Olympic fail.
April 30, 2012 9:14 PM   Subscribe

I've just booked an international trip with a 3/4-day layover on the way home. Great, I think, I can spend some time in the city, get a cheap hotel, see a few friends for dinner and then get some sleep and a shower before my trip home - easy! Problem: after booking the trip, I realize I will be in London during the Olympics, and hotel prices have accordingly skyrocketed. I am on a grad student budget. Help me find a decent place to stay - ideally not in a shared room - that won't kill my budget?

Potentially useful factoids:
*flying in from Rome, landing ca. 5pm London time.
*will have just spent 6 weeks living in close quarters with a 30+ person project, hence really hoping for a night on my own and not in a hostel dorm.
*that said, I'm not in London long enough to do a whole lot of anything.
*plus, I've been there in the past so I'm not dying to sightsee/live it up - just looking to have a nice night.
*hoping to spend $80 or lower, can swing up to $120.
*flight out at 11am, so I can travel into the city but can't go terribly far afield (hence why I can't stay with friends - they live too far from Heathrow to make this feasible/worth their having to wash their sheets).
*oh, flying into/out of Heathrow.

posted by AthenaPolias to Travel & Transportation around London, England (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are your friends in London, or out of it? If you're planning to have dinner with said friends, then surely staying with them is feasible? If they are really far, then I assume you were planning to meet them half way between their place and Heathrow. If you can give us an idea where they live, that might help.
posted by Joh at 9:20 PM on April 30, 2012

Since you have a number of days, if prices seem like they're really going to be that crazy, it might be worth it to high-tail it to another English city sufficiently distant so as to be unaffected.
posted by threeants at 9:28 PM on April 30, 2012

Can you clarify as to whether you have 3/4th of a day (that is, 18 hours) or 3-4 days in London?

If the former, is that 18 hours between touchdown at Heathrow and wheels up?
posted by arnicae at 9:31 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry, I didn't realize that was unclear - I meant three-quarters of a day, i.e. 18 hours. The friends are actually staying with family in Surrey, so yes, I was assuming I'd meet them in the city proper (and I don't want to presume I can stay with their family!).
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:49 PM on April 30, 2012

Try vrbo or its equivalent (I'm not sure what else similar is popular/used in England) -- sometimes you really luck out on there, and sometimes stuff's really expensive. You might luck out with a studio or something that isn't rented out for the Olympics because that's generally a group-type vacation.
posted by brainmouse at 9:57 PM on April 30, 2012

Perhaps a hotel out at heathrow will be a little cheaper? You could go in to the city then tube/cab back out. I just skimmed wotif.com and there were a couple of hotels listing $90ish a night in the first week of august, although i dont know how close they'd be to the airport really. (They were called Heathrow House and Heathrow Lodge, for reference).
posted by jacalata at 10:07 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A few years ago I had a very similar layover in London. Just overnight, less than a day. It was late July, I think.

I landed as the sun was going down, took the tube into the city, walked around all night, and then took a bus back to the airport as the sun was coming up. It was a long and kind of tiring night, but it was worth it to get to see the whole place on my own, in the quiet of night. London really shuts down at night and there was almost nobody around. Maybe during the Olympics there will be a bit more going on.

Just thought I'd throw that out there as an idea, if you're willing to not find a place to sleep that night.
posted by bigtex at 10:22 PM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would tactfully ask your Surrey friends this very question -- after all, they're semi local!. Leave out the part where you're fussing over whether the family will take you in. If they're willing to, they'll let you know! If they're not, they may be able to find you accommodation otherwise.
posted by Heretical at 11:12 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

landing at 5pm? hmm.. if these reports are true then you might even have difficulty making it into Central London before things are closed: reports of 5 hour delays at customs.

but assuming you can get out of here quickly - I'd probably recommend you find a hotel near Paddington Station, that way you can quickly take the Heathrow Connect (or Heathrow Express) there and back in the morning. and you could quickly check-in & drop off your gear then head out into town on arrival.

laterooms had a few places around the £50.00 mark for a random date in July. - what is the night you are looking for?

London isn't really a 24 hour city and that particular 16 hours 5pm to 11am is rather unfortunate i'm afraid.

Alternatively a hotel near Heathrow - then jump on the Piccadilly Line into Central London after you check in. However, if you get a hotel near Heathrow then the problem might be getting back to your hotel from dinner in Central London. - The tube stops at around midnight (unless they are running later for Olympics?) .
posted by mary8nne at 2:30 AM on May 1, 2012

Alternatively you could stay at a Yotel mini-hotel inside Terminal 4. Looks like you'd get a good nights sleep and a shower. You can make reservations, and rates appear to start around £80.00. I realize this probably rules out seeing friends, but with so little time to get in and out of the airport I'd be worried about trying to pack too much into what could easily turn into a stressful 3/4 of a day.
posted by grog at 3:01 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depending on who you are flying with, you could also look into their clubs, and get a membership, or buy a pass for the day you're there. Depending on the airline, they have showers, quiet rooms, massages, etc. Not exactly a hotel room - but you will have plenty of time to sleep on the flight home, as well.
posted by rich at 3:59 AM on May 1, 2012

Since you have a number of days, if prices seem like they're really going to be that crazy, it might be worth it to high-tail it to another English city sufficiently distant so as to be unaffected.

I'vem heard horror stories of private landlords evicting tenants before the Olympics to rent out their places as flats for the Games, giving them the choice of leaving or a permanent £500 per month increase. Whether greed comes before a fall or not, you are really going to struggle at that period with that budget to stay anywhere central.

Have a look at the Piccadilly line which goes in and out of HEathrow - there may be a place along there, such as Hayes or Southall, which is more or less equidistant between the airport and the centre. Cabs to Heathrow are very expensive if you're on a budget.
posted by mippy at 4:29 AM on May 1, 2012

To be honest you may be better off meeting your friends outside London - there are plenty of pretty towns around there where you can have a meal and a drink. These are normally reasonably well connected to the airport, too. Ask your friends what they think. But it may well be cheaper and more pleasant to meet elsewhere. Also ask if they can help with accommodation.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:37 AM on May 1, 2012

Are you interested in staying in a nice town in Surrey or does it have to be London?

For example, you can stay in the Travelodge in Guildford for £25 per night (non-refundable rate) on a random Olympic date I just tried. It won't be luxury, but I've always found Travelodges clean and comfortable enough.

Getting to Guildford from Heathrow involves a bus and a train (change at Woking), so it's not as easy as taking the tube into central London, but if you're a student I imagine it won't be a dealbreaker. Check the timetables to be sure it works with your outgoing flight.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:53 AM on May 1, 2012

Given the troubling reports of border delays now, even before the Jubilee and the Olympics, I would also suggest the Yotel in Terminal 4. I had an overnight layover and it was fantastic to be able to stow my luggage, wash up, etc. The shower is sort of strange, in that it's the washroom and everything is just waterproof, but it was much quieter and easier to use than I had expected. While it's not ideal, if you did meet heavy delays in Customs, there are several restaurants outside of security at Heathrow, like a Witherspoons and a french chain place, so your friends could conceivably just pop on the tube or train and meet you there. It's easy enough to transfer to the other terminals by the time you would need to be there. There is a bus hub (off Terminal 2, I think?) that runs regular buses to nearby towns as well, so you could check the schedule against local hotel availability-- the bus to Oxford is quite reliable, runs nearly all day, and only takes about 90 minutes, as an example, though probably far too far for your friends in Surrey.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:27 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just came back from Heathrow and I second Yotel. I stayed at the Heathrow Hilton and based upon the pictures on the website, I'd MUCH rather have stayed in the Yotel. At least the TV would have worked! (Although I had a might tasty full English breakfast...)

FYI, the Heathrow Express was £34.00 both ways, the connect may be less expensive, but factor in these really high prices. I paid £4.30 for a one-way Tube ticket in district 1.

You can pre-pay for the room, to insure that it's there for you.

Have a great time!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:31 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine in Boston hosts CouchSurfers all the time. Have you considered that option?
posted by Dragonness at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2012

with a similar layover last year, landing at 5PM, I got into the city for a bit. But note that the tube from Heathrow to central London ate up well over an hour on each end of the trip.
posted by bendybendy at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2012

The Heathrow Express takes about 15mins is 34 pounds return. https://www.heathrowexpress.com/tickets-deals/prices-fares

The Heathrow Connect with takes about 30 mins is around half that I think.

The Picadilli Line on the Tube takes an hour or so and is only 4-5 each way.
posted by mary8nne at 6:31 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

For completenesssleeping in airports is a decent options.
posted by crawltopslow at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2012

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