One memorable feature about both of my previous flights to Ethiopia was a ridiculously long layover in an unfamiliar airport. My worst experience so far has been a seven-hour layover in the pit of Terminal 4 at London-Heathrow.
Cigarette smoke wafted everywhere out ridiculous open-topped smoking rooms. You had to pay a king’s ransom for a pack of gum. And it took us hours of wandering around the place to find a decent set of benches that were in a quiet enough area and arm-rest-free so that we could actually lie down and rest a while.
Since that miserable seven hours of my life, I’ve discovered some really helpful websites where travelers share tips about ways to best spend a layover in various airports around the world. I thought I’d share a few of the best options if you happen to find yourself stuck in Heathrow.
According to the guides, there are a number of play areas at Heathrow airport including one after security in Terminal 1, by Gates 35-56 (international departures), near Caffè Nero. If you find yourself in terminal 4, like we were, you may want to investigate the KLM Holideck lounge.
For a fee of about $30, your kids can have the run of two floors of a special lounge made just for bored people with time to kill. Here you can have views of the runway from the Flight Deck as well as complimentary refreshments, magazines, interactive toys and games. I actually did investigate this particular option, but was too cheap to pay the entry fee.
We did, however, discover that the KLM end of the terminal had a nice feature. Near the KLM check-in counter, there are some nice benches that are decent for sleeping. The KLM flights are infrequent enough that the KLM waiting area stays quiet for large portions of time, making it a better place to nap than anything else we were able to find.
Most of the terminals have arcade and game areas, as well as a large number of stores where you can shop or eat. Beware, however: London is a very expensive place. In 2005 we paid $17 for a single plate of eggs, toast and bacon. H-E-double-toothpicks for a tightwad like myself.
I’ve been told that if you are flying British Airways, you can pay $100 or so which gives you an upgrade that allows you to go into the Business Class Lounge in Terminal 4. Here you’ll find lots of comfortable seating along with a free buffet and drinks. There’s also a fully enclosed children’s play room with seats inside for adults inside. If you know you’re going to have a long layover in London, this might be an option worth considering.