You may find helpful tips in this article if you take the kids on a long-haul flight from Heathrow Airport.
For our adventure to the USA, we would fly from Heathrow Airport to Las Vegas. This was going to be a long flight with the kids!
Getting to the Airport On Time
We don't live near Heathrow. It's about 4 and a half hours away by car, with lots of places for delays and traffic jams.
Fortunately, our flight was just after lunch, so theoretically, we could set off that morning, drive straight to Heathrow, and then fly to the US.
For long-haul flights, they recommend that you check in 3 hours before take-off, so driving to the airport would be an early start. That wasn't that appealing for a couple of reasons:
- It's plenty far away for us to be delayed. We weren't going to risk missing the flight.
- An early start, a long drive, an even longer flight, and lots of jet lag would have made for a very long day.
As it turned out, the day would get much longer anyway...
If you are planning a trip that leaves Heathrow Airport and don't live near, there are options to catch a shuttle flight from an airport nearer to you. For example, we could have flown from Manchester to Heathrow.
We didn't take that option as flying from Manchester was still an early start, and I'd rather avoid flight changes as it increases the chance of your bags not making it onto the same plane as you do!
Airport Parking and Airport Hotels
Our trip was going to take just over two weeks. The airport parking was quite expensive, even with discounts, with prices at around £90!
I wanted to avoid the rush at the trip's start, taking the time to enjoy taking the kids on their first long-haul travel. This meant finding an airport hotel that would take the five of us.
The cost of a hotel and airport parking was starting to add up.
Rather than try to find the cheapest, the solution was to opt for an expensive hotel.
The Crowne Plaza at Heathrow is somewhere we had stayed before for Legoland. It's one of the few hotels that could take 5 of us in one room, and it's a very nice hotel.
The hotel runs a 'Park, Stay and Go' deal. While not a 'cheap' stay, if you deduct the cost of airport parking, staying in this rather posh hotel was the equivalent of a night in a BandB. Bargain!
At Heathrow, there is an airport shuttle bus, known as the 'Hotel Hoppa', which visits all the airport to hotels, so getting to the airport with your luggage is easy.
There are kiosks at the hotels where you can buy return tickets. I think it was around £4.50 per adult, and accompanying kids under 15 were free.
Transfer time was around 15 minutes.
Heathrow Terminal 5
We were flying from the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.
Honestly, it's just like any other major airport with shops, cafes, etc.
British Airways Lounge
If you have a more expensive seat with British Airways, you can get access to their lounge, which has free WiFi, among other things. Unfortunately for us, we didn't.
However, you can get British Airways points if you are a frequent flyer.
Eventually, you can go up a level that will give you access to the lounge.
Unfortunately, our flight was delayed by hours (a problem with a door on the aircraft). It was going to be a very long day.
After hours of additional waiting, the kids started getting slightly restless.
In terminal 5, there is a British Airways customer service desk. We queued up and asked if we could access the lounge to download a movie or something for the kids to watch.
Unfortunately, the lounge was full, but they gave us the WiFi password and meal vouchers.
The flight was long and uneventful.
Plenty of kid's movies kept them entertained, and it was also nice getting meals like in the days before budget airlines.
Next stop: Vegas!