I have a friend who is planning a trip to London next summer (2013). She will be traveling with her mother and 18 year old son. Her plan was to stay with relatives, and of course she would like my advice as I have been to London several times.
However, I recently found out that the relatives live in Bristol, which IMO is not exactly close to London. I have suggested that she stay in London and given her links to TexScott's budget hotels and flats lists. However, I am trying to figure out the options if she still wants to stay with her relatives.
So far I have found a BritExplorer pass on National Express which seems to cost £79 each for 7 days of unlimited travel. With this it seems that she could travel in and out of London on any bus that is not full for £79. However, the bus ride is about 3 hours, so not overly practical. It looks like booking in advance you could get a return for about £10-12, so the pass doesn't save a ton of money except that it doesn't seem you would be locked into the specific bus as I think you are with an advance fare.
On National Rail, it looks like the journey from Bristol Parkway (is that the main station in Bristol?) is about 1h 45m (which seems more reasonable if still not ideal) and advance fares seem to be in the range of £50 return. I see a season ticket for £181.40 for 7 days (about £26/day), which I assume would allow them to travel on any train (that goes through or stops at Warminster or Salisbury - no idea if that's most of the trains or not). It doesn't seem to have off peak restrictions.
Is there some other discount that would be better that I am missing? Maybe groupsave? I don't know how to find those fares.
Is the Warminster/Salisbury a major restriction? I tried putting via Salisbury into the journey planner and it increased the trip duration to 3h. However, I think via means changing trains or at least stopping at Salisbury, and I don't know if that's the same as the restriction on the season ticket. Without that restriction, the season ticket goes up to £300 ish, at which point I think a hotel in London would be cheaper.
Thanks for any suggestions.