A Day On The Town?
December 4, 2006 11:58 AM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I will be flying from New York to Sri Lanka later this month through Heathrow. We're trying to figure out what if anything we can do with the several hours we'll need to kill between flights. As you can imagine, there's

Variations of our questions have been asked before but usually during periods of heightened security or so long ago that I wonder how valid the advice is anymore, so we're looking for more up to date answers.

Our flight from New York lands around 6 in the morning and we're not flying out until just after 9 that evening. I'm guessing we'll need to be back at the airport with a few hours to spare.

Questions (assuming I can squeeze in more than one):

Is this even enough time to see anything in London or are we likely to just wind up having to turn around and go back to the airport?

Does anyone know if this would mean carting our luggage around with us or would we be able to check it straight through despite the long layover?

Finally, are Heathrow security measures as strict as they were over the summer? At the time I think the rules were no cellphones or laptops other than in checked bags and only a small clear plastic bag of your essentials as a carry-on.
posted by JaredSeth to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's plenty of time to pop into the city and do some sightseeing. If you want to save some time, I'd fork over the cash and take the Heathrow Express into town (15 minutes) - it's worth it, especially if you're going to be tired from the previous flight and tired just thinking about the next one.

Not sure about your checked luggage - call your airline to find out if it will be checked all the way through?

I've flown out of Heathrow several times since the summer and the line-ups have been back to normal. Security has lessened - some liquids allowed in the transparent bag, but only one carry-on bag allowed through security. All the specific info is here.
posted by meerkatty at 12:05 PM on December 4, 2006

I did this a few years ago with a shorter layover (~4 hours available to sightsee? I don't quite remember). I also took the Heathrow express -- taking the tube would have had me spending all of my layover underground. The airline (American) was able to check my baggage for my flight that evening even though it was 5 or 6 hours away, so I didn't have to worry about lugging it with me.

In my limited time I was able to walk from Paddington station, through Hyde Park, past Buckingham palace and out the mall to the river and back. It was definitely worth it. I did this all very spur of the moment and only had the map they put in the seatbacks on the Heathrow Express and USD on me -- with some quick planning and local money for cabs, you could really see a lot.
posted by rachelv at 12:49 PM on December 4, 2006

you could book a day room at the airport hotel. that would give you somewhere to shower and nap for a few hours, and you could still get into the centre of london for a few hours (either on the Heathrow Express as meerkatty has recommended, or on the Tube) to have a look around. Heathrow Express is much quicker, but the Tube is less expensive, and in many ways it's part of the London experience in it's own right .

there are two hotels within heathrow airport - a sheraton and a hilton. i've done the day room thing at the hilton before. it's not exactly cheap, but i've always felt the opportunity to have a proper shower, get some real sleep in a real bed, and change into some clean clothes was worth the price.
posted by netsirk at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks meerkatty, I was having a hell of a time trying to find updated information about carry-on regulations. So it appears that cellphones and laptops are no longer banned items? That should mean that the most dangerous part of bringing my laptop will be convincing my better half that I need it along.

rachelv, thanks for the mini-itinerary. This is exactly the sort of info I was looking for. I'd like to squeeze as much of London in as I can and "earn" that stamp in my passport.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2006

Response by poster: netsirk, you don't happen to recall how expensive the day room was by any chance? If I do have to get my bags, it would be nice to have a place to drop them while we sightsee. I take it Heathrow is like US airports in that they no longer have public lockers?
posted by JaredSeth at 1:01 PM on December 4, 2006

You have plenty of time to look around the city.

If you are checked-in straight through to Sri Lanka I doubt you will have to recheck your bags.

I am going to second the Heathrow Express. It costs about 10 pounds or so if I remember correctly (each way) and will drop you off in the heart of London. Between getting off the plane, catching the train and travel time there is no reason you shouldn't be in Central London by 7:30.

You can either plan your own adventure for the day or take the hop on, hop off tour buses. This may be your best bet - you will be able to see all of London's major attractions in a day. Get back on the Express at 5:30 or 6:00 and you'll be set.

Don't waste your day at the airport.
posted by ASM at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2006

Finally, are Heathrow security measures as strict as they were over the summer? At the time I think the rules were no cellphones or laptops other than in checked bags and only a small clear plastic bag of your essentials as a carry-on.

Google "heathrow".
Click on the first link.
Clink on the "Security restrictions" link.
Hey presto, all the info about security restrictions you could need.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2006

If you aren't able to check your luggage through to the next flight, take it on the Express with you. At Paddington Station, there is a left luggage place on platform 12. I have left my luggage there. There was a fee per hour, something like a pound/hour, with minimums. It wasn't too expensive as I recall (a year ago.) At that time, there was no left luggage at Heathrow (or it was really expensive, I can't remember which.) For awhile, you could even actually check in to your flight at Paddington, but alas no more.

Sounds like you have a fair amount of time. Go to a museum, do some shopping, have a cheap early dinner ('tea') at an English pub. Hmmm. Real fish and chips.
posted by typewriter at 1:12 PM on December 4, 2006

Here's a link to the facilities at Paddington.
posted by typewriter at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2006

Response by poster: Good to hear about the left luggage place. Hauling my stuff around London if American and Air Lanka aren't on the same page was really one of my bigger concerns.

Thanks for the ideas everybody. As much as I generally prefer to make my own way, the tour bus suggestion by ASM sounds like it might be the perfect way to see as much as possible.

Ends, yeah I should have revisited the airport website. I see the security page has been updated since I last looked when we booked the trip a little over a month ago. Mea culpa.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2006

i believe the day room cost around 90pounds. like i said, not cheap. but after an extended overnight flight, and with another one to follow that evening, it might be worth it to you to be able to have a hot shower & some real sleep before you go sightseeing.

you can check here for specific rates on your travel dates.
posted by netsirk at 1:59 PM on December 4, 2006

June 2006 experiences, to corroborate with some of the above. My particulary experience was Boston-Capetown, British Airways:
- If you checked in all the way to Sri Lanka, your bags stay at the airport.
- This is way more than enough time to hit some highlights! We had about 5 hours less than you, but we still hit Buckingham Palace (for the changing of the guard), Westminster Abbey, The Globe, the Tower Bridge, and a few shopping streets.
- Get to the airport about an hour ahead of time if you're already checked in.
- Before you leave New York, double-check if there's anything hinky with the train connections to the city. There was some construction going on on one of the Tube lines that slowed down our transit to/from the city center, and I don't know what's going on anymore.
- Changing money at the airport was slow-as. Get some in New York so you can get out of Heathrow quick-like. For one day, each person in my group spent aout US$50 on meals, trains, and admissions. Shopping was by credit card.
posted by whatzit at 2:45 PM on December 4, 2006

On the showers: Heathrow does have showers in some of the arrival terminals, and they weren't too skanky or too expensive. May be a good way to spend your first half hour in London!
posted by whatzit at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2006

JaredSeth: Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be so snarky :) And I should have noticed that the same link was in the first reply anyway.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2006

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