How to Plan the Perfect Wales Itinerary: 7 Things to Consider
From storybook castles alive with myths and legends to snow-capped peaks and windswept beaches, Wales is an incredible holiday destination. Prefer more of an urban scene? Whether you’re gallery-hopping in Cardiff or savouring Michelin star cuisine in Swansea, you can pack your Wales itinerary with something for everyone. Planning is key, which is why we’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to plan a travel itinerary for your trip to Cymru.
1. Your personal interests
Naturally, your personal interests should be at the top of your priority list when planning a Wales itinerary. Below, we take a closer look at some inspiration for your trip.
Outdoor adventures in Wales
If you love to hike and be in the wilderness, destinations like Snowdonia National Park will tick your boxes. The country’s other national parks – Brecon Beacons (keep an eye out for wild ponies) and Pembrokeshire Coast (hello puffins!) – are also top picks for nature lovers.
Crazy about castles
Similarly, if you’re a bit of a history buff, you may prefer to prioritise attractions like Pembroke Castle and Cardiff Castle. Both are Welsh showpieces and grace countless postcards and guidebooks. But we’ll let you in on a secret. There are more than 600 castles in Wales! No wonder the country is nicknamed The Land of Castles.
Wales is an incredible destination for foodies. You’ll find Michelin star restaurants scattered across the country. As well as big cities like Cardiff and Swansea, you’ll find award-winning establishments in pocket-sized towns and villages.
Of course, one of the best things about Wales is the incredible combination of history, culture and scenery you’ll find around every corner. This makes it easy to plan a Wales travel itinerary that features a variety of experiences.
2. Save with passes
From centuries-old castles to ancient forts, Wales is brimming with historical attractions. Visiting one or two big-ticket attractions is doable for most travellers. But admission costs can quickly add up when you spend more than a few days in Wales. This is where passes come in. Here’s a quick overview of what’s on offer:
Cadw Explorer Pass
The Cadw Explorer Pass is a godsend for history aficionados. Available for either three or seven days, this pass unlocks access to a huge range of selected sites and attractions.
It’s offered by Cadw, a government agency dedicated to protecting historic buildings, sites and landscapes across Wales. Fun fact: the word “cadw” translates to “to protect” in Welsh.
- 3 Day Cadw Explorer Pass gets you three days of free entry over a seven-day period.
- 7 Day Cadw Explorer Pass gets you seven days of free entry over a 14-day period.
Another option is to become a Cadw member for the year. This gets you unlimited access to hundreds of castles, forts, abbeys and other heritage attractions across the country. If you plan to visit lots of Cadw sites in a single trip or to holiday in Wales multiple times through the year, annual membership offers excellent value for money.
National Trust membership
The National Trust is another organisation worth joining if you plan to visit heritage sites and attractions. Like the Cadw pass, membership gets you unlimited entry to hundreds of National Trust sites across Wales, as well as England and Northern Ireland.
City Sightseeing ticket
In Cardiff, Llandudno and Conwy, a City Sightseeing pass can be a great way to get around the city.
Great Little Trains of Wales card
For train buffs, a Great Little Trains of Wales Discount Card or Gold Card is a worthwhile investment. Enjoy discounted tickets on iconic Welsh train rides, including the Brecon Mountain and Snowdon Mountain Railway.
3. Transport options for your Wales itinerary
Transport is one of the most important factors to consider when researching how to plan a travel itinerary in Wales. Major towns and cities are well-connected by public transport, including buses and trains. Of course, nothing beats a rental car for the ultimate sense of freedom. Or you could consider using your own vehicle, depending on where you live and if you have the time to drive over to Wales.
Like passes for sights and attractions, there are big savings on offer when it comes to transport. Here are a few of our favourite picks:
- Explore Wales Pass– available to purchase from ticket offices, this pass offers four days of travel within an eight-day timeframe. Enjoy access to all Transport for Wales services, as well as select bus partners and privately-operated railways.
- Brit Rail UK Pass– Includes travel on National Rail services in Wales. There’s lots of flexibility, making this pass a great option for intrepid travellers.
Another option is booking a guided tour of Wales. If you’re the kind of person who hates planning, an all-inclusive tour can be a great way to experience Wales without lifting a finger. At least when it comes to planning!
4. Book attractions and experiences in advance
Simply turning up and buying a ticket at the entrance gate is a good option for most Welsh attractions. However, if you have something extra special in mind it’s worth booking in advance. If you’re wondering how to plan a travel itinerary with zero hiccups, this is one of our best tips.
For example, securing reservations at Michelin star restaurants like The Whitebrook in the Wye Valley and Beach House in Oxwich can be difficult, especially in summer. So it’s best to book in advance if you have your heart set on a particular restaurant.
Pro tip: if you’re looking for Michelin award-winning food at a delicious price, make reservations at The Walnut Tree in Llanddewi Skirrid. Prices start at £45 for a three-course lunch, making this one of the best-value, top-rated restaurants in the country.
The same concept applies to special events. For example, don’t expect to score last-minute tickets to a high-profile concert at Cardiff Castle or an event at the Wales Millennium Centre.
5. Where to stay
Accommodation has a big impact on your travel experience. Your personal preferences, as well as your budget, are two of the biggest factors to consider when deciding on accommodation for your Wales itinerary. Let’s take a closer look at some of the options:
B&Bs in Wales
Want to experience Wales through a local lens? We highly recommend checking into a B&B. You’ll find them across Wales – everywhere from big cities to chocolate-box villages. Yes, Airbnb is hugely popular. But when we say B&B, we’re talking a more traditional vibe. Expect a warm welcome from your host, cosy décor and most importantly, a scrumptious homecooked breakfast every morning. There’s simply no better way to kickstart a day of sightseeing in Wales.
From Brecon Beacons to the Usk Valley, Wales is blessed with incredibly beautiful countryside. Farm stays are the perfect way to immerse yourself in the scenery and truly appreciate the fresh country air. You’ll find these rural properties across the country, usually on working farms complete with friendly barnyard animals. Naturally, this makes farm stays a popular option for a family-oriented Wales travel itinerary. That said, you’ll also find some amazing luxury farm stays in Wales suitable for romantic getaways.
For some travellers, nothing beats the convenience of a hotel. They’re a great option in cities like Cardiff and Swansea, where you’ll find hotels for every budget. Whether you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful or want to splurge on a boutique hotel housed in a heritage-listed building, you’re spoilt for choice in Wales.
Travelling as a group or family? Self-contained accommodation offers all the comfort of home. Features like separate bedrooms, spacious living areas and fully equipped kitchens make it easy to explore by day and stick to your usual evening routines.
Self-contained accommodation is also a wonderful option for groups. If the goal of your trip is to bring people together or spend quality time with your nearest and dearest, self-contained properties are a great choice.
Camping in Wales
Planning a Wales trip itinerary on a budget? Swap hot showers and plush beds for a camping adventure. Wales is strewn with campsites for every occasion. The most affordable are remote and off-the-grid. Perfect for if you want to sleep under the stars and escape the crowds.
If you’re travelling with a family or prefer a few more creature comforts, serviced campsites are a terrific option. Enjoy landscaped grounds, clean toilet and shower blocks, and easy access to nearby towns and villages. Many campsites are within walking distance of pubs!
6. Weather and when to go
Summer in Wales
For many travellers, weather can make or break a holiday. If you’re the kind of person who has a much better time when the sun’s shining, you’ll want to plan your Wales itinerary between June and August. The country is often bathed in sunshine, especially coastal areas like Pembrokeshire.
If activities like swimming and bucket-and-spade fun are on the cards, summer is the best time to visit Wales. For most people, pleasant temperatures and sunshine also make outdoor activities more enjoyable. Of course, summer also translates to bigger crowds and inflated prices, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Autumn can be a wonderful time to visit Wales. Days are often clear and crisp, the countryside explodes in a sea of colour and sipping a pint of ale by a roaring fireplace feels all the more cosy. September, October and November are considered ‘shoulder season’ in Wales and are great months to visit if you want to skip the crowds and score great discounts on accommodation.
Winter in Wales can be a little wet, windy and wild to say the least. But if you’re up for an adventure and aren’t afraid to get stuck in the occasional rainstorm, winter is an amazing time to plan your Wales travel itinerary. For starters, the country’s mountains are dusted with snow which gives the entire country a storybook feel.
Armed with the right winter shoes and clothing, destinations like Brecon Beacons National Park are still open for business. Instead of a cascade, Sgwd yr Eira Waterfall is decorated with crystalline icicles. Work up an appetite on the three-hour return hike, then head to nearby Penderyn Distillery for a snap of Welsh whisky.
Winter is also a fantastic time to enjoy indoor attractions. From the National Museum Cardiff to MOMA Machynlleth, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on a rainy day. You’ll even find a slew of underground attractions, like King Arthur’s Labyrinth and the Llanfair Slate Caverns.
Spring in Wales
Locals wax lyrical about the period from April to June, when the country is carpeted in wildflowers. Spring is in full swing, and daffodils, bluebells and crocuses start to replace milky-white snowdrops. Waterfalls start to cascade, the sun feels warmer and there’s that sense of hope and positivity in the air. Just don’t forget to pack your wellies. Spring in Wales can be muddy!
The final word on when to plan your Wales itinerary
The bottom line is that weather in Wales can be frustratingly unpredictable. You might encounter glorious sunshine one day and relentless drizzle the next. Our best tip? Pack wisely. There’s no such thing as bad weather. Just bad clothing choices! Or at least, that’s what the Welsh will tell you.
7. Research festivals, events and holidays
It’s always worth doing a bit of research before locking in your Wales travel itinerary just in case there’s an event you want to attend or avoid. Prices can skyrocket over busy weekends like the Green Man Festival held in Brecon Beacons every August and the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Powys.
If you want to attend an event it’s worth paying a premium for accommodation. However, if you’re not planning to attend, you’ll be forced to absorb inflated prices. This is when shuffling around your Wales trip itinerary can be a good idea.
Now you’re armed with tips on how to plan a travel itinerary in Wales, it’s time to get stuck in. Visiting our directory is the best place to start and planning is half the fun, so enjoy the process, get creative and most importantly, enjoy your adventure in Wales!
Nick, your trusted guide to Wales travel and exploration, shares a deep passion for this enchanting land. With years of exploration, Nick offers expert insights into the best of Wales. Join him on a journey through its captivating history, culture, and hidden gems, as he inspires you to create unforgettable Wales travel experiences.