I can’t remember ever having a hassle-free transit at Heathrow Airport. Maybe it’s just me. Apart from the fact that it’s SO huge and terminals are literally miles apart, it’s so busy and impersonal.
My very first experience at Heathrow almost made me quit travelling forever! I had spent 3 weeks in the UK and had bought many small books and pamphlets from every castle we had visited, as well as a few fridge magnets and some beautiful Scottish calendars as gifts.
Overweight and Panicking?
To cut a very long story short, my suitcase apparently weighed 11kgs more than the permitted 23kgs. (I still struggle to believe their scales. I can’t lift 34kgs!) They wanted to charge me an extra 33 pounds per kg. £330 for excess baggage ($1,000 Australian)- yes, you read correctly!
Obviously, being a budget traveller even back then, I was not prepared to part with $1,000 of my hard-earned cash. To me, who had lost 10kgs prior to travelling, this just didn’t make sense. I tried to explain I had supported the British economy by buying all these souvenirs, but to no avail, so ended up in tears.
How I Resolved my Dilemma
I had three choices, paying the 330 pounds (not an option), dumping the extra 11kgs in a bin (I really didn’t want to do this!) or purchasing the largest allowable carry-on suitcase for 55 pounds and fitting in as much of the 11kg as possible. I managed to get my suitcase down to the required 23kg limit, and then had to rationalize the rest.
I had to dump a beautiful sports bag I had bought in Wales, and some other less precious items and, with my niece’s help, managed to squeeze the rest into the new carry-on suitcase. Luckily, they didn’t weigh it, but it was so heavy I couldn’t lift it into the overhead lockers.
However, the nightmare didn’t finish there. When my carry-on was scanned, a bow and arrow set I had bought as a gift showed up and I had to open the bag and show the offending item, which was promptly confiscated.
The arrows had rubber suction cups on them and when I mentioned this to the security officer, he replied, “You could pull the suction cups off and stab someone in the eye with it.” My terse response was, “Why would I want to?” I felt like saying the only person I feel like stabbing in the eye is YOU!
Take the train!
While I’m on the subject of Heathrow, the best piece of advice I can give anyone is don’t fly London to Paris and probably not Paris to London either. No matter how much cheaper the airfare is than the Eurostar, don’t do it!
Firstly you have to get out to Heathrow, normally a simple task, except when the track somewhere is being repaired, which it was on the day we flew out. And you actually have to get to the correct terminal, which in our case was getting out at one terminal and waiting patiently on the platform for the next train to the terminal from which Air France was departing.
The flight itself is short, but when it arrives at Charles de Gaulle airport, you are many kilometres out of the city. Feeling footsore and weary and not knowing where our airbnb accommodation was, we decided to grab a cab.
We bargained one down to 60 euro. He earned every cent of it! We encountered traffic the whole way and finally arrived at our airbnb just before nightfall. We had spent the whole day travelling!
My advice to babyboomers travelling the United Kingdom and Europe is to try to avoid Heathrow as much as you possibly can, but if you have to do it, smile, stay calm and think
“A bad day travelling is better than a good day at work.”
If you liked this blog, also read Travelling Solo As A Baby Boomer