Having booked my New Year break in November 2004 I decided I would need to book an airport hotel to make sure I got my flight on time. I live in the Midlands and would find it really difficult to get down to Heathrow for 6am especially at holiday time. I haven't stayed in any airport hotels in London before so I really wasn't sure what to book and what to look for. As I work for a holiday company I do get a 50% discount on airport hotels so it really depended on what they could offer me. My family initially wanted to book the Holiday Inn which was fine with me but my company couldn't book this one so I had about 4 others to choose from and the Park Inn sounded the most appealing as it seemed the closest to the airport and probably the most easiest to get to.
PRICES and HOW TO BOOK
I booked directly with my company and got a twin room for 1 night with 15 days for £64 for two people, which I didn't think, was bad. You can not book any less than 15 days parking no matter how long you are going for. If I had booked elsewhere then the room would have cost £99 for 2, which didn't seem such a bargain so I was glad to have saved some money.
I also had to book 2 triple rooms for the rest of the party that where going, which was pretty pain free you can book either through www.parkinn.com or a company I used called holiday extras which are good for booking affordable accommodation with. The triple rooms also with 15 days parking came up, as £128 which we thought was very good value split between 3 adults.
You can book either via the Internet, which I did for the rest of my party or you can call Park Inn and hold a reservation over the telephone.
It really doesn't matter when you decide to book obviously if it is really important that you get a reservation then it is best to book early but the price doesn't increase or decrease closer to stay.
HOW TO GET THERE?
The Park Inn is so easy to get to you leave the M25 at junction 15 to join the M4 you then leave on junction 4 and at the roundabout take the 3rd exit where you see the signs for London City centre and the hotel is clearly visible on the left. It is good because its not one of these hotels you can see but have to go about 5 miles away from it to actually get in it, you simply stay left and take the first road on the left and you are at the front gates of the hotel. How easy is that even I got there and I am always getting lost!
I think the park inn is one of the closest hotels to Heathrow as it is only 0.5 miles away from terminals 1,2 and 3. If you wish to go into London maybe to see a show or something the night before your holiday this is also quite hassle free as it is only 15 miles away.
HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY GET TO THE AIRPORT?
When we booked the Park Inn we thought we would possibly be able to walk to the airport but it wasn't as close as it seemed. We decided instead to take advantage of the Heathrow Hoppa bus service. They came every ten minutes and pulled up right at the main doors of the hotel, which was very handy. The cost was £3 one way or £5 return and you could get a single ticket from the driver or purchase a return ticket from the machine outside of the hotel. We decided to get singles because we knew we would probably end up losing the return ticket and end up being worse off. The drivers are a bit hit and miss we had a nice one on the way back who helped us with our luggage and was very polite. The driver on the way there either couldn't speak English or couldn't really be bothered because anything you asked him looked like it was an effort to answer and didn't want to help.
The bus is easy to find on the way back as it also comes every ten minutes and is to the rear of each terminal. If you can not find the stop you should ask the drivers of other buses they are usually quite helpful.
There is also a chauffer service from the hotel, which must pre booked. This is at an additional charge I wouldn't say it was the most stylish of ways to get there but it certainly isn't a taxi you are actually driven there in a brand new multi coloured mini very cute and very trendy.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET THERE?
Once we approached the front of the Park Inn I must admit we where a bit unsure on what to do as there is just two barriers where you collect a ticket and get let into the huge jam packed car park. The first thing you think is should I take one of these tickets? Will I have to pay for more parking? Where will we park? There is nowhere to park! There is a sign to say go to reception and get your ticket stamped but that isn't very helpful what do you do when you see a full car park?
One of the 3 cars that where in our party found a random space and quickly got in it my car and my dads didn't seem like they had anywhere to go so we sent my dad and boyfriend to investigate. A nice gentleman came out with them got in the car and showed them where to park it happened to be about a mile away but it wasn't so bad as the rest of us waited at reception with the cases while all the men did the hard work! Our cars where actually parked on a grass verge in the end. It seems the hotel has a lot of rooms but maybe just not enough proper car parking spaces.
CHECKING IN and OUT
This is just like any other hotel. You can check in at 2pm and you go to the reception show them your confirmation or just give them your surname and they will ask for some credit card details so they can charge your card if you choose to make telephone calls from your room or if you order room service. They then issue you with 2 swipe cards to your room and stamp your parking ticket.
Once the morning of your flight comes whatever time it is you should go to the reception with your room cards and settle your bill. The hotel ask that you check out by 12 noon but if your staying over for a flight I am sure this is very sufficient as you usual plan on leaving really early anyway.
Once you have returned from your trip and need to get your car out of the car park you need to go back to the reception that then stamp your card again so you are free to leave the car park without any charge. We found the easiest thing was to go to the reception while the men get the cars as they some are parked quite far out and you don't want to lug all the cases to the car. Then get the ticket stamped and load the car up in reception.
FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE HOTEL
Well the reception area certainly has the big WOW factor it is very bright, airy, sophisticated and very trendy looking. You enter in by a large revolving door, which is very handy when you are dragging your cases in. The people around are quite a mixture of the old commoners like myself who have been travelling in a car for two hours and look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards and then there are the people who have lots of money (or like to think they do so dress in very designer clothes), Who have the whole designer luggage thing going on and look very they have just stepped off a catwalk. The reception 24 hour reception is large with a very helpful receptionist to give you advice and to check you in. You then have the bar and restaurant area to your right which. The restaurant is just a large doorway and the bar has one large orange wall which looks really good with silver beading from the ceiling halfway down meeting a wall to cordon it off.
You then have a large seating area which is filled with lovely leather seats and a large plasma screen television to see what flights are departing and whether or not they have been delayed it is a very useful tool for people who have pre booked seats and don't need to check in until the last minute, you can get all the up to date info from the comfort of your hotel.
Down the hall there are the very clean public toilets, which have the soap dispensers right next to hand cream dispensers how nice and posh is that! They really have thought of every little thing.
To the left of the reception you are faced with 8 lifts, which are very big and easy to understand unlike some lifts. You will definitely need to use the lifts unless you like walking a lot there are 880 rooms over 5 floors
The rooms in this hotel are fabulous and have a really comfortable feel to them as soon as you walk through the door. You have the bathroom to your right and an open rail to hang your clothes up to the left.
All the rooms have queen-sized beds. If you are a party of 3 or 4 you will have a room with 2 queen sized beds in and will probably be at the front of the building which has great views of the planes going off but although the rooms are double glazed you still get quite a lot of noise but I suppose this cannot be helped when you are staying so close to an airport and it is only for 1 night after all. The normal double rooms have a shays long in instead of another bed which is very nice and gives it that classy feel. The rooms are very plainly decorated and appear very modern. The carpets are cream and so are 3 of the walls the other wall is a very dark purple and continues the colourful colour scheme throughout the hotel. The rooms have a very nice light to them as well and feel very cosy there is no big light in the middle of the room there 2 bed side lamps, 2 free standing lamps and a large lamp on the large desk next to a large mirror so there is no lack of light it is just very subtle.
The bathroom is white with a bath, shower, large sink and toilet. You get the usual complimentary toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and shower gel.
All the rooms have
*An alarm clock
*Complimentary tea and coffee
*Complimentary bottle of mineral water
*Iron and trouser press
*Free complimentary pen and stationary set
*In style magazine and Theatregoer magazine
*Direct dial telephone, which can call any area in the hotel and also outside lines
*Free electronic safe
Each room has access to pay per view movies which are £2.95 each and a selection of free channels including the usual BBC1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, BBC world, Sky Sports 1,2 and 3,Eurosport, TBN Europe, and NBC. They also have channels for the non-English guests including MBC in Arabic, CCTV4 and TVBS in Chinese, Cyprus SAT, Railuno in Italian, SAT 1 in German and TVS Europe in French. So they have a good selection for everyone. At least I could get my soap fix before I went away which can only be a good thing.
You can also pay to have your clothes dry cleaned which is a good service if you didn't have time before you left home it is quite pricey but nice to know it's a possibility.
If you are a family travelling & dont really want to all sleep in one room you can also get interconnecting rooms which is a good thing to have so you can be together but have that added privacy. It is also possible to book specially adapted rooms if you are disabled but you would need to call the hotel to arrange this.
WHERE WILL I EAT?
The Park Inn is a 4* hotel and you always associate 4* hotels with 5* prices and the Park Inn is no exception there room service and bar menu is exactly the same and you should expect to pay about £8.95 for a sandwich with mixed leafs and crisps, £13.95 for a burger, £10 to £15 for a salad, £19.95 for a curry, £15.95 for a lasagne and about £19- £25 for a steak. Side orders where £3.95 and you could get chips, salad, onion rings and garlic bread. The desserts where about £7 each. The bar where you eat is called the Pulse café bar and opened from 05:00 till 03:00 it is quite small with around 5 tables and about 8 seats around the bar. The drinks where not too bad and a standard coke was about £2, a cup of tea or coffee £2.75, Spirits £4.50 - £5.80, Beer £3.50 - £5.50 and a Bacardi breezer was about £3.50. If you didn't want to eat in the bar and preferred to have it in your room your can order 24 hours a day 7 days a week subject to a 12.5% service charge. It doesn't sound a lot but the service charge soon mounts up.
The best deal I found was the carvery in the restaurant called the original carvery funnily enough. It seemed expensive at first but looks can be deceiving it was a standard charge of £15pp which seems quite expensive but when you get inside you realise the carvery is 3 courses a selection of soup, salads and fish dishes for starters a choice of 1 or 2 meats with a host of vegetables or rice and cooked peppers and onions or fish. There is then a large selection of what can only be described as totally yummy large slices of about 10 different cakes and then a selection of fruit. For a 4* hotel I thought this was an excellent meal and for just £15 I don't think I could get that at my local. I was amazed and feeling totally fat afterwards. The restaurant however wasn't so great it was decked out very simply but you could tell it was very cheaply. It wasn't even part of the actual hotel building it was an extension and looked like a marquee put up for a wedding the tables where white and looked like ones that children played on with play dough. The waiters where all foreign and didn't really understand what we where saying and when you get the bill at the end you also get charged a 12.5% service charge I know it sounds mean but I refuse to pay a service charge at a carvery it just doesn't seem right as there is really no service included. On this occasion my dad was paying so they got the £9.99 tip. What an outrage I thought it was a cheek to include a tip when you have to get your food yourself. You can get your evening meal between 17:30- 22:30 Between Monday and Friday and 18:00 - 22:30 Saturday, Sunday and Bank holidays. You can also get a buffet breakfast in the same restaurant for £15 between 06:00 - 10:00 and until 11:00 at the weekend and bank holidays.
WHAT DO I DO WHEN I'M NOT EATING and SLEEPING?
Not many airport hotels have very good facilities but the Park Inn is an exception they have a large indoor swimming pool with free towels, a well equipped gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and solarium. All free of charge to guests. So don't forget your swimming things like I did. I was disappointed that I didn't get to make full use of all the hotels facilities but you certainly have time if you check in at 2pm you can have a full day of pampering before you jet off. The gym and pool are open till about 20:00 or I think probably until there haven't been a few people in for a while.
The Park Inn also offers a wide range of facilities for business men and women there are computer rooms, secretary services, fax machines and conference rooms all on site for companies who wish to hire the services out or to hold meetings. All the bedrooms are also equipped for business users as they have computer and Internet points.
WHAT DO I REALLY THINK?
I would rate my stay at the Park Inn 9 out of 10 they lack the extra 1% because the parking can be a bit of a pain and you can so without the hassle but everything else about my stay was just perfect. I really enjoyed the luxurious feel and would recommend it to anyone who needs to stay over for an early morning flight. They have excellent facilities and a good selection of food and drinks. The majority of staff are helpful and will assist you wherever possible. The rooms are spotless and you can feel the quality, The Park Inn oozes sophistication and is very good value for money it is the same rate as most hotels around Heathrow. If you need a bed for the night try the Park Inn you wont be disappointed.
After a trip to New York we decided to stay for the first time at Le Meridien at Heathrow. We had been aware of this hotel for years, knowing it originally as a Forte Grand with a 5 star rating. In recent years, following the sale of Forte, it lost one of its stars, but this by no means dissuaded us from trying it. We booked a parking inclusive package, direct with Forte (as it was still being called then) Central Reservations, costing £85. This included up to 15 days car parking on-site. Approaching the airport from the M4 spur, the first hotel close to Heathrow you come across is Le Meridien and passing it from the side you could begin to wonder if you have made the right choice. It does look pretty grotty, and the addition of a Travelodge at the rear in what used to be part of the hotel is not particularly reassuring. You could think, 'how good can this hotel be if it lends itself to containing a Travelodge?'. However on turning the corner onto Bath Road, the exterior image is slightly improved, and what is nonetheless a dated building, in common with the majority at Heathrow, appears less scruffy. On our first visit, it was unfortunate that the hotel was being refurbished and the reception area was non-existent. Instead the check in and concierge was in a makeshift tented/marquee area. As we were leaving our car for a week or so, we only had to inform them that we had booked a parking inclusive package, and ask if we needed to complete any form etc. Sometimes you are given a car park voucher (heaven knows why when you are flying off somewhere!), and other times they just check your booking and let you go. Unfortunately there was a bit of confusion, as the check in agent did not speak particularly good English and so there was a slight delay while we were given a voucher, and then I attempted to buy some Hotel Hoppa tickets, but soon we were able to be on our way. On our return just over a week later, the marquee affair was
still there, and although it was fairly early morning we had no problem checking in and being given the key to our room. The hotel did seem to be in the middle of the refurbishment (this was October) and it really was a work in progress. Walking to the lifts we moved from the rather dated dirty looking carpeted area to a lovely modern style business lounge and into the sparkling lifts. The corridors were similarly modern and light with new fittings, carpets and wall coverings. Once inside the room, you are immediately struck by its modern feel. The entrance to the room is wide with laminate flooring. In this vestibule, which has the bathroom off is the large fitted closet and opposite is the mini bar and tea/coffee making facilities in a corner unit, with mirror above (presumably so you can admire yourself making the tea!). Just as you enter the bedroom area, on one side is a full length mirror, and on the other a wooden trellis style alcove looking through towards the bed. This is a really attractive design feature, although the mirror really couldn't be in a less practical position. As you enter the bedroom the wood flooring stops and an attractive style of dark carpet begins with square pattern. The walls are white, punctuated by inspiring Kandinsky prints (that are throughout the corridors too). I had spent the last couple of days trawling New York art galleries for a Kandinsky calendar for my Sister, so when confronted by three in my room, didn't know whether to laugh or cry! Just inside the bedroom is a small padded leather seat/suitcase table with matching leather sofa alongside. The bed is of normal double size - maybe slightly larger, and is covered in crisp white soft bedcovers and plump white pillows, with one large yellow and beige cushion. The headboard is a very modern high affair with two light colours of wood and fitted flexible lamps. There are also two bedside tables in a dark wood with two more lamps. At
the bottom of the bed a large long unit with TV joins with a desk, forming an L Shape unit that more or less acts as a room divider. Near the tall window is a table with leather upholstered chair. Our room actually overlooked the large car park, but although the view was not inspiring, it was not ugly or unpleasant either. We were both really impressed with the room, and all the facilities. Iron and board were provided, along with mini bar, good lighting, hairdryer, TV with alarm, teletext etc. The bathroom was also sparkling new with lots of well lit mirror space and nice toiletries! Beware the extortionate phone charges though, regardless of whether you use a phone charge card. I made three short UK calls, and was charged a £2.50 connection charge each, on top of the charge made by my phone company. After sleeping during the day to get back on UK time, we got up later that afternoon. In the evening we started to look for something to eat and this is where we encountered our first problem with the hotel. Because of the renovations, there was one main restaurant open plus an Irish themed bar. As we only wanted a bar snack and were hoping for a drink and a sandwich etc in a modern style hotel bar, we were at a loss what to do. The Irish 'pub' was deserted, not really surprisingly, and so we decided to have a look elsewhere. We walked along Bath Road with the thought of trying the recently refurbished Posthouse (the white circular one!). We had tried to stay here a couple of years earlier, only to find that they had booked us into the Crest instead (doh!). To date we still haven't stayed at the Posthouse! The interior was really pleasing and we commented it was very much like what we expected Le Meridien would be like when it was finished. We managed to get some really fantastic Ciabatta sandwiches - just what the doctor ordered. At this time, Le Meridien and the Posthouse were still owned by the same company, and we explained th
at we were staying at Le Meridien and were credited with double the Frequent Stay points for our meal at the Posthouse. Next day we checked out of Le Meridien perfectly happy with our stay, even if we did have to eat elsewhere, and totally prepared to stay there another time. **************** In January after spending New Year in Toronto, we decided to stay at Le Meridien again. As it was a Thursday night, and often the bargains are only Friday to Sunday, Le Meridien was the best value parking inclusive package we found. We paid £85 again, but this time we booked through ABC Holiday Extras, as Le Meridien did not seem to have publicised their Park and Fly Package since the sale of the chain. When we had dropped off our car we were really pleased by the renovations. Where huge tarpaulins were last time was a impressive lobby with check in desks straight ahead. The main lifts were to the left with the bar and restaurant further past. Trying to find the Ladies, I sneaked a peak at the bar area, and the modern style made me look forward to my stay less than a week later. When we checked in for our night's stay it was again early morning, about 9am, and similarly to the time before, we were given the key to our room straight away. We were asked if we wanted to upgrade our room for £10, and thinking back to our lovely room we had last time, did not see the need. We were pointed in the direction of the lifts, different to the set we used last time and walked out into a corridor that could have been in a different hotel. Gloomy. The carpets were terribly dated and old, and it looked as if we had stumbled upon a long forgotten wing of the hotel. We entered our room hesitantly, and our worst fears were realised. The room was awful, old and way past needing refurbishment. Also we had been given a smoking room. For a couple of minutes we stood open-mouthed before we returned downstairs to Check In. A very pleasant
housekeeping maid asked us if we weren't happy with the room, and we said not really, and that it was a Smoking room. She confirmed all on this floor were. Once at check in I spoke to the same check in agent, and asked if we could take advantage of the upgrade after all, due to the grotty room. He made some excuse that I now forget, but which made no sense at all. For a second time we went to find our room, this time taking the other lifts, and emerging from them to a totally different image. The corridors and rooms this time were exactly like the ones we had experienced on our last visit, and contented we settled down for our daytime sleep in the superbly appointed and attractive room. We were glad on this occasion that we were able to visit the bar in the hotel. The bar itself is quite small, but pleasant to spend some time in. The drinks menu contains various bottled lagers, ciders etc but with few draught beers, and all were quite expensive. We chose a couple of light meals from the bar menu, and enjoyed them, although the innovative and delicious sandwiches we had at the Posthouse were still better. I would have no hesitation in staying at Le Meridien again but I would always check I was getting one of the nicer rooms. I filled in the guest questionnaire and was pleased to have my criticisms of the original room replied to specifically. I always think responding to comments made on these vague questionnaires beyond the call of duty, and I was impressed that the Management thought it justified to do so. I was told that when the refurbishments are completed that all rooms will be of the standard of our 'upgraded' room, and although I am a little cynical whether this is true (I am guessing they are a 'business' room), I am happy that the Management realise that some rooms are not up to standard. I expect the worst rooms are kept for coach tours etc and possibly for people who book through companies such as
ABC or Superbreak, but maybe we were just unlucky! Better to check if you are staying there. There are plenty of choices at Heathrow, a lot in the £80 to £100 price range, including at least 15 days parking. If the price is right I would stay at Le Meridien, but it wouldn't be top of my list compared to others like the new Marriott.