Over the last few years, I’ve done a fair bit of international flying. For sundry reasons, I’m hoping to curtail it. Among them is the fact that flights from Europe and Africa all the way to Vancouver can be pretty heinous, and I often suffer from some serious jet lag. What are the worst bits?
- Long layovers in Heathrow, a special kind of hell on Earth.
- Changing terminals in Heathrow, or changing airports across London.
- When they take you in a bus from the tarmac to the terminal. I’m not sure why this bugs me so much, but it does.
- Absurdly long lines at passport control.
I could go on. However, I’m pretty pleased with the flights I’ve got coming back to Vancouver this time. Check it out:
- On Sunday, a driver takes me to the Marrakesh airport in the afternoon, a trip of about two hours.
- I fly to Heathrow. Yes, it’s Heathrow, but I immediately leave the airport to stay over night at a nearby airport hotel.
- The next day, my flight leaves at the extraordinarily civil hour of 12:00pm.
- The flight to Vancouver is direct. No stops! I get in at 3:00pm, drag myself around for a few hours, watch a hockey game and go to bed.
- Thanks to the conference I’m speaking at, I’m staying at the Wall Centre in Vancouver for a few nights when I arrive. I find that hotels are excellent for overcoming the jet lag.
I suppose the perfect trip would avoid Heathrow and include first class, but this is as good as it gets on the cheap. No layovers, eight hours of sleep between flights and very reasonable arrival and departure times. Now, if I can secure an exit row, life will be sweet.
We have a trip planned in April that involves changing terminals twice at Heathrow, once at the start of the trip then again at the end.
How long are the lines for passport control? Is that usually worst than the security line ups? Any tips or advice you would give?
Nathan: In my experience, the lines at passport control are really unpredictable. Sometimes there are none, and sometimes there are huge Russian bread lines.
One problem is that you’re in with all the other non-EU people. Thanks to recent events and racial profiling, the speed of that line is often determined by the ethnicity of the people in front of you.
The security line-ups tend to go faster, so they don’t take as long.
* There’s a short, free train between terminal 4 and terminals 1,2 and 3.
* Take a luggage cart, and pick one that works. It’s quite a long underground walk between the terminals, with lots of traffic and corners. Wonky wheels can get you down.
* If your connection is tight, ask for a seat near the front of the plane. That helps you disembark faster.
* If you’re going to be at Heathrow a long time, there are ‘left luggage’ offices which will hold your luggage, so you’re not hauling it around everywhere.
* Don’t eat at the weird seafood bars.
If you don’t mind dropping a little cash, you can pay to stay in one of the Heathrow lounges during your layover. I find this quite nice, not least of which for the opportunity to not share the bathroom with thousands of other people.
I use SimplyLounges to make the booking.
Here are some additional thoughts
Odd question but can you still walk between terminals? – I seem to remember walking between T3 and T4 using an underground passageway but it was about 10 years ago and may no longer exist.
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