Pod transport to Terminal 5, Heathrow
Felixstowe Suffolk UK
Clive and I were supposed to arrive in New Jersey this past weekend. Thanks to Hurricane Irene, cancelled flights, and a multitude of family conversations and decisions, we never got there.
Amidst two days of tears and frustration, we did discover something new and cool: the transport pods to and from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and its Business Parking lot.
On prior travels, we had noticed these driverless, futuristic-looking little pods, moving on elevated tracks around Terminal 5. This time, we rode in them.
The Heathrow Pods
By Terminal 5 Parking Pod, Heathrow Airport
Clive discovered what we now call ‘Pod Parking’ via his usual great trip planning and Internet research, specifically when he looked at options for long-term parking.
Pod parking, or ‘Terminal 5 Business Parking’ as it is officially known, was easy to use. The cost was only £12/day because we booked ahead on the Internet, competitive with other long-term parking. We drove through the ‘Business Parking’ gate and our number (license) plate was read automatically. After parking in lot ‘B’, we walked a few steps to a waiting pod, followed instructions on the screen to open the door and start the ‘journey’, and enjoyed the 2-minute ride to Terminal 5.
The pods hold up to four people, maybe fewer if anyone has a huge suitcase. The only drawback we could think of might be if it were pouring rain, but even then, the distance from the pod station to the farthest parking space looked much less than the distance from a typical mall to spaces in the parking lot.
One of the Pods seen from the parking lot
As for the rest of our (non) trip, it just didn’t turn out the way we envisioned it would.
It Was Supposed to Be Different
Our cancelled five-day ‘weekend’ was supposed to have been a new-and-improved way to visit my mother and family in the U.S. Now that we’re settled, more or less, in England (our ‘Top Ten’ activities are still happening — see Parts 1-5 here and 6-10 here), our plan was to try a shorter visit, and presuming it worked, replicate the approach and visit more frequently in the future.
For this short trip, our intention was also to do nothing other than simply be with my mother, without the often-additional stress of holidays and/or birthdays and other large family events, which have become increasingly difficult for her to handle. We were excited to travel with only a backpack, as we recently did with Paris (we’re fortunate to be able to leave some clothes and toiletries at my mother’s). And we were looking forward to going to Heathrow the night before departure, to avoid early morning peak hour traffic — delays are not uncommon on London’s M25 ring road — and to having a relaxing evening before flying out the next morning.
It was all set.
What Happened Instead
Pods ready and waiting at Heathrow
We knew the situation was dicey, but hoped we’d arrive in New Jersey before Irene worked her way up the coast. We spent five hours on the M25 because it was the Friday afternoon of a bank holiday weekend (similar to Labor Day weekend in the U.S.), so it wasn’t quite the relaxing trip we’d hoped for. We listened to hurricane forecasts on BBC Radio 2, pondered our options, and reassured each other, ‘This is why we’re going the evening before — so we don’t have to worry about delays on flight day.’
After a long, mostly-awake overnight with many phone calls back and forth to my mother and son in the U.S. and Clive tracking flight status online, all flights were ultimately cancelled. Taking a Pod back to the parking lot was the only thing that made us smile. We felt very Jetsons and the track reminded me of the old New Jersey Palisades Park Wild Mouse ride — though the Pod is very smooth and calm.
Wild Mouse track? No, Heathrow Pod track
I’ve learned from experience that these things happen when you and your family are miles, and oceans, apart. We’re thankful we didn’t have a life-and-death situation, and that loved ones up and down the U.S. east coast are safe and well.
If nothing else, we are pleased to have discovered Pod Parking and to know it’s a cost-effective, easy-to-use option for future trips.
Now we’re regrouping and booking flights to the U.S. for a later date. In the immediate future is a trip to England’s Scilly Isles, about which we’re very excited. I hope storms stay away, since we’re taking a ferry from Penzance to the island of St Mary’s. No pod parking options for this one!
Clive at a Pod station
Cheers for now and stay well, everyone.
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