Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, and that means it is as convenient for flights to almost anywhere you might want to go as it is chaotic and confusing . While its size can make it overwhelming, it also means a number of amenities and options are available to make passing through it less painful. Below are tips for surviving and possibly even thriving when travelling from Heathrow.
Some tips are applicable for flying out of any airport. Read up ahead of time on regulations for the airline and make sure you are not packing any forbidden items in your packed or carry-on luggage. Ensure that the size and weight of your luggage meets regulations. Make sure you have easy access to important documents like tickets, passports and any other information you may need as well as money.
You don’t want to arrive at the airport exhausted and stressed simply from the journey there, so you will want to consider in advance how best to get to the airport. You’ll need to weigh factors like cost, time, convenience and overall ease and decide which ones are most important to you.
Having someone drive you to the airport by car and drop you off is certainly an easy and inexpensive option (See Airport Transfers) , but this may not always be available. Parking at Heathrow can be booked in advance online, but if the trip is of a long duration, this can get expensive. Off-site parking may be cheaper but also less convenient and lacking in access to shuttles and other services.
Public transportation is another option. Children travel free on the Heathrow Express from Paddington Station, and the train is usually fast and comfortable although if there are several adults along, the price can mount quickly. Both the Underground and Heathrow Connect are slower sometimes less comfortable, but they are also less expensive. Other trains and buses also travel to Heathrow including a National Express from Victoria Station every 30 minutes.
Taxis may be easy and convenient but also can be expensive.
There are a number of hotels around the airport that can make leaving on a trip more leisurely. Some hotels are directly connected to terminals or are just a short free bus ride away. Spending the night in a hotel and departing at leisure can make the experience more pleasant.
Some destinations will require arriving some time prior to the flight’s departure, and this can be after a lengthy trip to the airport. The flight itself may not serve a meal or the food may not be the best. Heathrow has a number of dining options that range from budget to luxury, and sitting down for a meal can create an oasis of relaxation in a hectic departure day. You can check ahead of time to find out what restaurants are available in your departure terminal whether you are in search of a sandwich in a coffee shop, a family-friendly experience or fine dining.
Shopping can pass the time pleasantly, and as with restaurants, Heathrow has a range of options from bookstores to clothing stores to food and wine shops and more. For travellers within the UK or the EU, there is an option to leave items at the airport to collect on your return. You simply need to ask the staff at the shop to arrange it.
Milk for babies can be reserved ahead of time and collected on arrival. Terminal 3 has a free family lounge with play areas, a game zone and a quiet room while terminals 1, 4 and 5 have play areas. Some restaurants make a particular effort to cater to children with special menus, furniture and more. Other types of entertainment may be offered for children throughout the day.
Travel lounges are not too expensive and include a number of amenities that can make waiting around at the airport far more relaxing. Free wifi, complimentary food and beverages, a family lounge, showers, bedrooms, a spa and more are available at some terminals.
The keys to surviving Heathrow are advance research and organisation. By knowing how and when you will arrive and what you can do once you are there, you avoid racing off in a harried mess at the last minute. Planning what you will do once you get there and how to keep any children along occupied will help things go more smoothly. Know where you need to be at certain times and how to get there, and be sure to allow for delays caused by long lines. Above all, approaching Heathrow like a destination with a range of pleasant amenities rather than a necessary evil can make the start of your trip not just survivable but enjoyable.