I’ll be traveling to the U.K. in March, flying from Seattle to London Heathrow. Usually for us, Heathrow is a lay-over point where we connect to a flight to elsewhere in Europe. This time, however, we’ll be staying in the U.K. – visiting family, tasting pasties, and finding pixies in Cornwall.
Picking up a rental car at Heathrow and driving to our destination is not an option. Do you remember how tired you became looking after your newborn in those first few weeks after birth? That’s just how I feel when I disembark from a 10-hour overnight flight – I don’t sleep well on planes with or without children. Driving in that state is patently unsafe. (I broke this rule once, after arriving in Dublin, and narrowly avoided a head-on collision within my first 45 minutes on the road).
Now that my boys are older (8 and 12), they self-entertain easily on board the flight and are pretty good at managing themselves and their baggage through customs and passport control. But, as I plan, I assume that no-one will have slept enough and tempers will be short. Connections, to another flight or ground transportation, therefore, need to be easy to find and at least provide seats for everyone.
After reviewing various options – including a FREE flight with Ryanair, we’ve decided to take the train from London to Truro. At ~$180 return for the four of us, it’s not cheap, but since the Ryanair flight in question leaves from Stansted daily at 6:30am, the train is actually cheaper than the cost of getting from Heathrow to Stansted plus an overnight stay at a hotel at or near Stansted. Not to mention that arriving at Noon on Day 1 and planning to catch a flight at 6:30am on Day 2 is NOT a good recipe for happy traveling children. (I know, because we HAD to do this to get to Lucca in time for my sister’s wedding this past June and CAM is still complaining about the experience).
The First Great Western train to Truro leaves from Paddington Station which is connected to Heathrow via the Heathrow Express trains, Heathrow Connect trains and London Underground (Tube). (You can find a summary of all transportation options from Heathrow into central London on the BAA Heathrow Airport website).
Here’s the surprising – and important – information I found out in researching this trip: Using Heathrow Connect, the total cost of open return tickets between Heathrow and Paddington for all four of us comes to GBP 41.50 (USD 62). This makes Heathrow Connect the best overall value for families traveling with children between five and 15. The journey time is 25 minutes direct to Paddington beating the Tube on price and service provided (the approximate journey time on the Tube is 35-55 minutes with at least one change of train required).
Heathrow Connect terminates at Terminal 4 and since we’re flying into the fancy, new Terminal 5, we’ll have to navigate through Heathrow Central to catch the train. This makes the Heathrow Connect service less convenient than Heathrow Express, but at 35% of the price, it’s excellent value for money – and transfers between terminals are complimentary on the Heathrow Express trains from T5.