A lot of fancier hotels with a large number of business-type users claim to be ‘child-friendly’ like the Hilton London Heathrow Airport – they’re pushing their family stays at the moment and they invited me and the kids to try them out for a night.
IMPORTANT: This was a gifted trip. It was gifted to us. It was provided giftaciously. The ASA can call off their hounds now.
So me taking an eight-year-old, a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and a one-year-old to a nice hotel might sound like an act of complete madness, but nonetheless we found the place really easily as there is a dedicated, covered walkway from the main Terminal 4 building.
We arrived a bit earlier than the 3pm check-in time, so we were able to try out the robot pods at Terminal 5 that travel between the car parks. We even found some robot cleaners as well who I can only describe as ‘Roombas on Steroids.’ Unfortunately, R2D2’s moody little brother took one look at my lot and turned the other way.
The hotel itself is a large building with an open-plan atrium – half the rooms overlook this vast indoor space while the other half have external views that include the occasional aircraft.
There’s a dedicated kids’ check-in area with flight steps, silly hats, and huge activity packs to take away, and the first thing that struck me was how friendly the staff were. Before you say, ‘well of course they were friendly to you, you were doing a review,’ I made an effort to eavesdrop on at least three other conversations at the front desk and everyone else seemed just as warm and welcoming. I can’t speak Japanese, but I could tell that the Japanese guy was very pleased with the service too, I think.
The airport theme continued upstairs with all of the room numbers being part of aircraft artwork, and we had two interconnecting bedrooms – both with 50-inch TVs. The second room had special kids’ beds with aircraft duvets and pillows, mini dressing gowns, mini slippers, and funky smelling kids toiletries. The grown-up toiletries were Crabtree and Evelyn, which was particularly pleasant on my particulars.
All of the beds were super-comfortable, and the soundproofing worked really well so it was impossible to tell that there was a whacking great airport ten metres away. Tea and coffee-making facilities were standard, and we had an iron, a hair-dryer, and a minibar that I didn’t need because they left us a lovely gift box with Heathrow Honey (the hotel have their own bee hives), some gin, some tonic, and some other nice bits.
So now for the first real test – dinner. Speaking from experience, restaurants that serve swanky, artistic dishes aren’t usually the sort of venue where you might take a quadruple of over-excited children, but their on-site OXBO eatery seemed to be well equipped to simultaneously handle both the loud ‘OMG WE’RE EATING IN AN AIRPORT I’M GOING TO CELEBRATE WITH SOME IMPROMPTU DISNEY PRINCESS NUMBERS’ customers and the ‘right let’s talk about the projected sales figures for Q2 2023 and how they could impact upon our global fiscal augmentation strategy’ clientèle.
Everyone seemed to be enjoying the same level of service, which probably meant they didn’t mind about the mini-riot coming from our side of the restaurant. Alternatively, they might have just been taking pity on me, but a win’s a win.
Unlike other places we’ve been to before, their mains came with my starter which actually makes a lot of sense. Both the adults’ and kids’ menus have loads to choose from, and I finished with a chocolate mousse that they actually build at your table from a whole tray of bits and pieces. A dollop on each of the kids’ fruit bowls and it went down perfectly.
The buffet breakfast was similarly impressive as well because it had literally everything I could think of, and again the staff were super-accommodating with my usual strategy of taking them up one at a time to spend four minutes saying ‘I don’t know’ because of the overwhelming array of bits to choose from. My coffee cup kept managing to refill itself which was excellent, and being in that massive indoor space means that the restaurant as a slight ‘al fresco’ feel to it, but without the pigeons which usually puts me off that sort of thing.
Because the kids were already almost finished by the time I managed to get started, a member of staff even offered to help pack up a few buffet items to take back to the room. I’m not just saying this because we were on a gifted trip, but every single person working there seemed to be family-friendly and prepared to not just treat kids like an after-thought. I’m never afraid to say when an experience is a bit rubbish even though it’s a ‘freebie’ – check out my adventure at The Big Jam Sandwich Family Festival if you don’t believe me.
A final word about the room – we all had a great night’s sleep and the check-out time was 12pm. With breakfast on until 10am, nothing felt rushed about it at all. The individual bedrooms were a decent size as well, which was great for moving the buggy around without the usual 18-point turn, and the Wi-Fi allowed multiple devices to be added without getting the usual ‘no way Pedro’ message when you dare add a third smartphone or tablet. Don’t forget that having interconnecting rooms means that you get two toilets as well, which is a godsend when you’re in a four-child family that seems to have synchronised err … movements.
If I had to moan about one thing, and this is a really picky thing, there aren’t really any areas of the hotel where you can get a really good view of the runways. However, the staff on the kids’ check-in desk are more than aware of this, and they gave me really simple directions to a good plane spotting area just five minutes’ walk away.
As with anything these days, you’ll get the best deals by booking in advance, and even if you’re not going on holiday and just having an airport adventure, there’s a really nice café for watching aircraft up close near the official viewing platform – if you have ‘what3words’ head to fend.bake.pure. You won’t regret it.