Author: Becky Sizelove
When I booked my flight to Amsterdam, I was thinking only of how excited I was to score cheap airfare. I didn't check the details until after booking. It came as quite a surprise when I noticed my flight included an 11 hour layover in Heathrow Airport. But, when life gives you limes, you buy tequila. So when life gave me an 11 hour layover in London, I made a mini vaca out of it. I wanted to share a few tips along with the details of my trip in case anyone else wants to make the most of their long layover!
Tip #1 - Plan Ahead
After a joyous flight of reading and watching two great movies -- Passengers and The Magnificent 8 -- I landed in Heathrow and found the express train to London, which dropped me off at Paddington Station. Even though I initially planned to map out my journey ahead of time, it didn't end up happening and my trek went wayward for the first 15 minutes. It all turned around when a kind stranger gave me their Oyster card (they were done with it for the night). An Oyster card gets you anywhere you need to go in London. Once I received the Oyster card, I mapped out my journey on Google Maps and saw my trip go from zero to 80 in five seconds! If I made a plan before I landed, it would have made a world of difference. Learn from my mistakes!
Tip # 2 - Choose a Few "Must Sees" and Go There First
My first stop was Baker Street, because Sherlock. I suddenly felt like I'd been transported to a different time. It was quite exciting. From there, I got back on the tube and stopped at Westminster to see Big Ben. It was essentially the one thing I was determined to see on my layover. That and fish and chips, which I didn't end up having. At Big Ben, I made friends with another solo traveler and we decided to go to a few milestone spots together. I was thankful for this because I didn't know where to go after Big Ben.
We walked over to the London Eye and on the way I saw the quintessential red telephone booth. Of course, I snapped some photos before walking over the Westminster Bridge where someone was playing the violin, my favorite instrument. It was at this moment that I decided I liked London. I never really desired to visit London before that moment but now I definitely think it's worth a journey back!
After the Westminster Bridge, we walked to get some Indian food and then found China Town. It was so charming there. We also stopped at Piccadilly Circus. It was absolutely stunning at night! The double decker buses zoomed by and I loved every second there.
Tip # 3 - Stay on Schedule and Set an Alarm for When You Need to Return to the Airport
Once I felt successfully tired, I hopped on a double decker bus and got to the hotel I booked next to the airport. This hotel was $35 and I found it on Expedia. Sounds sketchy, but it was actually nice for what it was. I showered, slept for a couple hours and then used Google Maps to find the nearest train stop to Heathrow. It was an easy walk and I purchased another Oyster card. I couldn't believe how much I lived in a short 11 hours. You can turn a layover into an exciting adventure! I felt so accomplished for venturing out by myself. It was exhilarating. Once I successfully sat down on my plane to Amsterdam, I knew I had been successful in my mission. I got some shut eye and then landed for my next adventure. You can read all about my journey to Amsterdam here.