Flying internationally between the US and UK can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a novice flying alone. Having made the trip many times by myself, I know I can eliminate potential headaches by booking my flight correctly. If you’re a first timer, or just need some advice, here’s my checklist to make booking a flight between the US and London easier!
– Choose your AIRPORT in LONDON. I’m often asked the difference between Heathrow and Gatwick.
- HEATHROW (LHR)- Southwest of Central London. A one way trip on the Underground (AKA Tube) to Central London is no more than $5-$7. Consider the time of day you are arriving. You don’t want to drag your luggage up and down escalators during rush hour, and there won’t be room on the carriage for it. Heathrow to Knightsbridge is roughly a one hour ride on the Piccadilly Line.
- GATWICK (LGW)- South of Central London. You will need to take an Overground train to Central London, Victoria Station. On the Gatwick Express it will take around 30 minutes and cost approximately $30 one way. Roundtrip tickets are slightly cheaper than two singles.
– Do some RESEARCH and try NOT to be on the LAST FLIGHT of the day.
– Book flights that have a minimum of a TWO HOUR LAYOVER both directions, if you can’t get a direct one. This table indicates the steps you have to take at each airport on a multi-stop trip.
|Orlando–>Atlanta–>Heathrow||Arrive early for 1st flight; Check in; Clear security||SHOP in Duty Free; Be at international gate 45 minutes early for boarding process||Land; Gain Entry Clearance; Retrieve checked luggage|
|Heathrow–>Atlanta–>Orlando||Arrive early for 1st flight; Submit receipts to receive VAT refund (optional); Check in; Clear security; SHOP duty free||Land; Gain Entry Clearance; Retrieve luggage from international carousel; Recheck luggage (put all liquids purchased at Heathrow duty free in checked luggage not carry on); Clear Customs; Go through security again; Go to connecting flight’s gate||Land through same process as you would for any flight within the US|
- If you plan on spending significant time in DUTY FREE before a connecting international flight, you will need to calculate that as well. Entry Clearance in to a country can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the time of year and day. Always remember- as soon as your feet stand in a new country, you must go through the Entry Clearance process.
- Avoid JFK. Unfortunately, my experience there has always been difficult. I’ve found their Entry Clearance process unorganized, the VIP Lounges sub-par, and the methods for changing terminals archaic.
– Choose your SEAT. You have a bit more space with a window, but if you are like me, you may have anxiety about bothering your flight mate to move if you need to stretch or use the loo. Watch the seats as your flight gets closer. Many times I’ve changed my seat a day before the trip because I spotted a better seat that opened on the airline’s website. Avoid a middle seat at all costs.
– Make any special meal accommodations. Often, they are delivered well before other passengers’ meals.
– Review the DUTY FREE RULES for each country, as they are different. Before you promise to purchase and bring liquor, cigarettes, perfume or other items to family and friends in the other country, make sure you know the allotment. Pretending like you didn’t know anything and batting your eyelashes to the customs agent who confronts you won’t allow you to break the rules and keep your purchases.
Best of luck booking your international flight. Look for future posts about what to pack, weather expectations, language translations and more travel tips!
As someone who has lived in both countries, I’m eager to make your trip fun and stress free. If you have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment and I’ll reply quickly.
by Sunny London