Liz and her husband have stayed in many hotels and like to share their experience to help fellow travellers make informed hotel choices.
Heathrow is the UK's largest airport and, pre-COVID, it was one of the busiest in the world. Located around 15.6 miles west of central London, it not only serves the UK capital but also acts as an important transit hub for world travelers.
Although there are 5 terminals, terminal 1 closed in 2015, after 47 years of service. During the pandemic, terminals 3 and 4 were closed, with airlines relocated to terminals 2 and 5. Many airport hotels were closed or used for quarantine.
As restrictions were eased in 2021 terminal 3 reopened. Terminal 4 was used for a time to receive travelers arriving from countries on the red list, who were required to quarantine in hotels. We have friends who had accommodation and flights from 2020 to Florida, USA, postponed to early summer 2021 and then postponed again. Hotels in the UK reopened on 17th May 2021 to the general public.
This article looks forward to a brighter future when air travel will once again be more accessible.
Opened in 1986, Terminal 4 was dealing with flights to European and long-haul destinations prior to its temporary closure in 2020. Over 30 airlines were based there, including Air France, Alitalia, KLM, Etihad, Korean Air, and Qatar. There were bus links with the other terminals and the main transport hub. Terminal 4 is scheduled to reopen by July 2022.
Why We Chose This Hotel
Our youngest daughter had an early flight booked to the Far East in February 2020. She was going away traveling for at least 6 months. This was the original plan. As we live over 2 hours drive away from Heathrow Airport and not wanting to drive through the night in the winter, I set about looking for a nearby hotel.
Location was key. I was pleasantly surprised to find rooms available at Holiday Inn Express Heathrow Terminal 4 at a reasonable cost with parking below the hotel. An escalator from the foyer went to a covered linked bridge to the main enclosed walkway to Terminal 4. The airport check-in desk was a few minutes' walk from our rooms, with no need to brave the English winter weather.
I was very impressed with how easy it was to find the hotel, especially as I was the driver on this occasion. Arriving mid-evening. the roads immediately around the airport were reasonably quiet and signage was good.
The limited-service Holiday Inn Express London Heathrow Terminal 4 shares a dark grey modern building with the full-service Crowne Plaza, another member of the InterContinental Hotel Group portfolio. Both were opened in 2018. Access to the underground car park was clear and there were plenty of spaces available. A convenient lift took us straight up to the foyer.
Once in the lobby, we could see that there was a partition down the middle. One side had Holiday Inn Express check-in desks and the other had the more upmarket Crowne Plaza desk.
Check-in was quick and efficient. We were offered 2 drinks vouchers, which we accepted instead of Welcome Points, as members of the InterContinental Hotel Group Rewards scheme. We were handed our room cards with directions to the rooms on the 5th floor.
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The two hotels were arranged around the high-ceilinged central atrium and lobby area. The Holiday Inn Express lounge area, bar, and dining area were off to one side, while the Crowne Plaza lounge and restaurant occupied the opposite side of the building. The plush Crowne Plaza Destinations bar was towards the back of the ground floor area.
Apart from the Crowne Plaza gym, the facilities were open to guests of either hotel. All guests shared the same bank of 6 lifts, located behind the reception in the center of the building.
When exiting the lifts on the guest floors, Crowne Plaza guests turned left at the bridgeway for their rooms numbered in the thousands, and Holiday Inn Express guests headed right for their rooms numbered in the hundreds. The guest rooms were arranged around the central atrium. It all had a very modern and fresh appearance, which continued on the mushroom-colored Holiday Inn Express corridors.
We booked two rooms in Holiday Inn Express London Heathrow Terminal 4; a double and a twin for our adult daughters. Rooms were the most recent Generation 4 design and very modern. Ours were both on the outside wall of the building and looked towards the runway. Both followed a standard layout of the shower room by the entrance and the bedroom beyond.
The largest wall was painted grey with a blue textured surface on the walls behind the bed and by the chair and table. A grey patterned carpet toned in with the full-length curtains that ran along the outside wall, concealing a large square window with net curtains. The curtains were effective blackouts and created an illusion of space. The grey theme was picked up in the material on the headboards and the bed runners. Their orange border linked in with the branded cushion on the bed and the orange upholstery of the chair. The rooms had a fresh, modern look.
The use of light-colored wood for fixtures and furnishings and white surfaces helped to maximize the space in the rooms.
A full-length mirror on the main wall concealed neat spaces behind it for an ironing board, iron, and hairdryer in a bag. There was a handy plug socket below the mirror too.
A generously proportioned flatscreen TV was mounted on the wall. The slimline shelf below had just enough space for a kettle, mugs, and hot drinks, as well as a leaflet rack at the far end.
There was no desk in either room. Instead, the orange swivel chair doubled as a comfortable seat for relaxation or an office chair when paired up with the angular light wood table in front of it. There was a hole in the table for power leads and a double power socket plus a USB point located on the wall nearby.
The open hanging rail by the shower room door, together with storage space above and to the side, with a handy shelf for a suitcase, ensured that coats and some bags could be stored away from the main area of the room.
The Double Room
Although the bed was a generous kingsize, it had been pushed as near to the outside wall, as the fitted bedside shelf would allow. This resulted in there still being a reasonable amount of floor space at the foot and on the other side of the bed. We only had overnight bags, but guests with more luggage would still fit comfortably in this room.
As well as double powerpoints near the kettle and by the table and a single socket near the mirror, there were some also on either side of the bed. Light switches and a USB point were on one side, with the hotel telephone on the other bedside shelf.
The Twin Room
The twin beds too were pushed as near to the window as possible. Space was saved by a shared central shelf between them, attached to the headboard, which had two reading lights and power points also. But two single beds still had the effect of making the room feel more crowded. This was not helped by one of the occupants having luggage for an extended trip abroad. Having said that, our two daughters were happy with the room and found it more than adequate for an overnight pre-flight stay.
Thoughts on the Bedrooms
Both rooms were well-lit with a combination of lights in the ceiling, adjustable reading penlights in the headboards, and a cylindrical wall light near the table and chair.
The rooms were maintained at a comfortable temperature thanks to the air-conditioning/heating system, with its adjustable controls mounted on the wall near the table.
The modern, space-saving design gave us enough room in the double and helped maximize space in the single. The rooms were cleaned to a high standard, well-soundproofed and comfortable.
Airport Hotel Priorities
The Shower Room
The shower rooms were identical. They had a modern design with a functional layout of a wall-mounted toilet facing the door, sink along the corridor wall and shower cubicle opposite, along the bedroom wall.
The rooms were fully tiled in a grey theme, with large dark grey floor tiles, a main wall of dark grey tiles in the shower, and pale grey brick shape tiles elsewhere. Turquoise backing to the top and bottom of the large mirror added a splash of color to the room.
The fittings were modern and white. The rooms were well-lit with spotlights in the ceiling above the shower, toilet, and sink, as well as back-lighting behind the large mirror over the sink.
The rectangular sink was on a beige top. It had a large mixer tap over it. To the left, there was a shaver socket and a wall-mounted soap dispenser.
To the right of the sink, there was a towel rail. A pale wood shelf below the sink provided storage for towels. There were 2 hand towels and 2 good quality, generously proportioned bath sheets, all in white. A hook on the door was an additional useful spot for a towel.
The walk-in shower had a white rectangular shower tray. The shower screen was split, partly fixed, and part an inward opening door. The arrangement worked well, as it prevented water from dripping onto the floor, which is a problem with doors opening outwards.
The adjustable chrome shower head and hose were mounted on a pole. There was a wall-mounted shower gel dispenser and a chrome rack for toiletries. Water pressure and drainage were good in the shower and sink.
Drinks at the Bar
We had two drinks vouchers from check-in to use at the bar, but which bar? There was a choice.
Express Bar and Cafe
The Holiday Inn Express cafe/bar was modern, brightly lit with low slung lights, and functional. An abundance of pale wood in the bar area gave it a light and spacious feel. There were small tables, chairs, as well as the option of lounge seating nearby. The bar stocked a reasonable range of standard drinks and offered an all-day dining menu.
Destinations Bar, as you would expect from a 4-star hotel bar, was a different entity. We had spotted it as we looked down from the walkway near the lifts. Lit by wall lamps around the edge of the area, the lighting was subdued, creating a relaxed atmosphere. Comfortable seats were grouped around small tables. The focal point was the brightly lit and well-stocked bar at the back with a bright and large statement piece of lighting up on the wall behind it.
We decided to try out the Destinations Bar, as we were not paying anyway. I felt a little like an imposter in the smarter bar. This feeling was not helped when there was a quibble over the vouchers. Due to brand loyalty status, the vouchers offered us the choice of wine, beer, soft drinks, or spirits and mixers. We always like to get good value for our vouchers, so ordered spirits and mixers. The bartender did not think this was allowed, so he had to get advice when we stood our ground. It was a little awkward, but he returned to offer us branded spirits, which were served with a selection of spicy corn puffs and assorted nuts.
Once the issue was resolved, we enjoyed our drinks in the relaxed atmosphere and wound down after the journey through rain and heavy traffic.
The highlight for our family of any stay in a Holiday Inn Express hotel has always been the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Sadly, due to Covid-19, breakfast buffets in the UK were curtailed and, in many hotels, replaced by breakfast in a takeaway bag. Happily, in recent months, the breakfast experience has improved and is now more in line with the one I have described here.
The dining room of Holiday Inn Express occupied a large area beyond the bar. It was a colorful and brightly lit area with a good selection of tables, chairs, and benches with power banks available on some.
The buffet was spread out in a spacious area, along the walls. Two coffee machines with assorted tea bags and hot water ensured that we never had to queue. Similarly, milk dispensers and cereals were doubled up, with a choice of branded corn flakes, bran flakes, Special K, coco pops, and granola in bowls. The cold drinks choice was water, orange, or apple juice.
The hot food selection consisted of baked beans, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausages. There were two toasters with a choice of bread, croissants, and muffins, as well as spreads, fresh fruit, and yogurt.
As it was an airport hotel, the buffet opened early. We went twice. Once with our daughter, before she checked in and later with our other daughter, who wanted to eat before we headed home. Maybe this was just as well because we had no idea then that it would be our last Holiday Inn Express buffet breakfast for over 18 months.
This hotel scores highly in many aspects, as my impressive star rating suggests. It has an excellent and convenient location. Our walk early in the morning to Departures at Heathrow Terminal 4 took around 5 minutes. The underground car park was worth the £20 it cost for the convenience.
The hotel building was modern, fresh, and clean. Shared facilities were an unexpected bonus. The Holiday Inn Express rooms were functional but comfortable and well-equipped. Check-in and check-out were smooth and efficient. The breakfast service was well-managed and well-stocked, setting us all up for the day ahead.
So, what became of the traveler, heading off for 6 months globe-trotting in February 2020? A month later, our daughter returned from Singapore after the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed her travel plans. Maybe we will get a chance to stay again at Holiday Inn Express London Heathrow Terminal 4, next time she jets off. I would certainly be up for that and recommend this hotel as a good place to stay.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Liz Westwood