Airport hotels are a necessary evil. Much like visiting the dentist, getting a bikini wax or spending 50 quid on a pair of school shoes that will shortly be scuffed to buggery, splashing out on a hotel that you need for the sole purpose of being close to the airport is not The One.
Hotels are supposed to be luxuries, places you visit for relaxing weekends, breakfast in bed and 1000 thread count sheets. They’re for lovely long dinners, top notch spas and lazy mornings. AIRPORT hotels are quite the opposite. Think scratchy sheets, stained carpets, tired bathrooms and 5am wakeup calls. Unless you want to spend mega cash, and who wants to put their hand in their pocket for a bed you’re only looking to briefly lay your head in before your early morning flight?
And so I didn’t have much hope when I started looking for a hotel for the kids and I near Gatwick before our holiday to Mark Warner Lakitira. Our flight wasn’t til 9.50, but as we live an hour and a half away I didn’t want to risk the M25 in rush hour with two kids and a boot full of luggage. Finding out our airline provided night-before check-in (genius!) was the clincher: it was going to remove a whole lot of stress if we could wake in the morning and only worry about getting through security to find breakfast pre-flight.
I’d hoped to find a family-friendly cheap-ish hotel with parking, and so started frantically Googling. Which is how I came across Bloc Hotel Gatwick, in the South terminal of the airport.
Now, my Hux is a huge aviation geek – we spend a lot of time watching planes take off and land on YouTube – which is why being in close proximity to the airport was always a priority. So finding Bloc Hotel Gatwick, a hotel that is literally a ten metre stroll away from the South Terminal’s departure security, was a total delight. We couldn’t have been closer to the planes if we’d tried!
We arrived at the airport at about 6pm and for ease parked the car in the valet section of the airport (offered as part of Bloc’s optional packages). It took about twenty minutes for us to check our suitcases in to our flight using Germania’s twilight service, which cost a fiver per adult passenger, and we headed to our hotel located on the airport concourse level above check-in.
I’d booked an Aspire family room which would have a king-size bed and bunkbeds and had requested that we were as high up as possible so we could watch the planes come and go.
We couldn’t have been positioned in a more perfect spot. Our room, 844, had a corner aspect which overlooked the apron and had the runway – the busiest single-use runway in the world, I’ll have you know – to its left. We could, and did!, watch each and every plane take-off and land at a frequency of about one every minute. It was a fascinating and awe-inspiring sight to behold; both Hux and Elfie were spellbound at the planes as we pointed out all the different airlines, talking about where they’d originated from or were going to. It was a brilliant opportunity to use my FlightAware app which uses your GPS location to give extensive info on all the planes flying around you (Geeky perhaps, but SO COOL).
There’s no restaurant in the hotel, so I tore the kids away from the plane spotting and we headed around the corner to eat at Giraffe. The hotel gives you a few discount vouchers for terminal restaurants when you stay, though they’re mostly for restaurants after security so are fab for breakfast before you fly. As the airport hotel/holiday combo was such a headspinner for the kids I thought it would be nice for us all to eat somewhere easy and familiar to them, so Giraffe it was.
After dinner we headed down to the bustling concourse below to buy pudding from M&S, which we took back to our room at Bloc and ate in bed together. It felt almost forbidden to be there in the terminal so late – like we were sleeping in a school or museum after-hours or something. It was ace!
Our Aspire Family room was really modern, meticulously clean and decorated in shades of grey. It was all very technology-based which I loved, with the lighting, air conditioning and blinds all controlled by a tablet affixed to the wall next to the bed. It was entirely no-frills but with all the important aspects taken care of: lovely sheets, comfortable beds, more than enough pillows, free mineral water, a powerful shower, toiletries and enough space to store luggage and hang your clothes.
The bathroom was the smallest I’ve ever been in, with the sink sitting atop the toilet. It converted into a wet room for our epic morning shower and was altogether a great use of the small space: who needs a free-standing bath in an airport hotel, anyway? Not us!
The best thing for us was the incredible view. We love love loved watching the comings and goings from the terminal from our incredible vantage point, and seeing the light and activity as the sun went down was just awesome. We stayed up until the planes stopped landing, and were up again watching as soon as they started the next morning.
It’s worth pointing out that I realised I’d packed my phone charger in with my checked-in luggage, and borrowing one from the hotel wasn’t a problem at all. We didn’t have much contact with the hotel staff but they were polite, friendly and efficient at every turn.
The room wasn’t entirely soundproof but that wasn’t a problem for us. We loved hearing the thrust of the engines as they took off and I found it relaxing to listen to as we lay back watching films together in bed (you could see both the planes and the TV from bed – perfect!).
If you’re wondering how big the beds are, when I woke up the next morning both monkeys were asleep next to me, rather than in their bunkbeds, and we all had a very comfortable nights rest.
We checked out at 7am the next morning which took about 30 seconds and breezed through security: we were in the No 1 Travellers Lounge eating breakfast by 7.30am. This was another stress-saving device – I knew we’d be right by the runway again with all food included which took the hassle out of restaurant negotiations while we waited for our flight. It was by no means the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounge (my favourite place the whole world) but it was a calm, relaxed place for us to retreat to with coffee and a newspaper (the kiddos had CBeebies magazines and apple juice).
All in all, our night at Bloc Hotel Gatwick was an incredibly exciting and stress-free part of our holiday. I would without question stay there again; I usually prefer to fly from Heathrow but with Bloc’s valet parking deals and the incredibly unique experience it provides for anyone remotely interested in flying, you really can’t go wrong. Our class of room with tarmac views was around £134 for the night (I’ve spent more on dodgy 3 star airport hotels with scratchy sheets), and rooms without a view start at around £60.
Thank you so much to Bloc Hotel Gatwick for hosting us for a night. I wouldn’t hesitate to return :)