Do you get stressed worrying about missing that early morning flight?
Those of us who fly frequently have learnt over the years how to make that visit to the airport at an ungodly hour of the day just a little more pleasant and comfortable and avoid the last minute panic when you sleep through your alarm clock at the crack of dawn, only to then hurtle around the M25 to Heathrow or Gatwick, find a parking space, wait for the transfer bus and just make it the gate with a minute to spare to catch that early morning flight so you don’t miss your meeting the other end.
There is another way though.
I for one, try to avoid early morning flights as much as possible, and would much rather fly into my destination the night before, so I am feeling fresh and ready for my meeting in the morning. This often means staying at an airport hotel. On those rare occasions I do have to catch an early flight though, I will again choose to stay at an airport hotel, preferably one that offers complimentary parking for my car and is within walking distance of the airport terminal.
The two airports I tend to fly out of the most are London Gatwick, which as we all know is nowhere near London and London Heathrow, which is as close to London as Gatwick is to the English Channel. London’s only true airport is London City, which is small and efficient, but if you don’t like landing on a runway that resembles an aircraft carrier surrounded by water and need to fly further than Europe, then you may prefer one of the larger airports. For the seasoned flyer, London City offers flights to many European destinations and even a fabulously convenient one to New York’s JFK via Shannon, where the plane refuels and you clear US immigration. In fact, so efficient is this process, that on one occasion I managed to disembark from the plane and make it into a cab towards Manhattan in just over five-minutes – yes, I am serious! The reason? You are considered a domestic flight as you have already cleared immigration back in Ireland.
So how do you avoid that early morning panic to make your flight? Well if I am flying out of Gatwick’s North Terminal, the Sofitel London Gatwick has served me very well, offering a special room rate along with secure undercover parking for the duration of my trips. The other advantage is that there is a walkway literally right from the hotel’s atrium into the North Terminal. It really could not be more convenient.
If you have an early morning flight out of Heathrow, then there is a lot more choice and of course you need to choose a hotel that is close to the more spread out terminals, particularly Terminals 4 and 5. For Terminal 4 the Hilton London Heathrow Airport is a convenient option and also offers a Park and Fly package with a secure onsite parking facility and a covered walkway directly into Terminal 4.
If you’re flying out of Terminal 5, then perhaps the most convenient hotel is the 5-star Sofitel London Heathrow which is connected to Terminal 5 via a walkway and offers a free transfer service to Heathrow’s other four terminals.
However, if a 5-star hotel does not suit your wallet or needs and you are literally looking for a convenient, comfortable hotel and parking for your car within striking distance of the terminal, then you might like to consider the Thistle London Heathrow Terminal 5, which again offers onsite parking for 450 cars and a special 4, 8, 15 or 22 day Park & Fly package. The other big advantage? Well it’s just a five-minute ride to the terminal in one of those dinky little pods you might have seen. It’s got to be worth staying there just to try out those pods!
Whilst these are just a few options for those of you who hate the early morning rush to the airport like me, there are of course many other hotels in and around not only London’s but also the UK’s other airports. I have also stayed in many an airport hotel around the world, all of which offer varying levels of amenities and comfort.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.