We love going on mini breaks and our most recent one was to the city of Bath in Somerset. When on a short break we like to stay as close to the city centre as possible, but this doesn’t always work out when you want to get parking on site.
With city parking usually costing a fortune it’s essential to find different ways to get around the city if it’s not possible to do everything on foot. With children in tow it can take forever to move around the city and sometimes you need to give yourselves a breather and take public transport.
We stayed just on the outskirts of Bath in the Bailbrook House Hotel. It ended up being further out than I’d anticipated, a nearly 2 mile walk down the hill into the city. I’ve made the mistake before of saying we would walk into a city from where we stayed in Norwich and it turned out to be a much longer walk than I’d anticipated. So for a first trip it’s always worth taking the bus, or alternative transport, to check out how far it really is.
Luckily most large hotels and cities have good bus services running regularly. so there’s usually a bus stop nearby. Ours was just a five minute walk from the hotel. The alternative, depending on how far out you are staying is to look for a park and ride service, where you park the car and take the bus into the centre. A much greener alternative and these often run into the evening. Bath has a few park and ride car parks, but we stuck with the normal bus service from outside the hotel.
For any city break I would definitely recommend looking out for a tour bus. They are a great way to find your way around and check out possible places to visit on your stay.
If you’re travelling by bus, do remember that not all bus services have got card payments. This seemw antiquates to me because in Oxford, the only place we ever travel by bus, they’ve had contactless payment for a long time but it seems Bath buses have only just got this facility. And it’s not in all buses yet.
Buses in Bath are expensive so think about buying a daily travel card if you’re going to be making lots of journeys each day. For a just under two mile bus journey into the city (3-5 stops), a return for child and adult cost £6.30. We did catch a different bus into the city one day which costs only £2.80 for a single and was free for a child, but it ended up costing a lot more because N left his coat on the bus afterwards and we couldn’t track it down through lost property. Sigh.
Buses do have mobile phone payments which do discount the cost slightly.
Red bus tour
While not the cheapest, city tours cost around £25 for an adult and child, and will take around an hour. The Bath tour is great value because you can do two separate tours on one ticket. We just did the city tour but you can also do the skyline tour which goes further out of the city and is one way of getting to a National Trust park further out rather than walking.
One point to remember, which I always forget, is to take your own headphones with you, in particular if you have children. Not as important for adults as they do provide headphones, but N always finds the headphones are too large and don’t stay in his ears.
One bonus of doing a tour in Bath was that a ticket also gave us discounted entry and money off from other attractions in the city. So for our trip to the Roman Baths we got an extra 10% off our entrance.
Tours are great for children as well, especially once they are primary school age. On the two bus tours we have done, N has taken away several pieces of information that have related to history he’s been interested in or a new fact he’s then repeated at home. It’s a subtle way of getting them educated in fact that you might not know about.
The Bath tour was interesting and it reminded us of various different places we wanted to visit, having spotted them en route.
We didn’t use the facility but from our hotel we were also given the choice to catch a boat into the city centre from a nearby mooring place behind a pub. Sometimes there are benefits to staying in nice hotels even though you pay a little bit more, because they often have quirky extras like discount vouchers if you stay several nights, or our boat option.
Walking around the city
Usually a mini break means lots of walking for us. Walking means getting up close to the buildings to discover the quirky facts and sites that you might not see from other transport.
Bath is very hilly but it’s perfectly doable even with children. We picked up a map from the hotel but tourist information centres usually have a street map of cities so you can find your way around.
We didn’t head too far out of the main central area of Bath, but this was enough for the places we wanted to visit and see. We enjoyed a couple of the parks including a game of mini-golf at Royal Victoria Park. We didn’t reach the play park because we were both too exhausted to return back up the hill again afterwards.
If you want to encourage children to walk get them an activity tracker. It gives N something else to think about competing with me rather than just worrying about how far he has to walk.
Bath has beautiful streets and buildings and while N didn’t really appreciate the Georgian structures, he could relate what he was seeing back to Horrible Histories which he loves.
Some of the places we enjoyed appreciating while walking around Bath included the Circus, beautifully classic curved Georgian terrace houses, the famous Royal Crescent, and famous shopping road, Milsom Street. We also spend some time relaxing in the Parade Gardens which does now charge a fee to enter although if you want somewhere quiet to sit and enjoy outside of the hustle and bustle of tourist Bath, it’s worth paying the small cost.
We didn’t cycle on this holiday but we did notice one pay as you go cycle stop where you could rent out bikes and return them when your time was up. Not quite as prevalent as these bike schemes are in Oxford thankfully, so you don’t spot random bikes left in odd places.
Traffic in Bath is horrendous so if you can stick to walking or using the bus you will get to places faster than if you drove in. We did use taxes a couple of times to return to the hotel because we couldn’t bare walking back up the steep hill from the bus stop after a full day out walking around.
Tips for city travel
- Walk where possible to save costs and avoid sitting in traffic in busy cities
- If you’re going to be travelling by bus in and out and across the city for more than one journey a day think about buying a daily pass or travel card. In Bath it seems that the daily Travelcard cost the same as a return ticket.
- Look online before travelling because you may find the travel companies have an app that you can use to save money
- Don’t always assume that travel companies will take card payments so always have plenty of change on you.
- Look for alternative transport options, cycling boat trips or even take scooters with you if it’s practical on city streets
We really enjoyed our stay in Bath there’s something for everyone and it’s an easily accessible city. But make sure you’ve allowed for the transport costs. If you’re travelling with more than two people in your car and don’t mind sitting in traffic to get into the city then you’ll get better value from driving in and paying to park then going by bus.
What transport options do you use when on a break with children?
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