Guys, big news! I’ve gone and solved the 6am flight problem!
You know what problem I’m talking about… After struggling to fall asleep due to the dread of how early your alarm is set, you wake up at 2am having had around 3 hours sleep. Somehow you find your way across town in the middle of the night, suitcase in tow, to one of the main transport hubs where you just about make your bus. You jump on a depressing airport shuttle full of half-asleep zombie-people hugging travel pillows and sipping on cheap vending-machine coffee. Finally, you arrive at the airport at 4am (if you’re lucky) feeling stressed and exhausted. That’s no way to begin a holiday!
Well rather than putting yourself through this ordeal each time you have an early flight, why not head up the night before and stay inside the airport? And no, I don’t mean be one of those people asleep on top of their suitcase on the check-in floor. Instead, sleep in luxury at a hotel inside of the airport itself!
YOTEL is a hotel chain created by Simon Woodroffe, a founding member of the YO! Company. They offer affordable hotels with elements of luxury in smart spaces, inspired by the luxury of first class airline travel. They have hotels in New York, Boston and Singapore, as well as several YOTELAIR airport hotels.
There are currently YOTELAIR hotels at both London Gatwick and Heathrow, as well as Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Their ‘smart cabins’ are bookable for a minimum of 4 hours, and check in and check out times are completely flexible, meaning they’re perfect for those early flights, or even as a place to nap during a short layover.
This weekend, my partner and I spent a night at YOTELAIR Gatwick to check out how smart their ‘smart spaces’ really are and to live by their #CleverTravel mantra…
Location, Location, Location
The first thing that really surprised me about YOTELAIR Gatwick was how conveniently located it really was. I’ve stayed at airport hotels a couple of times before, however, they’ve always been a short shuttle ride away from the airport. At YOTELAIR, you don’t even have to step outside to reach the terminals – you’re just one floor and a few minutes walk away from the South Terminal check-in hall and departures.
From the minute you walk into the hotel you notice how compact it is. Reception, or ‘mission control’ is a small window as you enter, with a member of staff manning the desk at all times. As well as checking in and out, you can also order free hot drinks from the window 24 hours a day – perfect for that early morning coffee as you head out to catch your flight.
The hotel itself is 46 cabins spread across one floor. The compact layout of the cabins, with large corridor-facing windows, gives it the look of a spaceship or a large futuristic train. Certainly what I imagine a hotel in central Tokyo might look like.
Being able to see into your room before you enter is a rather strange feeling. I almost thought we’d be sleeping with people watching us from outside like some weird science experiment. Luckily, once you’re inside the cabin you can pull down a thick black-out blind to stop other guests from nosily peering in.
For a hotel with a seemingly high guest turnover, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cabins are looked after. Crisp white sheets and a spotlessly clean bathroom – what more could you need!
The Smart Bed of Dreams
My favourite feature of the room had to be the smart bed, which conveniently doubles as a sofa and bed, expanding on the press of a button. This gave us enough room to move around when the bed was tucked in, and a good sized, comfortable bed when fully expanded.
#CleverTravel Tip: When you’re struggling to get up in the morning, gently nudge yourself into the upright position by pressing the button and converting the bed back into a sofa.
The bed before and after…
Business Traveller and Blogger Friendly
At the foot of the bed was a pullout table. Somewhat like a giant version of what you’d expect to find in front of your seat on a plane. A chair was also neatly folded up and hung on the wall so that in just a few seconds you have yourself a fully-functioning pop-up desk. Combine this with the free wifi and complimentary hot drinks and you’ve got yourself a nice little spot to get some work done, catch up on emails or simply browse social media before you head to bed. Great for those travelling on business, or bloggers like myself who need to make the most of every free second!
#CleverTravel Tip:When I wasn’t using the desk for work, instead of folding it away, I used it as a suitcase stand. This meant that all of my belongings were within easy reach of the bed and in the right position so that my carefully organised bag didn’t get messed up.
For a cabin of just 110 sqft, I was highly impressed by the number of plugs available. For a tech-greedy millennial like myself, the ability to charge my phone, portable charger, DSLR, GoPro and laptop at the same time (without them being dotted all over the room and running the risk of leaving something behind) was extremely helpful.
#CleverTravel Tip: Always travel with a multi-use portable charger for when your devices die mid-flight.
Don’t Expect Too Much Privacy in the Bathroom
The bathroom is separated from the bedroom by a glass wall and glass sliding door, covered partially by a curtain at the toilet and shower end. I’m not saying that you’ll not be able to use the toilet without making eye-contact with your roomie, however, there definitely isn’t your standard level of bathroom privacy in YOTELAIR cabins. This wasn’t a problem at all for us and I can’t imagine it would be for most. If you’re sharing a room and bed with someone, I think it’s safe to say you wouldn’t feel too embarrassed accidentally catching a glimpse of them stepping out of the shower.
Kick Back and Relax
What’s the point of staying in a hotel if you don’t feel relaxed right? If you’re avoiding the hassle of a 3am bus journey then I think it’s only right to reward yourself. We grabbed a bottle of wine and a few snacks for the evening so we could kick back and relax in front of the TV.
#CleverTravel Tip: If you have spare room in your bag, always travel with an HDMI cable. This way, if there’s nothing on TV you fancy watching you can simply plug in your laptop and catch up on your favourite Netflix series. If you don’t have an HDMI, try asking at reception for one to borrow.
There’s a 24 hour Marks and Spencers conveniently located across from the lifts as you enter YOTELAIR so that you can pick something up on your way in or out of the hotel. Or if you really can’t be bothered to leave your room there is also a room service list which offers light meals, snacks and drinks 24/7.
The Dreaded Alarm
And finally for the scariest part of every early morning flight – the alarm! You set it for 2-minute intervals over the space of 20 minutes. You check it, double check it, triple check it. If the alarm doesn’t go off, if your phone dies, or if you simply sleep through it, you’ll miss your flight. Luckily, YOTELAIR help put those fears to rest by offering guests a spare alarm clock which they set to your desired wake-up time themselves.
#CleverTravel Tip: Leave either your alarm or phone on the other side of the room so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off, helping you wake up without snoozing.
The simple and compact layout of the room made getting ready so quick and convenient in the morning that I even had time to grab a cuppa and get some last minute admin done.
WIN A FREE NIGHT AT YOTEL
Head over to Facebook to enter my #CleverTravel competition, where you could win a night’s stay at YOTEL!
*I was delighted to receive YOTEL accommodation free of charge in exchange for me to review and participate in the #CleverTravel challenge. Rest assured that all of the opinions expressed in this blog post, and accompanying social media are entirely my own.