Stuck at the Airport goes to London

Tower Bridge at night – Courtesy London Partners

The Stuck at the Airport team is in London this week on a trip organized by our friends at Gatwick Airport (LGW).

The assignment?

Find out if it’s easy to land at Gatwick Airport on a flight from the U.S. See if it’s easy to take public transit to and from the airport to London, Brighton, and other nearby destinations. And find fun things to do.

As they say: tough job, but someone has to do it. And Stuck at the Airport is up for the challenge.

Here’s how our journey is going so far.

Seattle to New York

Our ride from our home base airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was on JetBlue, to connect to one of JetBlue’s flights to Gatwick.

The airline begins service between Boston and Gatwick on August 4, and we’ll be on the inaugural flight out of Gatwick. So stay tuned for details from that adventure.

But first: the TWA Hotel

We chose an overnight layover at JKF so that we could stay at the TWA Hotel, which is oh-so-conveniently connected to JetBlue’s T5 terminal via elevator and a red-carpeted flight tube that is the perfect passageway to the 1960s.

The hotel is built inside the restored and reimagined Eero Saarinen’s landmark 1962 TWA Flight Center at JFK and has restaurants, bars, retail outlets, and some fun 60s throwback activities in the lobby.

There’s an infinity pool on the roof (fees apply) and, out in the back on the ‘tarmac, there’s a Lockheed Constellation “Connie” L-1649A that has been transformed into a cocktail lounge. This summer, guests and visitors can go roller skating rink or ride bumper cars on the hotel’s tarmac as well. (Fees apply).

You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to enjoy the lobby and tarmac activities. And many activities, including photo ops in cool spaces, Twister, and long-distance phone calls on retro pay phones, are free.

Arriving at Gatwick Airport

The JetBlue flights to Gatwick Airport leave JFK at around 7:30 pm and land at Gatwick the following morning at around 7:30 am. That means you can plan a full day in the city.

Our flight landed early, so I was glad Gatwick Airport had arranged for me to rest and refresh at the onsite YOTELAIR London Gatwick Airport.

This was the first YOTEL to open in the United Kingdom – way back in 2007 – and offers short-stays (from 4 to 8 hours) in very compact ‘cabins’ that are perfect for naps, a refresh after a long flight, or an overnight if you have a very early flight or late arrival.

Each cabin is super compact, with a bed, bathroom, small desk, WiFi, USB ports, mood lighting, smart TV, and a little bit of storage space. (You can also leave luggage at the front desk, or ‘Mission Control.’)

I had everything I needed for a refresh and even discovered a small fold-out stool hanging on the back of my cabin door just as I was leaving. Coffee, tea, and bottled water are complimentary at the front desk and guests can borrow alarm clocks for wake-up calls. Meals can be ordered and delivered as well.

Here’s a snap of Gatwick Airport’s mascot, Gary Gatwick, checking out the Yotel cabin. You’ll see more (lot’s more) of him during our London visit as he’s my travel partner for the week.

Gatwick to London in less than 30 minutes

It’s always a delight to have an ‘aha’ moment when traveling and learn about a tool or service that you know will change your travel habits.

In the past, I’ve always arrived in London at Heathrow Airport and headed to town via the London Underground, known as the Tube. The new Elizabeth Line seems like its speeds up the travel time, but in the past, the ride from Heathrow to central London could take up to 45 minutes and become very crowded as it got closer to the city, especially during rush hour times.

But traveling from Gatwick Airport to London on the Gatwick Express was far easier and way more pleasant.

The ride from the Gatwick Airport train station to Central London’s Victoria Station on the direct Gatwick Express was a 30-minute breeze.

I liked that this is a train (not a subway) and that the train station is easy to access, with a major upgrade on the way. Trains run every 15 minutes and travelers can use an Oyster smartcard to pay for rides. Prices vary by time and type but are discounted 10% when purchased online or via the app.

Trains from Gatwick also go to the Sussex coasts, for example, Brighton and Eastbourne.

It would have been easy to transfer to underground Tube lines once I arrived at Victoria Station, but my hotel was an easy 10-minute walk and along the way, I passed the Victoria Palace Theatre, where Hamilton is playing.

As I mentioned, Gatwick Airport mascot Gary Gatwick is my tour guide this week, and he received a very enthusiastic welcome at the check-in desk at the St. James’ Court.

Our agenda this week will include a lot of touring in London, Brighton, and West Sussex – all places easily accessible from Gatwick Airport.

So please stay tuned as we catch up on our adventures each day. Have some tips on places we should go? Please add them to the comments.

Thanks for visiting Stuck at the Airport. Subscribe to get daily travel tidbits. And follow me on Twitter at @hbaskas and Instagram.

 

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