Top 12 Heathrow hacks… How to beat the stress, crowds and cost of travelling through the UK’s busiest airport

If you’re planning to travel through Heathrow Airport, use these top 12 real-world hacks to beat the queues, ease the stress and slash the cash required to make it from the car park to airline seat.

From saving £100s on airport parking to ensuring you don’t have to wave a tearful goodbye to your electronic devices at the security gate, we’ve got the the hacks that really can bring you a seamless and stress-free trip through the UK’s busiest airport.

1) Airport parking – save £100+

This Heathrow hack is simple, but neglect it and it’ll cost you plenty of cash that’d be better spent on enjoying your holiday.

Slash journey times and skip traffic with meet and greet parking

Slash costs with pre-booked airport parkin

Heathrow hack: Have you pre-booked your airport parking? Forgetting to do this and paying gate rates at the airport will cost around three times as much as organising your space in advance.

Here we look at 8 days’ turn-up-and-park prices compared with the same for pre-booked parking.

8 days’ parking in long-stay car park serving Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5

Turn-up-and-park rates: £173.50 (£199.90 during peak period)

Pre-booked airport parking: £51.99 (November 2016)

Verdict: A simple hack that’s open to all drivers who want to save more than £120 on their parking. Book your airport parking now with APH.

2) Book the correct car park – beat terminal confusion

With four terminals (RIP Terminal 1) serving Heathrow, it’s easy to book your parking for the wrong one. This can leave you with hefty and stressful delays making your way to the check-in desks.

Heathrow hack: Here at APH we know our terminals, so you don’t need to worry. Meet and greet parking won’t be a problem – as you drive straight to the terminal – but those looking for great-value park and ride should check out the tab below…

Where to park at Heathrow: Terminal 2 & 3

APH Park & Ride Terminal 2 & 3

aph23

Operated by our trusted partner, Purple Parking, we’re proud to offer APH Park & Ride Terminal 2 Terminal 3. Start your trip with ease at this cost-effective and secure airport parking solution that’s just minutes from both terminals. Business or pleasure, it’s the ideal choice for all types of traveller.

Where: Use this service for departures from Terminal 2 and 3.

Find out more: Click here for full details and prices 

Where to park at Heathrow: Terminal 4

APH Park & Ride Terminal 4

aph4

Operated by our trusted partners, Purple Parking, APH Park & Ride offers a cost-effective and secure parking option for all passenger departing from this terminal. Business or pleasure – it’s the ideal solution to start your trip with confidence.

Where: Use this service for departures from Terminal 4

Find out more: Click here for full details and prices

Where to park at Heathrow: Terminal 5

APH Park & Ride Terminal 5

aph5

Head to APH Park & Ride Terminal 5 for the perfect start to your trip from this state-of-the-art facility. Operated by our trusted partners at Purple Parking, we’re offering a cost-effective and secure solution for both business and leisure travellers, alike..

Where: Use this service for departures from Terminal 5

Find out more: Click here for full details and prices 

Where to park at Heathrow: APH Meet & Greet

Heathrow APH Meet & Greet

aphmeet

Operating at all Heathrow terminals; APH Meet & Greet is a drive-in and drop-off service that offers the ultimate stress-free start to your trip! Perfect if you’re short on time or loaded down with luggage; skip the long drawn out transfers, and drive straight to the terminal where a fully insured chauffeur will be waiting to park your car for you.

Where: All terminals

Find out more: Click here for full details and prices 

Verdict: Sounds simple, but with no direct transport to terminals not served by the car park in question, you could be looking at long delays getting to the check-in desk if you don’t plan ahead.

3) Currency – get the best deal at Heathrow

Fears over Brexit have hit currency rates for travellers, with conversion rates taking a battering as divorce proceedings progress. Play fast and loose with your cash-conversion at Heathrow and you’ll be looking at a seriously malnourished wallet.

Heathrow hack: Make no mistake, converting currency as you wait to board is a bad idea. Many terminals have single-supplier exchanges, ensuring there’s no competition to help travellers get better deals.  Recent rates have seen the euro fall to below £1 – a currency exchange at Stansted Airport has been reported as offering just €0.95 for £1, according to the Mailonline.

The same report highlighted exchange rates at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 offering passengers around €504 for £500 through the ICE bureau de change, while buying currency from the same company online, then collecting it at the airport, would give travellers around £543 (conversion rate taken 12/10/16).

Using this method would see converting £2,000 bringing savings of more than £200 (admin fees of £4.75 not charged on orders over £700).

Ordering a pre-paid currency card is another option to ensure you get more euros or dollars for your pound – it will also mean you’ll avoid having to carry large sums of cash. Get your quote here.

Verdict: While Brexit is driving currency fluctuations, it’s clear that many money-changers are exploiting the situation to inflate profits in areas with captive markets and little competition – such as airport terminals. Buying your cash in advance of reaching Heathrow Airport is a guaranteed and simple way to save £100s. Don’t ignore it.

4) Baggage allowance – beat the excess charges

Turning up at check-in with overweight bags – or even too many cases – can be an expensive business. Presenting a travel-obese bag for a BA flight will cost from £65 in charges.

Don't end up with an excess baggage charge

Don’t end up with an excess baggage charge

Heathrow hack: Keeping your baggage trim is easy if you’ve got the facts. Log on to the APH Baggage Allowance Finder ahead of your flight to find the information you need for your flight from Heathrow and all other UK airports. Find it here.

Verdict: Finding out your baggage allowance is never simple, but this free online tool will ensure you have all the information on one place. No more anxious moments at the check-in desk, simply get the facts before your pack.

5) Luggage trolleys – beat ‘change’ anxiety

Not glamorous, but an essential piece of kit for all air travellers.

Heathrow hack: The good news is there’s no need to panic about having the correct change, because, unlike many other airports, all Heathrow’s trolleys are free to use. Find them at handy points across all terminals.

See the full airport trolley map here for UK airport

Stay on the case and don’t leave home without the correct change for a luggage trolley

Stay on the case and don’t leave home without the correct change for a luggage trolley

Verdict: It might seem a small point, but arriving at an airport without the correct change for trolleys can cause huge problems for travellers – especially those who are elderly or travelling with kids.

Make sure you’re never left without a trolley by bookmarking our guide to costs and payment methods at airports across the UK.

6) Security check – do you qualify for fast-track clearance lanes

Many airports offer passengers the opportunity to bypass queues by purchasing a fast-track ticket to cut waiting. Sadly for many passengers who find slow-moving queues uncomfortable, Heathrow does not offer this service as a paid option – so make sure you leave plenty of time to negotiate the queues.

Heathrow hack:  With Heathrow taking a slightly elitist approach to fast-lane security, it seems your need to be super-wealthy or travelling on an austerity-free expense account to enjoy faster progress through security.

However, some theories suggest that right-handed people tend to head to queues on that side, so with this group making up the majority of the population, it could be smart to go straight ahead or veer to the left.

Verdict: Heathrow really should democratise the fast-track security lanes, but until that happens we’re left with the unproven psychology of choosing left-hand queues. Realistically, you might be best off buying a takeaway coffee and snacks for the kids.

Here’s a list of UK airports that do offer the service to non-premier seating passengers. 

For those who are lucky enough to be sitting at the sharp end of the craft, here’s a list of airlines which participate in the fast-track scheme at Heathrow Airport.

Fast track at Heathrow: Airlines in the 'premier' class scheme
Fast Track participating airlines
Airline Departures Arrivals Connections
Aegean Airlines
Aer Lingus
Aeroflot
Aeromexico
Air Astana
Air Canada
Air China
Air France
Air India
Air Malta
Air Mauritius
Air New Zealand
Air Serbia
Alitalia
American Airlines
ANA
Arik Air
Austrian
Azerbaijan Airlines
Avianca
Biman Bangladesh Airlines
British Airways Domestic
British Airways International
Brussels Airlines
Bulgaria Air
Cathay Pacific Airways
China Eastern
China Southern
Croatia Airlines
Delta
Egyptair
Emirates
Ethopian
Eithad Airlines
El Al
EVA Air
Finnair
Garuda Indonesia
Germanwings
Gulf Air
Iceland Air
Iran Air
Japan Airlines
Jet Airways
Kenya Airways
KLM – Royal Dutch airlines
Korean Air
Kuwait Airways
LOT Polish Airlines
Lufthansa
Malaysia Airlines
MEA
Oman Air ✓ (not T4)
Pakistan International Airlines
Philippines Airlines
Qantas
Qatar Airways
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Brunei Airlines
Royal Jordian
SAS – Scandinavian Airlines
Saudia
Singapore Airlines
South African Airways
Sri Lankan Airlines
Swiss International Airlines
TAP Portugal
TAM
Tarom
Thai Airways
Transaero
Tunisair
Turkish Airlines
Turkmenistan Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways
Uzbekistan Airways
Vietnam Airlines
Virgin Atlantic

7) Where to eat – beat the rush by planning ahead

With hundreds of eateries panning Heathrow’s four terminals, picking where to eat can be a daunting prospect as you pass through security and into the departure lounge. Take too long and you’ll be fighting an indigestion-inducing battle to get your food before your gate closes – or picking the wrong restaurant in haste.

It's not the food you need to worry about... find out more here

Beat the rush and choose your table before you even leave for the airport

Heathrow hack 1: Beat the panic of finding somewhere to eat, with our gastric-soothing restaurant finder. Simply pick your terminal from the following dropdown and we’ll serve up all the options for your upcoming trip. Relax and refuel courtesy of this essential Heathrow hack.


Heathrow Airport terminal restaurant finder…

Simply use the dropdown menu below and go straight to your departure terminal – and a full list of restaurants.


Heathrow hack 2: Along with planning where to eat, you can also reduce the risk of having clock-watching anxiety as a side order by looking out for the 15 Minute Menu logo. Many of the airport’s restaurants – including the likes of Giraffe, Café Rouge and Gordon Ramsay’s Plane food – offer this service where you’re guaranteed to receive your freshly prepared dish within 15 minutes of ordering. Use our restaurant finder, above, to search them out.

Verdict: Grabbing a pit stop to refuel before you fly couldn’t be easier with our APH Heathrow hack. Happy tummy and stress-free progress is order of the day, here.

8) Airline meals – create your own with Heathrow Airport

It’s a myth that all airline meals are salt-ridden boxes of slop, but it can be hit-and-miss as to whether they’re compatible with your palate. Additionally, many flights come with food in the form of unfeasibly expensive – and limp – sandwiches, so here’s a hack that puts you in control.

Heathrow hack: Every one of Heathrow’s 118 restaurants across all terminals offers passengers the chance to create their very own in-flight picnic. Simply choose your food from any of the restaurants and have it packaged to create the ultimate takeaway.

Here are just a couple of the in-flight picnic menus available.

London’s Pride by Fuller’s
Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food

Verdict: The ultimate hack for anyone who gets queasy at the thought of eating at altitude. Escape the anxiety of peeling back the tray lid with a bespoke picnic selected by you.

9) Kids – keeping them happy

The small period of time between finishing your meal and boarding the plane can stretch to an eternity when travelling with kids, so what hacks have we got for parents?

Heathrow hack: Head to one of the play areas to keep the kids occupied as you wait for the word to go. Here’s where you can find the free facilities across Heathrow…

Terminal 2

Stay & Play is in the main Terminal 2A departure lounge (after security), near Gate 16.

Terminal 3

offers the Family Lounge, a free to enter area with play zones for ages 0-2 and 3-9. There’s also a discreet area for nursing mums and vending machines. This is not a ‘crèche’ area, so make sure all kids are accompanied by an adult at all time. The lounge is in departures, after security (near the Ted Baker store), and open from 06:00 to 21:00 – just follow signs for Lounge A.

Terminal 4

The Stay & Play area is in the departure lounge (after security), on the way to Gates 1-6.

Terminal 5

Stay & Play is in the main Terminal 5A departure lounge (after security), near Gate A7.

Verdict: If you’re looking to keep the children occupied and the costs down, the free play areas are good news for you. Just be aware that peak times will see numbers restricted.

10) WiFi – free time and how to get more for less

Checking social media accounts or keeping in touch with colleagues is now entrenched in our daily routines, making it vital to have access to WiFi as you wait to fly. Not all airport WiFi was born equal, though, with some offering just a few minutes’ free connection before demanding users to pay for access, but how does Heathrow match up?

Wi-Fi - get it for free and make sure it's safe

Wi-Fi – get it for free and make sure it’s safe

Heathrow hack: Passengers have free access to WiFi for the duration of their stay. Simply search for _Heathrow Wi-Fi and connect. Make sure you only connect to this network, as other free options could be put in place.

Verdict: Knowing Heathrow has free WiFi will help cut costs by slashing use of your own personal data allowance.

It will also to make your surfing safer and help protect against the possibility of phony ‘hot-spots’ set up by crooks looking to steal your data.

Follow these tips to help ensure you stay as safe a possible when logging on at the airport:

1) Make sure you log on to the official WiFi hot-spot at _Heathrow Wi-Fi  – ignore others.

2) Avoid paying bills at the airport that require you send a credit/debit card number

3) Look out for ‘shoulder surfers’ who may be trying to collect your password details

4) Disconnect when you are not using the free network – and turn off Bluetooth

Find out how much free Wi-Fi is available at other airports – and how much you’ll pay when it runs out here

11) Security – what you can and can’t take through

Packing items in the wrong bag can be time-consuming affair when you reach the security desk – and could result in excess baggage charges or even having to leave goods behind.

Heathrow hack: Make sure you keep up to date with the latest information on electronic devices and batteries – or you could be forced to travel without your laptop and phones. Did you know many airlines won’t carry a device unless it’s fully powered-up and able to be switched on? Or that packing a phone or spare battery in your hold luggage could see it refused transit?

Flying with portable phone chargers: The rules

Can you take a phone charger on a plane? We’ve the answer here
Most planes will have charging ports for phones and other devices at the seat, but you’ll still need to keep your mobile devices charged as you approach security. To make sure this is possible, many travellers take power packs – but what are the rules around these when boarding?

Do not pack you portable charger (power pack) in hold luggage: Taking your portable phone charger (power pack) on a plane is fine, but just remember to pack it in your hand luggage. Do not put them in your hold luggage as this is not permitted and could result in your luggage not being loaded.

Leave some charge in your power pack: Many airlines will still require you to prove an electrical device, such as phone or tablet, can be switched on before you can take it on board as hand luggage, so the same is likely to apply to portable phone chargers (power packs). Always ensure units contain charge as you will not be able to pack them in your hold luggage as an alternative way to carry them.

Can I pack any portable chargers in my hold luggage: Most airlines state Lithium batteries should be carried in your hand luggage only, so those with ‘alternative chargers’ may be tempted to pack power packs that use solar or wind-up power in the hold. However, while these devices charge through the likes of sun and kinetic power, most still house Lithium batteries to store the power. Pop them in your hand luggage and make sure they have power.

Find our full guide to security restrictions at UK airports here 

12) Charging your devices – keep them charged or risk leaving them behind

As we’ve already mentioned, travelling with electronic devices that can’t be switched on due to a flat battery could result in it being barred from the plane.

Heathrow Hack: If your phone or tablet is running low, Heathrow Airport offers free Power Pole charging stations in all terminals. These can be found before and after security and are compatible with UK and European plugs as well as USB cables. You will have to stay with your device while it’s charging.

You can also download the Chargebox app to fine units at Heathrow. These boxes allow you to pay a small fee to lock your device in a box while charges – leaving you free to go off and collect it later. Find the Chargebox app here.

Verdict: Search out the power poles and charge box units to ensure you’re not hit by security regulations that could result in your device missing the flight. See preceding section for full details.

Bonus hack…Delayed – hire a Yotel room

From technical issues to weather-related woes and industrial disputes, there are many reasons your flight can be delayed – but what are the options for terminal-weary travellers to while away the hours before finally taking to the skies?

Heathrow hack: It’s likely there won’t be time to leave the airport and find a room to escape the crowded terminal as you wait to depart, but hiring a Yotel room could be just the solution.

Located in Terminal 4, you can hire these on-airport cabins for periods of 4 hours upwards and in various sizes. A standard cabin is perfect if you’re travelling alone. A premium cabin or premium triple bunk cabin will give you more space for two or more people.

Expect to pay around £37 for a 4-hour stay in a single cabin. Please note, these cabins are located before security.

Get a quote here. 

Verdict: If you have a long delay or early start, these cabins can be great way to enjoy a little comfort ahead of your flight.

Get the full storyterminal 2 reopens

We got all the essential information covered for all terminals with our full guides right here.

Terminal 2
Terminal 4
Terminal 3
Terminal 5

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