Stuck at Heathrow Airport? Check in and chill out.

A rare working week in London is bracketed by two very different, but equally impressive at/in Heathrow Airport hotel stays.

6 AM arrival: after a long, sleepless flight from the US west coast beside a fidgety, too-tall seatmate, I can’t face heading to town and trying to stay awake until hotel check-in time. Instead I visit the short-stay YOTEL in Terminal 4, where compact and very cozy, ship-cabin-inspired rooms offer just the essentials: bed, TV, Wi-Fi, and bathroom.  Four hours later I’m refreshed and ready for the Tube-trek into town.  Not for the claustrophobic, but a great option for folks with very early arrivals or departures.

yotel

6 AM departure: With such an early morning flight, its just makes sense to stay at – or in – the airport.  In the past I’ve snagged an acceptable rate at the Heathrow London Hilton Airport Hotel, attached to Terminal 4, but this time I’m snuggled in for a short night at the new, ultra-swank Sofitel London Heathrow, attached to the new Terminal 5.

Rooms offer pillow menus and many public areas have themes:  for example the lobby is “Antarctica,” with a cool ice-block-inspired fountain, and there’s a huge, peaceful indoor Zen Garden.

sofitel-spa

There are multiple restaurants, several bars and a fitness room, but it’s the spa that offers a hidden treat for folks stuck – or just worn out – at the airport.  For about the same price as four hours at the YOTEL, travelers can hang out in the Sofitel’s Hydro Suite, which has a shower, steam room, sauna, giant spa tub, and some very inviting-looking lounge chairs.  If you’re nice, they might even let you stretch out in the official relaxation room as well.

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