How we traveled from the USA to England to visit Cbeebies Land at Alton Towers
When we went: April 2019
Where we stayed: Cbeebies Hotel at Alton Towers
How long we stayed: 2 nights
This post (Part 1) is all about the logistics and travel for our trip to Alton Towers in England. Part 2 (coming soon!) is about the the park, hotel, and attractions.
Alton Towers is a theme park in England, and among other things it is the home to some castle ruins, a bunch of rollercoasters, and Cbeebies land. As an American, I had never heard of Alton Towers until a couple of years ago when the Octonauts shared this post about a new hotel with an Octonauts-themed hotel room:
At the time, the Octonauts was my then 4-year-old daughter’s favorite show. The Octonauts is a Cbeebies show which is distributed in the US on Disney Junior and is about a group of animals traveling the oceans rescuing sea creatures. She loved it and watched it constantly. We had all the toys from the show and she dressed up as one of the characters (Kwazii) for Halloween. Once I learned that there was an Octonauts hotel and rollercoaster, it became my mission to bring her there before she outgrew her favorite show.
Fast forward a year and a half later, and our trip to Alton Towers became a reality. As we found, it can be daunting to plan a trip there as an American because there are so many unknowns and unfamiliars. Here are a few of the things that we learned that every first-time visitor to CBeebies land should know, especially if you’re like us and unfamiliar with Alton Towers.
One of my biggest challenges in planning this trip was figuring out how to get to Alton Towers from London, where we started our trip. Transportation logistics consumed a huge amount of my planning time and here’s what we did: We traveled to Alton Towers via train from London. We left from Euston Station, which is evidently where a lot of northbound trains depart from. Getting to Euston was a challenge for us because of where our London hotel was located, but that’s a story for another post!
Once we made it to the station and onto the train, the ride itself was very smooth. It was about an hour-and-a-half train ride on Virgin Trains, and our stop was the first one. I booked our fare with Trainline.com, which my British friends told me was a reputable site which aggregates different companies to put together the best route for you. I also bought and used a Family and Friends Railcard to save on our fares, which you can read more about in a future post.
There are multiple stations that are within proximity to Alton Towers, and all require some kind of transfer to the park. I had read online that a bus runs from the nearby stations to the park, and my original plan was to take a bus to the park (especially coming from a Disney World background, where all paths lead very easily to the parks). However, further research caused me to abandon this idea. I called and spoke to the people at Alton Towers who suggested a bus might not be the best option, particularly given the time of year we were visiting; the busses only run seasonally and Spring is not considered the peak time. From what I could tell the busses only ran twice a day, required multiple stops and transfers, and would have cost us hours in additional travel. So instead we booked a cab, which turned out to be easy and convenient. I highly recommend this option so you can travel on your own schedule. A lot of cab companies in the area have a set rate to Alton Towers and I pre-booked a ride with Autocab which worked out well for us.
We ended up going into the Stoke-on-Trent station. This was tricky, because Alton Towers is technically located in Staffordshire, but that station is not the closest or the most convenient, from what I understand. When I spoke to the folks at Alton Towers they suggested Utoxeter as the closest, but after doing my research on the cab companies, I personally felt confident going to Stoke-on-Trent instead, as it seemed that more cab companies operated routes to Alton Towers out of that station. I can’t speak to what my options or experience would have been into Utoxeter instead. If you’ve gone to Alton Towers via another station, tell us about your experience in the comments!
Booking the room at Cbeebies Hotel was another important part of our travel logistics. Afterall, the whole reason we were going to Alton Towers was to stay in the Octonauts hotel room. If I couldn’t get a room, the whole trip would have been called off. There are only 4 Octonauts rooms in the hotel, so I booked this way in advance and it was a rare situation where I didn’t play around trying to get a better deal or cheaper rate. I locked the room down early and just committed to the posted rate. For what it’s worth, we periodically checked the rates and they did not ever drop, so I do feel that we probably got the best rate we could. I booked the room about 8 months in advance of our trip, and I got the impression that this is not very common. The tickets and room packages for 2019 had not even been announced at that point. Later, once they were announced, I called them and upgraded my reservation from a regular “bed and breakfast” reservation to a “short break”, which includes a park ticket and a second day ticket free. I wasn’t able to book a short break when I initially booked the room, but it was easy to change the reservation over the phone.
Take away: If you are worried about getting the room you want, you don’t have to wait for the short break packages to be announced. You can upgrade to a short break later and still get all of the benefits.
By the way, as an American I had no idea what a “short break” was, but the term kept coming up when reading about Alton Towers and Paultons Park, another theme park we visited in England. As best I can tell, a “short break” is a bit like a “weekend getaway” to us in the US. It’s essentially a 2+ night package which includes a hotel room and theme park tickets with it, usually with perks such as a second day free and free breakfast.
One more thing about booking rooms: You have to pre-pay for the hotel, which gives you a little bit of control over the exchange rate. We have another post coming soon all about how we optimized and travel hacked this trip, but one of the ways we saved some money was by booking and paying for our room when the exchange rate was favorable. Because the price is based on the pound, not the dollar, you can pay less or more for a room even when the posted price doesn’t change.
Since we were staying on-property at the Cbeebies Land Hotel we had breakfast included. The restaurant in the hotel is called the Windmill Restaurant, touting kid-friendly decor, amenities, and menus. Even though the Windmill restaurant is only for Cbeebies hotel guests a reservation time is still required (for breakfast and dinner). At the time of booking our rooms I also booked our breakfast and dinner times. Later, when I looked online for other available times pretty much everything was taken, so book early and book wisely; it probably won’t be easy to change your time later.
We ate at the Windmill restaurant for dinner on both of the days we were there. This was not our original plan (we had wanted to try out the famous rollercoaster restaurant and changed our minds last minute), but I was really glad that we did this. The restaurant is designed for kids and is adjacent to the stage/play area where all of the nighttime entertainment happens. If we had gone to another restaurant it would have been harder to take advantage of that.
Take away: keep it simple and eat at the Windmill Restaurant each night while you’re there, especially if it is a short visit. The pizza especially is pretty good and there are enough options on the menu that you can try something different each night and not get tired of it.
This post covered everything you need to know about the logistics and planning for a trip to Alton Towers. In our next post (coming soon!), we’ll share what CBeebies Land was like, what we did, and what we recommend! In the meantime, if you have planned a trip to Alton Towers, what tips and ideas do you have? Let us know in the comments!