July 9

Travel tips for dealing with Heathrow Airport

5  comments

MD and I are now cooling our heels in the Alitalia lounge waiting for our Alitalia flight to Rome.  We endured the heightened security that surrounds all the airports in London right now, and so I figured I would pass along the fruits of our learning to anyone else who might be headed this was.  It could have been a disaster, but ended up working out okay for us.
The rule is one and I mean ONE carry on through the security checkpoint.  We usually travel with one roll-aboard type bag that we check, one small carry on ( a briefcase for me; a little roll-aboard demi-lune bag for MD) and a purse (for her) and a little message bag filled with medical papers and a book or two (for me).  We’ve never had trouble with this setup until the security gate at Heathrow.  We were turned away and told ONE and only ONE carry on was permitted.
We had to stuff the message bag and MD’s purse into the larger than normal briefcase-like carry on that I had.  If I were traveling with my regular briefcase, we would have been screwed.  As it was, it took both of us to hold the side of the briefcase together, push and lock it.  I was afraid it was going to pop open at every turn until we got through security.  Had we not been able to get all our stuff in, we would have had to throw away MD’s purse (highly unlikely) or my message bag.
So, don’t plan on doing something normal like taking a carry on AND a purse or a briefcase when you fly out of one of London’s airports.  We fly back to the states out of the airport in Edinburgh.  I’ll report on the security issues there once I’ve experienced them.


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  1. Am always amazed at people’s inability to understand a rule (1 bag per person, or in the US 1 bag + 1 purse/laptop case). In the US, I am amazed at the airline’s unwillingness to enforce their rules. It’s not like anyone thinks they have a good experience when they fly, and based on the economics of the industry, it’s not like you get a whole lot of choice to dump an airline unless you live in New York, LA, or Chicago. Sorry for your difficulty, since I like you, but a bravo to the Brits for saying One means One, not two or three.
    Uh, I was adhering to the US rules of 1 bag plus one laptop case-sized carry on, which indeed had a laptop in it.  MD had a carry on and a purse.  I can live with the U.S. version of the carry on rules just fine; in my opinion the Brit version is overkill and stupid rule. 
    MRE 

  2. I guess they didn’t give you the option of checking one of the carry-ons. I’ve always managed to have good flying experiences; now I’m nervous that karma’s going to hit me like a semi.
    Hi Patricia–
    Yes, you can check bags.  It just the carry ons that get you hassled.  You can just carry on one, and that includes a purse.  In other words, no carry on plus a purse.  The purse counts as your carry on.  In my opinion, it’s stupid beyond belief, but I didn’t make the rules.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  3. You’ll miss the heathrow virgin lounge, nevermind.
    Ok, edinburgh..i know very well. Here are my suggestions
    1. walk up arthurs seat! pick a nice day.
    2. Visit the georgian house in chartlotte square. Great if you want a piece of old scotland. Old ladies discuss life in the past.
    3. You MUST visit a great vegie (I know) place called suzies dinner. Wonderful veg, at a really low price. Right next to uni, and a open air pub..get to a place called george square and ask someone.
    4. For museums go to kelvingrove in glasgow.
    5. edinburgh castle is crap! dont bother
    6. Take a day out to the beeches near gullane..but needs a car.
    7. visit heriots the school, and grey friars church. amazing places.

    Hi col–
    Thanks for the tips.  Of all the places you discuss, I’ve only been to Edinburgh castle, and you’re right, it is a crappy waste of time.
    I’ll give the others a look see.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  4. “The purse counts as your carry on. In my opinion, it’s stupid beyond belief, but I didn’t make the rules.”
    Ah, but perhaps you haven’t seen the size of the purses that some women carry (more like tote bags.) Why they need to carry so much stuff is beyond me. A friend made me a travel bag years ago that’s very small and flat and easily fits into my carry-on if need be. And since I like to travel in the off-season, it also fits neatly under my coat when slung across my body so I don’t have to worry about pick-pockets when traveling on the tube or when in crowded places.
    It’s true what you say about purses.  I was thinking of an MD-sized purse, not the whoppers some people carry.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

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