Have a long layover in London with kids (or without) and not sure how to spend your time? If you’re flying out of the Heathrow Airport, we have you covered!
After our recent one week road trip in Northern Ireland, we opted for an overnight layover in London prior to heading home. We did a lot of research on the options for a London layover in terms of transportation, travel time and sightseeing. The great thing about having an overnight layover at Heathrow is that it offers easy access to other nearby attractions.
Keep reading for more on where to how to spend your time during a London layover, where to stay at the Heathrow Airport with kids and various options for transportation.
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Deciding What to Do During a Long Layover at the Heathrow Airport
Given that flights get delayed and things can take longer than you anticipate, I recommend being flexible with your plans during any layover. When we first chose a flight from Dublin to Pittsburgh that included a long layover in London, I was excited about the chance to visit one of my favorite cities in the world. (I was also just as excited to take the new nonstop British Airways flight from London to Pittsburgh.) If you’re anything like me, your first inclination is probably going to be to go into Central London to spend every minute you can exploring the city.
If you have 24 hours or more, exploring central London is very feasible for an overnight layover in London. It’s still totally doable with less time, but just be realistic about the amount of time you need. Especially when you factor in travel and sleeping time. (And even more so when traveling with a toddler.) Even if you take the Heathrow Express, it can take a couple hours to get to your destination once you factor in travel time between the airport, hotels and walking to and from train stops.
If you do have more time to explore central London, the hop-on-hop-off bus is an easy option for getting around. We did one during out 48 hours in Dublin with a toddler and loved how much we could see in a short amount of time.
So where did we go for our overnight layover in London?
Our overnight layover at Heathrow was shortened when our flight from London to Pittsburgh moved up. Then it took us longer to get to our hotel at the Heathrow Airport than we anticipated. All of which meant getting into London ended up being a little more difficult than we planned. Instead of going into the city, which would have taken significantly more time, we opted to spend a few hours at Windsor Castle.
Our 2-year old’s only request for our London layover was seeing the changing of the guards. (After reading this children’s book about London, he was slightly obsessed!) Fortunately, we knew we could see the changing of the guards at Windsor Castle instead of trying to get to Buckingham Palace. Unless you have a full day available for sightseeing, I highly recommend using your time to visit Windsor. Windsor Castle is ideal for getting a taste of Great Britain without the hassle of traveling into the city.
More Information on Visiting Windsor Castle During a Layover
Windsor is only about five miles away from Heathrow Airport, making it easy and fairly inexpensive to get to from the airport. At the time of writing this, it cost £15 to get from the Hilton Terminal 5 hotel to Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is set on a beautiful property that’s great for walking around and getting some fresh air during a layover. The highlights at Windsor Castle include the State Apartments, St. Goerge’s Cathedral and the changing of the guard. The changing of the guard currently takes place on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11am.
I highly recommend purchasing tickets to Windsor Castle in advance, if your schedule allows it, to avoid the long queues. You can purchase tickets to the Windsor Castle here.
There are also a number of shops and restaurants in the town of Windsor that make it great to explore if you have additional time. Stay tuned for more on visiting Windsor Castle from the Heathrow Airport!
Additional Ideas for Things to Do During an Overnight Layover in London
Aside from Windsor Castle, there are a number of things you can do during a long layover at Heathrow. Below are a few sights I saw on a prior trip to London that would be great for a layover in London with kids. All are accessible from Heathrow Airport.
- Visit Greenwich, London to visit the prime meridian line and walk around the markets. (Keep in mind Greenwich is about an hour from Heathrow, but its easy to get around once you’re there.)
- Visit Hampton Court Palace, King Henry VII’s former home. You can purchase tickets to the Hampton Court Palace and Gardens here.
- Go sighting in Central London. Choose a couple places to spend your time and map it out in advance. The Princess Diana playground at Kensington Palace was on our list of things to do when we planned to go into London. (Anywhere that kids can burn off energy before a long flight is great by me!)
- Or, you can just relax and enjoy being in one of the largest airports in the world!
Regardless of what you decide to do during an overnight layover in London, I highly recommend researching your options in advance. Check for opening times of attractions and research transportation options. Anything you can d to save time on the day of your sightseeing will help you make the most of your long layover in London.
Additional Tip: Be sure to also check which terminal you’re arriving and departing from to fully account for logistics and travel time. London’s Heathrow Airport is one of the largest airports in the world. Unless you’re going between terminal 2 and 3, it can take quite a while just to get from one terminal to another.
Limited on Time During Your London Layover?
If you have 6 hours or less for a layover in London, I’d recommend just staying at the airport. There are several lounges available at Heathrow, with one at every terminal. We’re fortunate to have access to priority pass lounges via our American Express Card. It’s been a lifesaver during long layovers and delays, and we definitely enjoyed the lounge at Terminal 5 in Hilton.
In addition to lounges, the Heathrow Airport has tons of shopping and restaurants. Several restaurants at the Heathrow Airport even allow kids to eat for free during certain school holidays. (Crazy, right??) Plus, if you’re looking for a play area in Heathrow, there are several to choose from. You can find more information to make the most of your layover with kids at the Heathrow Airport here.
Toddler Travel Tip: We absolutely love this lightweight car seat paired with this travel car seat stroller. If you look at the reflection below, you can see that our toddler fell asleep as we made our way to the gate!
Transportation from Heathrow Airport During a Layover
If you’re flying into Heathrow airport with a layover, you have a number of transportation options. The Heathrow Express is the fastest way to get from Heathrow into Central London. To drive into Central London from Heathrow via other means of transportation can take about 30-60 minutes. (Or more, depending on traffic and location.)
Below are several options to transport you from the Heathrow Airport to London and other nearby attractions.
- Heathrow Airport Shuttle: Heathrow offers trains and shuttle buses to get between terminals. See here for more information.
- Hotel Hoppa Bus: Provides transportation from Heathrow to the nearby hotels for a fee. You can purchase tickets in advance for the Hotel Hoppa here.
- Heathrow Express: Departs from Heathrow every 15 minutes and takes 15 minutes to arrive at Paddington Station. You can book tickets to the Heathrow Express here.
- London Underground: The Heathrow Airport has a few underground stations. They’re located at Terminal 2/3 (shared), Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.
- Black Taxi: Available at all terminals. A black taxi from Heathrow into Central London can take anywhere from 30-60 min and runs from £48 – £90.
- Shuttle Bus: A number of options are available for shuttle buses from Heathrow to London. You can book a shuttle bus here.
- Private Tour/ Transfer: Private transfers can take you directly from the Heathrow Airport to your designation in London. You can book a private transfer to London here.
In the past, I used the London Underground to get into London from Heathrow. On our recent trip, we used the Hotel Hoppa Bus to get to our hotel from Terminal 5. We then used a black taxi service to get to and from Windsor Castle. While the Hotel Hoppa was a little frustrating when we arrived late at night, the black taxi service was extremely easy to use to get into Windsor.
Where to Stay for an Overnight Layover in London with Kids
If you’re in London for an overnight layover out of Heathrow, I recommend staying by the Heathrow Airport. That is, unless you have 24 hours or more to take the time to get into the city. With all the stuff that comes along with traveling and flying with a toddler, we were glad we didn’t make the decision to drag everything into the city.
There are several hotels by the Heathrow Airport to choose from for an overnight layover at Heathrow. We stayed at the Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5, primarily because we had enough Hilton Honors points to cover our stay. We were also arriving in Terminal 5 from Dublin and departing from there to Pittsburgh. (The British Airways nonstop between London and Pittsburgh flies out of Terminal 5.)
The Hilton Terminal 5 is a huge hotel, and our bedroom with a King sized bed was large to match the rest of the hotel. It even had a bathtub, which was perfect for our toddler! The breakfast we received with our Hilton Honors Gold benefits also had a great spread of items. It included everything from a full English breakfast to fresh fruit, pastries and an espresso machine.
To book the Hilton at the Heathrow Airport, go here.
Getting from the Heathrow Airport to the Nearby Hotels
We discovered upon arriving at Heathrow that we had take the Hotel Hoppa bus to get to the Terminal 5 Hilton. At the time of our travel, the Hotel Hoppa bus was £5.50 per person. Cash is required unless you pre-pay online or use Apple Pay. We were coming from 48 hours in Dublin, where Euros are used and barely scrounged up enough British Pounds to pay for it. Alternatively, you can also get a taxi to your hotel.
If you’re looking for a hotel that’s right at Terminal 5 in Heathrow, the Sofitel Hotel has great reviews. Although we didn’t book the Sofitel on our London layover this time, I would definitely stay there next time for the convenience of being connected to the airport. It’s also accessible via the free airport shuttle.
You can find more options for hotels at the Heathrow Airport here.
Options for Storing Luggage During a Layover at Heathrow
Another thing we contemplated when we planned to go into central London during our layover was what to do with our luggage. We were traveling with carry-on luggage only, and the ideal of dragging all of that into the city was less than appealing. When we decided to stay by airport at the Hilton Terminal 5, we ended up taking our luggage to the hotel with us. (Another reason why staying by the airport is great!)
If you want to store luggage at Heathrow Airport during a layover, there are places to leave your luggage throughout the airport. Fees vary depending on the amount of time you want to store luggage. The cost to leave luggage at Heathrow starts at £7.50 per item for 0-3 hours. Left luggage at Heathrow is operated by Excess Baggage Company and can be booked in advance. For more information on where to luggage storage at Heathrow, see here.
Keep in mind that if you have a connecting flight, any checked bags will automatically be transferred to the next flight for you. So if you have an overnight layover and are checking bags, keep anything you’ll need for the night and following day in your carry-on luggage.
Have you been to London for an overnight layover before? We’d love to hear more ideas for things you’ve done or where you stayed. With the new nonstop from London to Pittsburgh through British Airways, this probably won’t be our last time!
If you’re visiting Pittsburgh from London, be sure to check out our page on things to do in Pittsburgh with kids for more.
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