The last time I went on a National Express coach trip was over two decades ago. I was with a group of friends travelling to Newquay in Cornwall from London. My memories are rather hazy, but I can recall the journey took forever – to what felt like the ends of the earth, the seats were uncomfortable, and the stinky toilet was just awful. So I vowed that I would never travel again via a National Express coach. Fast forward to now, and a lot has changed. For one, I’m no longer a teenager, and I have my own car. But what if you don’t want to drive somewhere, and want a more relaxing journey but without the extortionate costs? Well, as I discovered on a recent London to Cambridge day trip, National Express coaches have changed substantially over the years.
National Express coach trips
No doubt you’ll have seen National Express’ signature blue and red logo travelling the roads and motorways of the UK. And that’s because National Express has services to over 750 destinations across the country, as well as direct services to all the major UK airports 24 hours a day. The major factor for any travel is the cost – and with competitive pricing with thousands of tickets for £5 or less, taking a coach trip is a no brainer if you want to save money or are on a tight budget. In fact, one way for two from London to Cambridge cost just £11.65 which, when you consider the standard train fare from Kings Cross, is £25.10 per adult, is a huge saving.
Meanwhile, there is also an environmental impact of travelling via coach, which is the most eco-friendly form of public transport – generating five times less Co2 per passenger than the average car journey. National Express coaches are actually fitted with a special mechanism which automatically switches of the engine if it’s idle for more than five minutes.
London to Cambridge
I decided to see for myself what it would be like to travel from London to Cambridge on a coach. Having never been to the university city of Cambridge, I felt it was the perfect destination for our day trip, so decided to take Monkey along for the ride with me via National Express Cambridge from London Victoria. Arriving in plenty of time, our friendly driver made us feel welcome and after quickly scanning our ticket, we boarded the London to Cambridge coach. I was surprised by the space and even though it would eventually become full, it didn’t feel cramped. After Monkey found unoccupied seats close to the back, we settled in for our journey.
National Express wi-fi and entertainment
As I unpacked all our various belongings for our London to Cambridge coach trip, I was pleased to see that not only did we have a USB port and power socket to charge devices but large, comfortable leather seats, as well as air conditioning above. Monkey was happy to play games on his tablet, while I downloaded VUER, National Express’ entertainment service, which has a vast choice of feature films, TV shows, sports and news. Not something I had expected… After flicking through a few programmes, I hadn’t even noticed we’d already made our way out of London.
About half-way through our coach trip, Monkey and I folded down our tray tables and got out our snacks. We happily munched on our chocolate muffins watching the scenery whizz past us on the M11. I knew it was going well because Monkey only asked once when we were going to get to Cambridge, and he usually gets extremely restless as do I.
Arriving in Cambridge…
The journey time was just two hours from London to Cambridge, which is fantastic. It really flew, helped by the fact we were both content just chatting and playing games. So much easier to do, when I wasn’t behind the wheel and having to concentrate on driving. Our National Express Cambridge coach made its way into the centre of the city and dropped us off just a five-minute walk to where we wanted to be. What was refreshing was that I didn’t need to navigate through traffic or find a parking space, which can add to stress levels if you’re venturing into a new city.
Final thoughts on our National Express trip
When you’re short on time and want to have a stress-free way of getting to your chosen destination in comfort, then catching a National Express coach is a really fantastic option. My parents have told me for many years that they often catch the coach to Heathrow airport, because not only is it ridiculously inexpensive but you also get an allowance of 2x20kg suitcases as well as hand-luggage.
For me, though, it was simply the fact that I could sit back, relax and not have to worry about getting us to Cambridge. And even more so on our return journey, when after spending most of the day on our feet exploring the city, we were exhausted. We both fell asleep for pretty much the entire way home!
So I am now prepared to entirely dismiss my previous perceptions of travelling by National Express coach, and admit that they have indeed not only improved their services over the last 20 years but have updated, modernised and made coach travel extremely comfortable, well-priced and for those who are so used to having to drive long distances, really stress-free. I just wished I’d discovered this a bit earlier…
For more on our London to Cambridge day trip and what we got up to, check out this post.
* Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with National Express. For more on National Express routes, destinations and best value fares head to National Express. As always my opinions are my own.