“ Address: Moto Service Area / M4 Motorway / Pontyclun / Cardiff / CF72 8SA / Wales „
My dad booked us a couple of nights in this Travelodge for a long weekend (actually not the bank holiday, but we had all taken time off). I was disappointed when I heard we would be staying in a Travelodge, not just because I'm a bit spoilt (which, okay, I am) but because we hadn't had the best experience last time. However, we needed the holiday and it is a lot cheaper than paying the average £200 for most B'n'Bs these days.
Finding the place was somewhat difficult, as the only address we had was basically "Moto Service Area, M4 motorway Cardiff" and the Sat-Nav was as confused as ever (searching for the postcode will not work, as is mentioned on their site), but it is conveniently located at the service stations, which also has the usual fast food restaurants, coffee shops and book shops. Once you are there, it is easy to spot. There is ample free parking available, although I think for it's location, you can only really access it by car/taxi anyway, so free parking you would expect. The actual Travelodge building is a small 2-storey which shares its entrance with the other places and is located to the left when you come in.
Check-in was quite brief, the staff barely smiled but were quite polite, which is enough for me. They gave us our keys, good old fashioned metal keys with big blue tags that indicate the Travelodge address - for the very unlikely event you still manage to lose them. There were no lifts so we all had to lug our baggage up the stairs, although for such a short stay we weren't exactly carrying much. I guess this means upstairs would not be accessible to wheelchairs, but at least there are rooms on the ground floor.
I am aware that all Travelodge hotels have vending machines with things like toothbrushes just in case you forget something but I failed to notice them while we were staying as, for once, I packed properly. I do know the prices do reflect the convenience of being able to buy them on the spot when you have forgotten, so my advice would be make a list of essentials to pack and keep it for every trip! Otherwise - most supermarkets these days open until 10pm, so it's not really worth buying these things.
The first thing to hit me when I entered the room was the overpowering stench of an old shower curtain, that probably should have been replaced months ago. The worst thing was that it smelt an awful lot like those side streets after a Saturday night. That's right, it smelt like urine. The windows were already open in one of the rooms, yet the smell was equally strong, and in spite of keeping the windows open almost the whole way through our stay, we were stuck with that smell.
Travelodge emphasise on providing just the very basic essentials. You get a small bar of soap and plastic cups for rinsing. None of those small shower bottles with shampoo/conditioner/shower gel etc. Not even a floor towel - although I just used the hand towel as I was conscious of how dirty the floor was. You do get the spare hand towel and bath towel in the double & family rooms. You are advised to hang your towel on the rail if it does not need washing or leave it in the bath if it does - so these were only replaced when required.
We had standard tea and coffee facilities - sadly no hot chocolate. No biscuits, either. One of the kettles was tricky to switch on, which took me a while to realise as I thought I had blown the fuses in all the sockets. Oops. This turned out to be too much of a hassle as it did not work unless you stood there holding the kettle down. Since we had two rooms it just meant taking all our mugs into the other room to use there kettle, but otherwise I expect they would have replaced it or something. The family room had four mugs and spoons, the double had two of each. I always rinse these with boiled water before using - for my own peace of mind.
Both rooms had double beds, but one also had a sofa bed. This has a pull-out single mattress underneath, but it also fits quite well on top of the actual sofa, which probably takes away a bit of the hardness and saves space in the room - plus it's best not to sleep too close to the floor in places like these! My sister took the sofa bed, but said it was very comfortable except for the duvet being too hot. The bedding was very comfortable, although there were only two small pillows to a double bed, so I expect sharing would be somewhat less comfortable. I slept well on the first two nights. Even with the windows open, the thick curtains ensured that the room always stayed very warm, and I know this can be a problem for some people.
I got the impression our sheets were never replaced, which after one day is environmentally acceptable but after two made me wonder if we had stayed longer, how often they would be changed. Hard to tell, but a question I would certainly bear in mind in future. As I mentioned about not sleeping too close to the ground - we did find that the floors were never vacuumed - we saw the same crumbs in exactly the same places each day. My biggest concern is that I am asthmatic and this did affect my breathing a bit, so for people with more serious illnesses this is a big 'no-no'. The windowsills were also filthy. There was water next to the toilet in the morning, which was still there when we returned in the afternoon, so either there was a leak that was not dealt with or the cleaners simply did not bother to clean any of the floors. Not a nice thought, either way.
We opted out of the Travelodge breakfast on this occasion - my previous review would probably explain why, as it was basically paying £5 for cheap packets of cornflakes and yoghurts that I should not have eaten as they were not even vegetarian. Instead, we took a cool-box with milk, drinks etc. and bought some cereals and muffins. A much better idea, if you are only going for a short trip. However, by day two the cool-box was less cool, but one cleaner advised me that I could put things in the hotel fridge. I suppose I assumed that like lending irons and hairdryers, this was just a standard thing offered to customers (although irons and hairdryers did not appear to be offered here - not mentioned on the site nor to us when we arrived, as was done in the last hotel). A very nice lady in reception took our things and wrote in a thick marker pen on the lid our room number. We decided to pick the milk up the next morning, so that it had plenty of time to cool. When we did, we found the night-watchman had helped himself to half of it and it was not actually that cool after all, so I suspect it was not exactly refrigerated the whole time. Annoying, not the for the loss of milk, as we didn't need all of it anyway, but more because I had pictures in my mind of those types to put milk bottles to their mouths and drink it like a bottle of beer. Nothing makes me more squeamish than sharing saliva with random strangers! I assumed the milk had just been used for cereal or coffee and gulped down my breakfast, but in future I won't be taking that risk.
I would say, however, that in general the staff seemed quite friendly, in fact there was very nice person in reception that dad got talking to. They were also quite helpful with advice on things to do or giving us directions. It's just that most were only there to get the job over with! I did notice that the cleaners seemed to spend a lot of time in the morning arguing with each other over their work, so it did seem too obvious that the people working there were not happy. I did feel a bit uncomfortable walking past the staff when they were blatantly standing there arguing, but I don't envy them either, and they weren't exactly rude to us.
The rain was heavy and constant on our first day in Cardiff, so after driving around and finding very little to do, we went back to the hotel to relax. The T.V. had the basic channels, tailored to Wales, of course, but there was very little on and we did not have Freeview etc. There is also Wireless access available but at a cost - you can buy from an hour up to a year's access (wow - do people really stay the long there?) and the prices varied from £1 up to something around £130. It's better value if you're staying there a long time, but for us it was just not worth it. Except for these, there's really not much else to do in the rooms. We brought some board games - because I suspected we would get rained in - so that was something at least. I'm also easily pleased with computer games - as you may have noticed by my old reviews! We had one spare socket we used for the hairdryer/my sister's laptop and one, by the telly for my phone charger/laptop, then of course the kettle & telly had their own sockets, which is more than enough for us. It was the same in the double room.
Within this Travelodge there are no extra facilities e.g. leisure/bars that I was aware of, although this is not really to be expected as Travelodge do advertise as being 'without the frills'. But as mentioned above, there are restaurants in the Service area if you don't want to be driving around looking for places to eat. They were not open until late however, but this may change so I'd check opening times when you arrive if you want to use the restaurants at some point.
The one thing I am thankful for in comparison to our last visit to a Travelodge is that this time, no-smoking meant NO-SMOKING. In fact there were even signs on our doors to declare smoking illegal on the premises. In fact, I checked the website and all Travelodge sites have banned smoking in all rooms (as of January 2008) So they no longer have any smoking rooms to dump us in if they double-book.
The price we paid for all this was about £39 per room per night, which frankly for us is still a real bargain - especially with the economy the way it is.
Overall the place just desperately needs a thorough clean on a much more regular basis, which means actually cleaning the floors, not just tidying up the bedding each morning. And the shower curtains need replacing!!! Apart from that, we were not expecting much for the price we paid and we were therefore somewhat satisfied, although personally I would rather not stay in places like these again (I did say I am spoilt). So if you are looking for something basic, accessible to the motorway in Cardiff, and you are on a budget it may just be enough, but if you're looking for a proper comfy holiday break, I'd keep looking!
This review was originally posted by me on Ciao.