someplace like near Abergavenny. Then you'd be less than an hour from Hay-on-Wye, maybe 45 mins from Tintern, half an hour from Brecon, and convenient for lots of medieval castles like Caerphilly, Chepstow, White, Monmouth etc
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Old May 7th, 2021, 10:40 AM
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On our last trip to Wales we stayed at The Bear in Crickhowell (near Abergavenny). https://www.bearhotel.co.uk We visited many of the sites janisj mentions above and found it convenient and congenial.
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Old May 7th, 2021, 12:07 PM
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Thanks for the bear hotel tip. I think bc there are four (adults) of us, we may do better if we look for a cottage or flat type accommodation for this part of the trip. I’m seeing some in Abergavenny as well as on the coast. For example, There is a delightful cottage in Ferryside and another in saundersfoot. We are coast lovers so I’m drawn to these locations. Tenby seems to be a little bigger, busier? Is that correct? I also saw Camarthen that seemed centrally located. Are any of these locations better in terms of driving, convenience, beauty? After all the world has gone through this past year, I am so happy to be dreaming of traveling again. This region of the UK is so pretty on my iPad, I cannot imagine how it is in person!
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