It’s 10:30p.m. After making my way to the front of a snaking Immigration line, I inform the official that I will only be in London for 10 hours.
He waves me through.
My body is weary from traveling through three cities and two continents within the last 24 hours. I spend the next 20 minutes schlepping my suitcase up and down various escalators and ramps, until I arrive at a bus, which will take me to Terminal 4.
After that, it’s just a short elevator ride to my home for the evening: London Heathrow’s Yotel.
The futuristic, purple LED-lit hotel is tucked away into the upper corner of the terminal and just five generous steps from a pub. Fashioned after Japan’s capsule hotels, guests can rent mini-cabins equipped with all the standard hotel room accoutrements by the hour.
Not only are Yotels popping up in airports, but they're slowly springing up in city centers, too. In addition to the Heathrow Yotel, there are Yotels at Gatwick (the first), Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and steps away from Times Square in New York City. The Yotel brand is currently eyeing both Paris and Abu Dhabi for furtherer expansion.
Yotel’s creators, Simon Woodroffe (Yo! Sushi) and Gerard Greene, sought to offer the luxury of first-class airline travel in cushy, miniature cabins with their hotel chain. They succeeded. And no one can more appreciate their efforts than economy travelers: those who have glared at card-carrying elite airport club-lounge members with envy, wishing they too had the opportunity to get a hot shower, rid themselves of ‘travelers’ film’ and continue their journey in comfort and cleanliness, rather than pastiness and paleness.
I was thrilled to take advantage of that. It was an added bonus that I could spend the 9 hours before an early a.m. flight to NYC bundling myself up in fluffy white towels, catching up on nighttime British soap operas and resting in a comfortable bed covered in crisp, white sheets.
Rooms at the Yotel are available to book from 4-24 hours, or more.
Hairdryers, shower caps and alarm clocks are available at the check-in counter. A 24-hour kitchen, which revamped its menu at the start of 2012, guarantees cabin delivery within 15 minutes. Menu highlights include vegetarian Singapore noodles, Paninis and tostis, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and lagers and Shiraz, should you need help slipping into a peaceful slumber. While Wi-Fi works in the cabins, there are additional computer workstations outside the Yotel entrance, across from the pub mentioned earlier.
I opted for the Premium cabin, which is roomier than the Standard. A Premium cabin comes with a moving double bed (buttons on a side control panel can be used to extend the bed, as well as command all the cabin’s lighting) and luxury sheets. It has a monsoon power shower with body wash and towels, a TV and workstation, as well as under bed luggage space within its 10sqm (110sqft) area. 10 hours costs: £101.50 (approx. $159).
Standard rooms have large bunk-style beds, also with luxury sheets, monsoon shower, body wash, towels, a TV and workstation. Suitcases can be stored in overhead racks and the rooms measure 7sqm (75sqft). 10 hours costs: £79.00 (approx. $124). Cabin walls are a bit thin, and guests come in and out at all hours, so light sleepers should take advantage of the complimentary earplugs provided—I slept soundly, unplugged.
London has a lot to offer travelers this year. Events for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating her 60-year reign, and the Olympics, which kick off on July 27th, will dominate the summer calendar. Should you not be able to find or afford accommodation in the city center, the Yotel makes for a great B-plan.
And, for those who long to complete a laborious journey fresh-faced, and sans flight filth, the Yotel offers hot showers, clean and comfy beds, delicious food delivered within 15 minutes and bad - it’s so good - British TV programming.
Travel tip shared by wanderlustwrtng