UK Staycations: My London Experience
While international travel has been put on hold for a lot of people with holidays being cancelled or rescheduled, the appeal of UK staycations has improved massively. There are plenty of fantastic destinations to choose from both North and South of the border.
I recently took my husband on a trip to London (partly to celebrate his birthday and partly for work) and I wanted to share our honest experience with you… from check in to coming home - the good, the bad and the ugly! Here’s my travel diary…
Airport Check In
We arrived at Glasgow Airport two hours prior to departure (bright and early at 5am) to go to London Heathrow.
It was strange to see the airport so quiet – it felt very eerie at times. No one was around apart from a cleaner and airport security and there was no one on the British Airways check in desk. As we only had hand luggage, we went straight through to security. Travelling Club Class meant we could go through the priority entrance but as it was so quiet it was closed, so we went through the normal way with no waiting time.
Once through security, I usually look forward to checking out the latest products in Duty Free, but sadly most of this was closed so it meant I couldn’t sample any of my usual fragrances or tipples which was a bit of a shame.
Up in the Air
If you are travelling Club you will board the plane last. Currently, boarding starts at the back of plane so don’t think by flashing your pass you will be first on! There is no priority boarding available. We were greeted at the door by cabin crew and shown to our seats in 2A and 2C - boarding was a very quick process.
Wearing your mask during the whole flight is compulsory unless you are eating or having a drink. After take-off, the cabin crew came through offering a cheese croissant in a brown bag. We declined - I was really looking forward to a hot breakfast but due to restrictive catering the Club cabin were not able to provide full meal service.
We were offered a tea or coffee, however, we declined and asked for Champagne! After all it was the husband’s birthday, and I was dragging him to London for work. It was a very quick flight and we arrived in London at 9.20am sharp.
Transfer to Hotel
We had booked London-based private hire taxi and courier company, Addison Lee to meet us off the flight and take us straight to the hotel. It was a very clean ride, and our driver wore his mask, as did we with plastic sheets dividing us and driver. The ride took around an hour and a half, which was a bit long however as the drive is through London traffic. So, we sat back and enjoyed all the amazing sites.
Hotel at Tower Bridge
We had booked the Tower Hotel at St Katharine's Dock next to Tower Bridge and our room was available immediately. We booked a room with a Tower view and it did not disappoint. It’s a very clean hotel, very airy. You didn’t have to wear a mask walking around inside the hotel. With a fabulous bar, restaurant and lovely bright foyer area with stunning views of London. I would highly recommend this hotel.
We headed out after dropping bags and went for a walk around the area visiting various sites. The general atmosphere was very quiet, which was even more surprising given the sunny weather. We even sat at the steps outside Buckingham palace but there weren’t very many tourists around. London was very quiet for a Saturday and I didn’t see any queues for any attractions. There were demonstrations at Trafalgar Square, but we avoided that area.
Return On the Heathrow Express
We decided to jump on the Heathrow Express as it was a quick ride commute to Airport. Quick and fast service and one to use again whilst maximising time in London. Wish I had booked this before! I loved the style of the train seats and there is plenty of room for luggage. A superfast service and on time.
British Airways Terrace Lounge Heathrow Airport Priority Security is not open, so all passengers must wait in a very long queue and go through security no matter what class of travel you are travelling in. The queue was all the way round the terminal, and you could see some very frustrated passengers being quite vocal to security team and airline staff. It took around an hour to get through security.
The first lounge was closed and we had to walk to a lounge at the end of the terminal where there was no greeting, no hello, no welcome - just simply scan your boarding pass and away you go. Very impersonal.
The atmosphere was non-existent, and I really didn’t find it up to scratch. The staff were not very welcoming, and you felt a bit of a hindrance to be honest. Not British Airways' finest moment!
Homeward bound: London Heathrow to Glasgow
Again, there was no priority boarding allowed - we sat in row 2D and 2F. As on the way out, we were offered a sandwich in a brown bag with tea and coffee, but no alcoholic drinks. It was a quick and uneventful flight back to Glasgow.
I have tried to be honest about my Staycation experience and I hope it’s provided some useful insights into travelling during these challenging times, even on a local basis. Some service levels may vary, the atmosphere is much changed during travel, and it can feel like a different world out there. However I also enjoyed excellent hospitality, the opportunity to shop, explore and experience tourist hotspots in peak season without the crowds, and above all enjoyed a fabulous change of scenery which was very much needed.
For those who want to travel, I’d encourage you to get out there – whether it’s a short UK break or something further afield. The world is still waiting for you, safe travel is very much possible, and you can book in confidence with our COVID-19 guarantee.
Managing Director, Marshall Travel