With fuel costs rising to unprecedented levels, I think everyone who owns a car is checking the prices and worrying about costs. We rely on cars for most things in life, from the school run and commuting, to buying our groceries and having fun family days out. It’s not just fuel costs either, the cost of living is rising in all departments – that means it could cost more for your next car service, for the next MOT, and for your tires, brake pads and any other fixes that need to be done. The more we use our cars, the more maintenance they need. And let’s not get started on parking prices – I paid £15 to park for 4 hours in a car park in Bristol the other day, absolute madness! Have you considered that you could actually save a considerable amount of money if you started taking the bus?
It’s time for the Stagecoach Bus Trip Challenge! When Stagecoach bus invited me to go on a family day out and save money by taking the bus, the first step was to decide where we were going to go and how we would get there. Stagecoach are one of the largest bus operators in the UK and serve more than 100 towns and cities. Stagecoach have an excellent Journey Planner on their website and on the Stagecoach App which makes figuring out the journey super easy. You simply input your start point and end point, and it will calculate your closest bus route and also tell you if you need to walk anywhere, and what bus changes you might need. The map is very easy to follow and includes walking directions to get to the bus stops you need so there’s no chance of getting lost, even if you’re terrible at directions like me.
We decided to spend the day out at Caerphilly Castle, which is about 10 miles from Cardiff. The Journey Planner told me that bus number 26 runs every hour and goes from Cardiff to Blackwood, and stops directly outside Caerphilly Castle, fantastic! It also told us what ticket options were, and let us know the paper prices for purchasing on the bus, or what tickets we could purchase on the app.
We purchased a Caerphilly Cardiff Group Day Rider. This was £11 for up to 5 people to travel all day anywhere in this area. It was very easy to see on the App what area and buses were included and this works out at just £2.20 each if you have five people. It can be 5 adults or children or any combination! There were other options too if just a single person was travelling or you only wanted to buy a one way or return ticket rather than an all day rider. Knowing my ticket prices in advance made it easy to budget for the day. If you’re trying to watch your money, it can be hard to know exactly how much fuel, maintenance costs and parking are going to be, but if you travel by bus you have a set price that you know in advance which helps budget properly for a fantastic day out.
The bus was a few minutes late but that was no problem as the Stagecoach App updates you as to exactly where your bus is and what the expected time is. You can follow it in real time. Getting on the bus was simple, I just showed my ticket on the App to the driver and we found a comfortable seat. We were the only people on the bus heading to the castle in the morning, but it was about half full in the afternoon returning to Cardiff. Not having been on a bus for quite some time, I was very impressed that my bus had a USB port and lights on each seat. This was also shown on the App so you can see in advance if your bus will have charging facilities for you to use your phone. I saw a couple of people plugged in and it seems really handy.
William is five so going on the bus was a great adventure for him. It really enhanced the fun of his day out! He’s currently obsessed with time and numbers so loved looking at the App, and eagerly shouted out each bus number as the buses passed us.
We followed on the App to see which stop was ours, but it was also displayed on an electronic display on the bus to the castle. On the way back, there was no display, but there was an audio announcement. I preferred the electronic display to read as the audio was quite hard to hear, but we used the App anyway to know which stop was ours. If you’re not sure and don’t have the App to follow along, you can always ask the driver when you get on to make sure he stops at your stop. Now I’ve done this route once I would remember where to get off for Caerphilly in the future.
At Caerphilly we spent the morning in Caerphilly Castle. It’s still under renovation at the moment, which means you get a free guide book when you go in. I love guide books so that was great. It’s an informative and interesting attraction, the second biggest castle in the UK and in Europe! Even though it is mostly ruins, Cadw have done a good job of restoring as much as possible, and including a few inside rooms, including the great banquet hall. We also spent 20 minutes hiding from an epic thunderstorm (we don’t let rain stop us from going on a day out!) in the colouring in room, and made a Father’s Day Card. There’s no food available in Caerphilly Castle; but your ticket allows you to leave and enter as much as you want throughout the day, and it’s directly opposite Caerphilly’s main shopping area.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the array of shops available on Caerphilly high street, and there were also loads of craft and food stalls that I hadn’t expected, so we spent some time exploring, doing a cheeky spot of shopping and had lunch. It felt a lot more relaxed than shopping in Cardiff, and we knew the bus was running at half past every hour so there was no rush or worry about missing our bus to go home. If we were parked in a car park we’d be checking the time and worrying that we were going to go over into the next price bracket, or exceed our allotted hours. It was really nice to not have to think about that.
Overall I really enjoyed our day out with the Stagecoach Bus Challenge. Getting the bus was easy with the Journey Planner and the Stagecoach App, and I was impressed with how cheap it was for a full day travel. Our challenge gave us a budget of £40 for a family day out and we spent £11 on our Caerphilly Cardiff Group Day Rider bus ticket, and £27.30 on our tickets for Caerphilly Castle so a total of £38.40. My husband commented on how nice the bus was, and with the built in USB ports said it would be ideal for commuting in the future. With fuel and maintenance costs rising, as well as car parking costs, you could save a lot of money by exploring the options of going by bus. Travelling by bus is also better for the environment, so you’d know you were doing your part by not driving – an added bonus for us as we’re a very green family and always looking for ways to improve that.
So where are you going to go on your next family day out, and would you be willing to take a bus to get there? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
This post is a collaboration with Stagecoach, but all thoughts and experiences are my own.