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What time should I drop the car off at Heathrow?

What time should I drop the car off at Heathrow?

Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 04:13 PM
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What time should I drop the car off at Heathrow?

I'm in the planning stages for a trip to the UK...

My likely return flight will depart Heathrow at noon on a Sunday. I am considering staying the night before near Bristol and leaving early in the morning to drive to the airport.

What do you think would be the latest I could drop off the rental car in order to check in and get through security to catch my flight?
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 04:17 PM
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Well - a lot depends on which rental agency you use. None of them are on LHR property and some are a fair distance away. Others have drop off locations at various hotels on/near the Bath Road and then you have to wait for the Hoppa or call a taxi.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 04:34 PM
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Janisj,

I always thought the Heathrow perimeter road, where the major car rentals are located, was part of Heathrow's property or certainly near as damnit as my dad would say--some of them back up to the runway fencing.

If dropping off at one of those agencies, I would think an additional 30-45 minutes would be sufficient?
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 04:49 PM
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rental drop off locations are spread all over the general area - and none are on the airport. Some are nearby and some are quite a distance.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 04:53 PM
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The good news is you're leaving on a Sunday morning so the traffic will be lighter than the usual weekday snarl.

I'd try to be on the early side and drop the car off at 8am but I admit I'm cautious and I don't mind chilling out at Heathrow.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 04:55 PM
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also meant to add - some agencies will ferry you to LHR in the very car you rented, others have you waiting for a shuttle, others use hotel lobby desks and leave you to the Hoppa/a taxi.

So 45 mins could be way too short depending on how your specific agency works.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 05:56 PM
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Just a reminder that driving to the airport from a distant location could be a problem if you were to have car trouble or run into stalled traffic due to an accident. This happened to us once, so we now plan to sleep very near the airport before a transatlantic flight.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 06:53 PM
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Yes, I know there's a risk in driving in on the morning of a flight. But it seems like a waste of a night to stay at the airport and basically just wait to depart. I don't want to cut it too close, but I hate hanging out at Heathrow.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 07:21 PM
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I usually look at it this way -- If I drive in the night before and stay near the airport I do not lose any sightseeing time.

Driving to the airport in the morning normally means getting up at 0-dark-thirty so you get no advantage at all to the "extra day"

So I'd consider spending the entire day touring, have a nice dinner and then leave for the airport that night. A pricelined hotel near the airport will save you money on accommodations and save a day's car rental.

Instead of rising in the dark, finishing packing and worrying whether there will be a wreck on the M4 - you can have a good night's sleep and just the short trip over to the airport.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2008, 08:26 PM
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Bristol to Heathrow is about 2 hours
by car. You need to be 3 hours early.

You also need to allow for dropping off the car and taking a shuttle to the airport. Plus some extra time in case of traffic or a missed turn en route... so you'd need to leave about 6 AM. And be stressed if anything goes, as the English say, 'pear shaped'.

I'd take janisj's advice, get a Priceline deal on a hotel at the airport and have a relaxing evening.

Rob
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 03:51 AM
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How dependent are you on the car? You can take a train from Bristol to Reading and the airport bus service from Reading to Heathrow. Service is not so good on a Sunday but currently a train at 7.40 from Bristol will get you to the Terminal 3 bus terminal at 10.15. You could leave the car in Bristol
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 05:53 AM
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... and be too late for your flight!
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 09:00 AM
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Spend the night before your flight in Windsor, about 20 minutes from Heathrow. Get a little extra sightseeing in.
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 12:19 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions and food for thought.

I am usually at the airport the full 3 hours before the flight leaves.

On past trips, when we've had a car, we've always stayed in Windsor. I don't want to this time, thanks.

I have an event to attend the afternoon/dinnertime the Saturday before the flight.

So my options are to extend the trip by one day in order to stay the night before at the airport, with all the expenses that extra day will entail, which seems like such a waste of time and of money.

Or leave my event early to get to the airport hotel.

Or take the train as suggested, but I'm not sure if that wouldn't be more trouble.

Or to get a really early start and cross my fingers that all will be fine, which it likely will be.

I am fine with the early start. I'll be all packed and ready to go. I keep very odd hours anyway so being up at that time is not a big deal. If I have to leave my get-together early and sit in a hotel room by myself I suspect I'll be a bit miserable.

I'm not sure I need the full 3 hours at the airport, 2 of that spent just waiting for the gate number to appear on the list.

I know, I know - I'm just asking for something to go wrong... but even the time the tube was shut down and it took us 45 minutes to get a cab and another hour to crawl through traffic to the airport we still made our flight with time to spare.

So I think getting on the road by 6 or 6:30 will do me fine.

However as things are still in the planning stages I'll give everything careful thought.

If I DO decide do the early morning drive and end up missing the flight, I'll be the first one to come on here and admit I was an idiot.
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 12:23 PM
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Sounds like a well reasoned plan! I wish you luck and may the travel gods get you there on time.
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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"Or leave my event early to get to the airport hotel. "

That is the only one of your options I don't understand. Does the dinner last beyond 9 or 10 PM? If not - I'd drive on to LHR after the event. I'd personally rather get to bed at LHR at midnight or 1 AM and sleep in, than have to get up at 4:30 AM to drive to the airport.

But it sounds like you have a good handle on your choices and lots of time to decide..
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Old Nov 24th, 2008, 06:23 PM
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Don't forget to allow time to refuel the car. There is (as of a year ago) a Total station on Bath Road handy to many of the rental agencies.
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