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Getting to/from hotel in north London

My understanding is that in general it's best to avoid cabs/Uber getting to and from London airports. I'm wondering if that's true for hotels north of central London, and I'm having trouble making sense of what Google maps and Citymapper are recommending, so would appreciate any tips on this.

Later this month my family will fly into Heathrow (Terminal 5) at 6:30am on a Friday, and our hotel is north of the center city (The Crown London Hotel, 142-152 Cricklewood Broadway, London NW2 3ED), so I was thinking we would take an Uber from Heathrow to the hotel, since we'd bypass central London. But is that a bad idea? Maybe I'm missing something.

The next morning(!) we need to get from the Crown London to Gatwick North Terminal for an 8am Saturday flight to Paris. Should we try public transportation in the wee hours (leaving the hotel between 4 and 5am), or would it make more sense to get an Uber at that early hour on a Saturday?

The following Wednesday morning we fly back into Gatwick North Terminal, arriving at 7:30am, and we'll be staying at the Crown London again. At that time I'm planning to take the train into central London and store our bags using the Stasher app so we can get to sightseeing right away, and then train to the hotel in the evening.

Then we fly back to the US out of Gatwick South Terminal on a Saturday at 3pm. We plan to take the train to Gatwick that day.

Any suggestions for improvement?

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
8615 posts

My first question is are you completely committed to this hotel that doesn't appear to located in a way that fits well with your flight plans? My suggestion for improvement, if possible, would be to lose this hotel on your arrival day and pick a hotel next to Gatwick. It is easy to get from London Heathrow to London Gatwick either by train/tube or by National Express bus that goes directly from one to the other. You are only there for overnight prior to leaving on an early flight. That hotel makes no sense for this night unless there are other factors (prepaid-nonrefundable).

Posted by
16 posts

Good point. I should have mentioned that the hotel is part of a discount package thing. Which we won't be doing again.

Posted by
6646 posts

I did look up the hotel at Google maps and while it's certainly not the most central hotel in London it is still closer to Buckingham Palace than to the M25. So I'd say that the hotel is very much in London. A taxi or similar would not be my choice since that would mean driving in to London during rush hours. My suggestion would probably be the Elizabeth line and then Thameslink to Cricklewood. But there might be other and better options.

If you're going to Paris, the best option is to take the Thameslink train to St Pancras and change there to the Eurostar to Paris. But if you're going to Gatwick that's normally a pretty easy trip on Thameslink, but I don't know how often they run that early in the morning. If they don't run from Cricklewood my suggestion would probably be a taxi to another station and catch the train to Gatwick there.

Posted by
1172 posts

Unless money is really tight I’d just write off the cost of the Cricklewood hotel and book somewhere else in south London making it far easier to get to Gatwick. That hotel location is not convenient for anything you want to do. You will have to leave stupidly early in the morning to get to Gatwick for 6am in time for your flight.

Posted by
6683 posts

The first train from Cricklewood to Gatwick is at 0458, arrive 0604- which is too tight for my liking.

So I would catch Night Bus #N32 from Stop BD on Cricklewood Lane (straight outside your hotel) at 0333 to Victoria Station, arriving at 0359. (Night Buses move fast). Then the Southern Rail train at 0430, arriving at Gatwick at 0512.

From Heathrow it is the Elizabeth Line to Farringdon, then Thameslink to Cricklewood.

The second time round (both Wednesday and Saturday) there are daytime trains every 15 minutes taking 1 hour BUT you have to change at Blackfriars or Farringdon (same platform) as Gatwick trains go to Cambridge, and trains to Cricklewood come off the Sutton Loop.

As you are stuck now with your hotel that is probably your best bet.

In an uber or cab, even in the middle of the night it is 1:20 round the M25, so not a lot faster. Maybe just 30 minutes more sleep. And a lot more risky if you meet an incident on the road.

Posted by
8615 posts

If public transport has you leaving at 3:30 am, I would ditch that approach and switch to a taxi or car service . What is London traffic like at 4:30 am? I don’t know and I hope to never find out…..

One other thought. Can you possibly contact the company that sold you your package and see if something can be worked out about that first night? No reasonable person would pick that hotel with an early morning flight out of Gatwick. Did they also do flight arrangements?

Posted by
1001 posts

Road traffic from London to Gatwick is truly awful. In the middle of the night it will be a bit easier but it’s still a journey I plan never to have to do.

Posted by
6683 posts

Even if a taxi or uber in the middle of the night went straight through Central London, it really isn't going to be faster than going round the M25- probably slower. Not the horror story of a day time trip, but I just can't see it beating the 1:20 to 1:30 of going round the M25. I would not want to be leaving Cricklewood in a cab any much later than 4 to 4.15am.

It is just the wrong side of London.

On Friday 19 April there are PI's at Gatwick from £60 a night per room, and on 26 April from £52 a night per room. Compared to the cost of an Uber or taxi in the wee small hours or even from Heathrow to Cricklewood it is a no brainer to me, personally.

Probably other hotels in that price bracket as well.

There is a regular direct bus from Heathrow to Gatwick- which is around the same price as the Heathrow to Cricklewood train.

Posted by
619 posts

There's value in taking a London taxi beyond convenience. Talk to your driver about The Knowledge and how long it took for her or him to pass the test. It's one of my most enjoyable London experiences.

So my suggestion would be to get a black taxi from Heathrow airport to the hotel (the Heathrow Airport transfer quotation is £58), then catch a Thameslink train at the Cricklewood station to Gatwick in the wee hours for departure (they run hourly through the night). None of this would be either stressful or exorbitant.

Posted by
6683 posts

To be clear which Saturday morning this month is this journey? A statement (such as above) like trains run hourly all night is OK until it isn't.
That is the 'normal' situation.
When I wrote I had checked specific dates and services on each Friday night/Saturday morning this month the overnight cross London train service is terminating at St Pancras on the 0317 and 0417 services. You then self transfer to Victoria. The 0417 ex Cricklewood gets you to Gatwick at 0600- which is just too tight.

So the night bus/train combo given is the correct combination for the dates given. It leaves later than the train, and from outside the hotel, not the short walk round to the station.

Posted by
33298 posts

nothing wrong with Cricklewood - I mean, Alan Coren spoke fervently about his place of residence and produced two marvelous children, Giles and Victoria (married to David, now the Coren Mitchells).

Nice neighbourhood and has a Thameslink station, although only called at by the slow St Albans services.

It is just in completely the wrong place for an early morning Gatwick departure...

No matter what deal you got I suggest that following Stuart's advice of an inexpensive Gatwick Premier Inn or similar and saving all that anxiety and cab fare has got to be much better, even if you sacrifice the Cricklewood property that night. It works for the rest of the trip doesn't it?

Figure on 75 minutes from the Crown London to the Gatwick drop off, and around the M25 (passing by Heathrow) BUT Junction 10 of the M25 where it crosses the A3 is being completely rebuilt and has for some time now been subject to extensive delays. Nighttime is when the extra cones come out with lane closures etc., adding to the fun.

I'm sorry that the deal provider thought it was a good idea to strand you in a northern suburb for an early morning Gatwick...

Posted by
33298 posts

how many is "we"? You mention your family?

The roadworks at Junction 10 will have a few more full closures on weekends - which Saturday is it?

Posted by
16 posts

There are four of us, including 2 teenagers.
We arrive in London Friday April 19
Fly to Paris via Gatwick on Saturday April 20
Return to Gatwick Wednesday April 24
Fly out of Gatwick to US Saturday April 27

I appreciate everyone's input. Looks like I'll have to plan for our first day in London to be pretty short on sightseeing so we can get to bed early.

Posted by
6683 posts

I'm a bit confused as 18 April is a Thursday and 19 April a Friday- not Friday and Saturday respectively.

Assuming Friday and Saturday are right then at least there are no full closures of Junction 10 in April. Dates are not yet announced for those but mid May is the earliest possible.

But confirm the Thameslink closure across central London overnight 19 to 20 April so no Cricklewood to Gatwick direct overnight trains.

Even on the Friday morning that Thameslink closure is in place.

Do each of you have your own Contactless means of paying for the train fares- card or app style phone payment?

Posted by
16 posts

My apologies, I've corrected the dates above. I need more sleep while I'm trying to address the multiple mistakes the travel agent made. All 4 of us can use our smart phones or credit cards for the London public transportation.
I've reached out to the agency requesting that they change our hotel but have not heard back.

Posted by
33298 posts

good luck on your dealings with the travel agent - I really hope you can work it out.

Too late now, too bad they put you on a Gatwick plane to Paris. Cricklewood is only 13 minutes 4 times an hour to St Pancras International station from where the channel tunnel train Eurostar goes direct to the centre of Paris. Faster than flying when all is said and done, no luggage charge, very comfortable seats, and as I said, faster. Oh well. Gatwick is a nice enough airport.

Posted by
6683 posts

What they could (should?) also have done is to put you on an easyjet flight from Luton- which is 45 minutes from Cricklewood (including the Station to Airport shuttle), and on the correct side of London.

At this stage that is half the price of Eurostar that Saturday.

On 24 April there are 4 such flights from CDG starting at just 24 Euro each before baggage fees

These are thoughts, suggestions?, for your TA. At the least learning points for future clients, maybe.

Posted by
6646 posts

I don't want to rub salt in the wounds but if you actually paid a travel agent to come up with this mess my suggestion is to never use them again. Because they obviously don't know what they're doing.

You should also ask them to change your flights to/from London to Eurostar tickets. And if they came up with the idea of flying to/from Paris, they should not charge extra for correcting that mistake.

Posted by
3821 posts

I'm looking at this that you wrote:

We arrive in London Friday April 19
Fly to Paris via Gatwick on Saturday April 20, 8am flight

If this is not changed, I would take a coach (bus) from Heathrow airport directly to Gatwick airport.
Make a reservation yourself for a hotel there at Gatwick.
After you get checked in and drop your bags at your "new" hotel, it will be easy for the family to take the train into London to do a little sightseeing.
https://www.nationalexpress.com/en/airports/gatwick/heathrow-to-gatwick
https://www.nationalexpress.com/en/airports/heathrow

Contact The Crown London Hotel yourself and attempt to cancel that one night reservation.
If you can't, just let it go.
If they are able to cancel, be sure and save the email or text they send you confirming the cancellation so it can later be verified and removed from your bill you get from the travel agent.
Or get a credit back to your credit card.
You will save yourself a ton of hassle doing what I suggested.

Here's hoping you can get things changed around by the travel agent so you can take Eurostar instead to Paris, as Nigel suggested--brilliant!
Is there only one travel agent at the office you're using? Perhaps it would be helpful to contact someone else there--the owner of the agency would be who I would contact for help straightening out this mess.

Good luck to you.

Posted by
3232 posts

It’s just too bad that your travel agent did not know enough to book your flights into Paris, then Eurostar train back to London, then fly home from London.
Much easier than backtracking.

I do hope you get some refunds from this agency for all this incompetence on their part.
I have to agree with whoever said that this agent has probably never travelled internationally.

And….next trip you will have learned so much this time you will be able to do all your own booking! :) , and help others too.
You will still have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
8615 posts

I just wanted to drop a word of encouragement. We’ve given lots of advice and I am sure you have a plan in mind of what you are going to do next. Frustrating as this situation is for you, it will soon pale in comparison to the many positive experiences you will have on your trip. Hang in there!

Posted by
6683 posts

As well as National Express from Heathrow to Gatwick there is also the Oxford Bus Company The Airline Buses- https://www.oxfordbus.co.uk/airline-fares

As the company name suggests those buses have come from Oxford. They are just as good quality as National Express. Originally, years ago, they were true luxury buses- the best in the UK. While they are not that good now they would still be my first choice for LHR to LGW.

I'm loath at the moment to be so bold as to say take Eurostar on the Saturday (and haven't) as I don't know your budget, and the difference from the airline fares you have paid. The reason is that Eurostar fares on 20 April are between £195 and £235 per person- had that option been booked well ahead of time originally you might have got £50 each. Which would have been better than an airline fare given baggage fees and the cost (and time) of traveling into Paris from CDG or Orly, also far more environmentally sensitive.

Also I don't know whether you could get the airline fares refunded at this stage, so an extra £800 to rectify an error may be too much for you.

For 4 of you a taxi from CDG to your Paris hotel would be almost the same price as the train and a lot easier.

On the way back Eurostar is between £75 and £104.50 which is potentially rather more palatable.

Posted by
6646 posts

I don't know if it will help, but you might want to consider sending a link to this thread to the travel agent.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you to everyone for your input. I am exploring all possibilities on my own and with the travel agency.

Posted by
3821 posts

In case you keep your original reservation at The Crown London Hotel for that first night......to address your original question; getting to your hotel from Heathrow.
Here's a car service that may be your best bet.
Get a quote from Blackberry Cars (cheaper than Uber!), then schedule a pick-up. They will monitor your flight number, so will know if your flight is late, etc. This would be one way to go, if you have to keep your original hotel reservation. By the time you get all family members/travel group into the car with their luggage, this will be more convenient than other ways. Plus they deliver you right to the front door of your hotel.
https://www.blackberrycars.com/

The Crown London Hotel appears to be a very nice hotel at a good price; however, it is not in a good location for you to leave from to make it to your flight out of Gatwick to Paris at 8 AM.
How will you get all the way across London and down to Gatwick several hours before your flight?
Better to have a hotel at Gatwick where you walk right out the front door then into the airport.

That is the reason I suggested the switch for this night to a Gatwick hotel if possible.

I assume you are booked into the Crown London Hotel once again when you return to London from Paris.
The hotel itself looks lovely. You will have to ask the front desk how to get into central London for sightseeing. I see there are several bus routes going into central London from there.

The photos of your hotel on Trip Advisor and Booking look good.
And the reviews are good.
So I think you are good there for your longer stay in London when you return from Paris.

However,
a Premier Inn in central London would have been a better choice. There's one right by the London Eye that might be the same price as the Crown Hotel; don't know for sure as I have not checked for your dates. It would sure be a lot more convenient for sightseeing. Premier Inn London County Hall.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186338-d210361-Reviews-Premier_Inn_London_County_Hall_Hotel-London_England.html

Posted by
16 posts

Many thanks again to everyone for your tips and encouragement. Next time I'll start on this helpful, informative forum and plan the whole thing myself.

At this point I think the simplest solution for us is to book Friday night Apr. 19 at a Gatwick Premier Inn and leave everything else alone (keeping our flights as-is, and keeping the Crown Hotel for Apr. 24 through Apr. 27). While I'd rather take the train to Paris, I can't stomach the loss of $ to make that change now, and the travel agent is not offering to make up the cost difference.

Fri. Apr. 19 we arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 06:30. I'm planning to allow ~1.5 hours to get out of Heathrow Terminal 5 with only carry-on bags. We'll take the train from Terminal 5 into central London (Westminster), store our bags near the train station with the Stasher app for about £30 total, do Rick's Westminster walk and an early dinner, then take the train to the Gatwick hotel. I'm still hashing out the exact Gatwick PI location with the travel agent; we might need to use a car service for the short trip from Gatwick Airport to the PI.

Next morning, Sat. Apr. 20, we'll get to Gatwick North by 06:00 for our 08:00 flight from Gatwick North to CDG.

The morning of Wed. Apr. 24 we fly into Gatwick North from CDG, arriving 07:25, again allowing ~1.5 hours to exit the airport with only carry-on bags. We'll shuttle to Gatwick South and take the train into central London, stash bags with Stasher for the day, then take the train up to Crown Hotel in Cricklewood that night, where we'll stay for the remainder of our week, using the bus/train in and out of central London each day.

On Saturday Apr. 27 we will take the train from Cricklewood to Gatwick South to arrive by 12:00 for our 15:00 flight back to the States.

Posted by
459 posts

The PI at the North Terminal is a 5 minute walk to the terminal. Just checked for your date and cost for 2 adults and 2 children aged up to 15 is £95 (non refundable) or £120 fully flex.

Posted by
6683 posts

That sounds like the most elegant and cost effective available solution at this point in time to your problem.

The North Terminal PI is not the cheapest, but after allowing for transport to and from the others and your early flight is by far the most convenient.

And yes next time you are now armed with the tools to do it yourself.

The train from Cricklewood stops in central London at Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge so is great for connections. You can do longer Zone 1 tube journeys so I am not at all unhappy with it.

Also on many Cricklewood stopping trains first class is permanently declassified for a bit extra space. Do the daytime bus into Central London at least once for the views.

Posted by
33298 posts

there are 7 (!!) Premier Inns either at the airport or with Gatwick in the name. Do your best not to let your travel agent put you into one of the remote ones just because it has Gatwick in the name. Some are several miles away.

When you know exactly which one you will be in, in come back for last minute hints....

Posted by
1850 posts

I like the plan to get outside and walk on your arrival day. It’s good for helping your body adjust to the new time zone. You may want to come up with a plan b in case the weather is not cooperative.

Posted by
16 posts

The agent suggested Premier Inn London Gatwick Airport Manor Royal or Premier Inn London Gatwick Airport South and I counter-suggested London Gatwick Airport (North Terminal). The agent has not responded to that yet.

Posted by
6683 posts

IE- He has suggested the two cheapest- at least both of them, if you do get dumped there. have a bus (the same bus- number #100, runs 24 hours a day)at about 0535 to both terminals, and every 20 minutes during the day. The South PI is 2 stops closer to Gatwick.

But hold your ground with the agent if you possibly can. That is an extra £16- which all but cancels out the savings from North Terminal.

Tell the agent you are recouping the costs of bus or taxi from him (and will follow that through with whatever you call the Small Claims Court)- he should soon change his mind to pay £9 extra for North Terminal.

Posted by
459 posts

Re the PI chain. The staff at the different hotels are usually very clued up and helpful with any questions about local logistics. I stayed at a PI near Heathrow a couple of months ago and when I asked for details of buses to the airport was given a photocopy sheet with all the details of bus schedules. More recently I stayed at a PI in Shrewsbury and was given precise instructions about my onward journey.

Posted by
6683 posts

If the Agent insists on putting you in a remote Gatwick hotel, never mind asking the hotel for transit instructions.
The Agent needs to shape up. He or she needs to give you detailed instructions on how to get there from alighting the train to hotel arrival. A map with street view capture, a bus schedule, the stop name, the full works.

Or agree in writing to pay for a taxi. I would ask for a pre booked taxi but then wouldn't trust the Agent to do that properly.

Also of how to navigate Victoria Station to find your train to Gatwick.
Nigel or I or several others could do that, but it is the travel agents job.

I've seen a US travel agent on the West coast do that for a client, it is not rocket science to give a full detailed itinerary, but basic customer care.

Posted by
16 posts

I just got confirmation that the agent switched our first night to the Premier Inn London Gatwick Airport North Terminal for no charge, so we'll be able to walk to the terminal. I shared this discussion's link with the agent, and I think that helped! Thank you all.

Posted by
6683 posts

That really is great news.

Hopefully the agent has learnt some "tricks of the trade" from us, which will help other clients of that agent in the future.

Posted by
33298 posts

That's wonderful!

Thanks for the update.

Hope Paris works out well too

Posted by
16 posts

I'm relieved and grateful to report that my family had a wonderful time in London and Paris. We were able to do and see everything we'd planned and more, thanks in large part to the help this forum provided. The tips shared here saved us much stress in getting where we needed to go and making the best of the awkward itinerary the agency had planned for us. Thank you to everyone who contributed an idea or a word of support.

Posted by
33298 posts

Great result! Thanks for the update and good news...