Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:
1. British Airways LAX-LHR
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London (TODAY’S POST)
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London – Traditional Landmarks
6. Princess Diana Playground, Kensington Park, and Green Park/ Buckingham Palace
7. Harry Potter Connections
8. Family Remembrance and Celebration: Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day Trip: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Day Out: Greenwich, UK
11. Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Meccas: Hamleys Toys and Harrods
After our lovely transit aboard British Airways from LAX, we arrived at London Heath Row (LHR) mid-day April 1 and took the Underground from the airport terminal almost directly to our hotel, The Waldorf Hilton.
Situated in the heart of London’s theatre district and just a five-minute walk south of the Covent Garden Underground stop (which is on the Piccadilly line, or the direct Tube line from LHR into the heart of London’s stylish West End neighborhoods), The Waldorf Hilton greeted our tired, weary selves with open arms along with many lovely (and at times simply unbelievable) upgrades.
As I’ve mentioned before (see this post), C plays a LOT of miles and hotel point games to maximize our travel experiences; our booking at The Waldorf Hilton was no exception to this plan. On its own, this is a charming yet traditional full-service hotel full of five-star level amenities. However, we received an exceptional level of accommodations and attention all thanks to Sandra, one of the hotel’s service managers (I believe she also happens to moderate and post for their Facebook page, which is also a highly responsive and informative resource for anyone looking into this property). C had been in contact with Sandra well ahead of our stay to ensure that traveling with a five-year-old staying in the same room – a room typically booked for at most double accommodations – would not be a problem. When traveling internationally, this is a sort of question we’ve become accustomed to asking as the rules overseas regarding “family bookings” are quite different from here in the States (or, many hotels simply do not allow more than two to a room no matter the age or relation). Oh, and rooms overseas are typically much, um, cozier, too.
RMT’ers, as Yoda might say, cozy this room was not. Our executive room, which Sandra helped upgrade us into, was incredibly spacious, almost too big for our needs to be quite honest. However, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t like the room, because we did (and thank you SO much again, Sandra!). I don’t have many photos of the room because while we loved having the space, were hardly ever in-room long enough during our eight-night stay to really relax and settle in let alone snap a bunch of pictures; in fact, we never unpacked, which is quite telling of our go-go pace! Our Waldorf Hilton executive room consisted of one large doorless-yet-separated bedroom with a king bed (king beds are a rare sight overseas, see the cozy room remarks above) along with a living-sitting-working area with a flat screen TV, sofa, coffee and end tables, and desk, still leaving plenty of room in one corner of the space for T’s roll-away twin bed. The bathroom had enough square footage for both a full-size soaking tub and a modern shower stall, along with a radiator working double-duty as a towel warmer. The entry hallway was large enough to house a huge buffet for us to accumulate our travel trinkets and a full closet for hanging our complimentary robe and slippers (slippers can be taken home by hotel guests). You can go here for the photos I failed to capture during our stay (our room most resembled that of the “King Hilton Executive Plus”).
While we didn’t spend a lot of time in-room, we did spend quite a bit of time in other parts of the hotel, namely the executive lounge (go here to view photos of “Unique Experiences & Leisure” for more photos of this lounge). This lounge is only accessible to guests of a certain Hilton reward status and/or those staying in one of the executive-level rooms. As the name indicates, the executive lounge mostly is a place where many meet to do business or retire for some R&R after the workday. However, families are more than welcome here, too, so long as they meet the accessibility and status requirements. The lounge is also where all with access may partake of any or all of the daily complimentary tea time, happy hour, and breakfast services.
Yes, more endless food and fun! The Waldorf Hilton’s lounge is awesome in the true sense of that word. Along with the service of food and drink, workers were also more than happy to provide other front desk and concierge services at any time to guests while the lounge was open. While we only enjoyed the tea time once (the day we checked in), we were so thankful for its existence. What a wonderful way to start our stay at The Waldorf Hilton and in London overall. It was also pretty cool that we hit the lounge on Easter Monday, where we found the treats to be very Easter-centric. Chocolate mousse-filled half-chocolate eggs and other egg-shaped chocolates called from the buffet, as did the automated espresso machine (along with a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Creme nearby to spike it up a notch). Now that’s one delicious way to try to bust through jet lag!
Despite missing tea time the rest of our stay (because we were not around the hotel in the afternoons, like, ever), we rarely missed happy hour. By 1700 (that’s 5 o’clock p.m. in London), we were exhausted from our eight-hour days out sightseeing and day-traveling; a complimentary happy hour was exactly what we needed to give us that extra push to get through the dinner and evening hours. Staffers stocked the buffet of their executive lounge with hot and cold appetizers continuously while maintaining a full bar of beer, wine, full-strength spirits, and non-alcoholic offerings. Cheers!
Happy hour also afforded T the time to catch up on his daily journal. We’d made arrangements with his teacher prior this trip to have him complete a journal covering a handful of his experiences to share with his class upon returning to school. This project was something T looked forward to at the end of a long day out and quickly became a piece that our entire family could talk about during our journey and cherish long afterward.
Now onto breakfast… and I mean a full hot (or cold) and completely free breakfast. This is a huge perk with Hilton Gold status: The free breakfast. Free breakfasts when traveling with a young child are like gold, too. Having a real breakfast every morning also meant that our lunches were lighter (read, less expensive) and snacking was kept at minimum for the morning hours anyway. C might play a lot of hotel point games and bounce from one to the next, but one he will always keep in the mix is retaining our Hilton Gold status. Because of our executive-level accommodations, we took our daily breakfast in the executive lounge rather than the dining room of the restaurant in the lobby. Fine by us! Again, the lounge didn’t disappoint or skimp on anything. And the day after our arrival, we missed breakfast by a few minutes (jet lag), but a staff member was extremely understanding and more than happy to bring out an array of continental options to us to help soften the blow of having missed the “real breakfast” that morning. They almost were apologetic that WE overslept! That’s that tip-top service and attention I’ve been talking about.
We didn’t dine in any of the restaurants on-property at The Waldorf Hilton given all of our other complimentary options. However, we did partake of cocktails from the Good Godfrey bar one evening. C really wanted to have a drink here, and he got his wish. While T was not allowed into the bar proper, we were welcome to enjoy our drinks just outside in the hotel lobby where bar staff were more than happy to serve us.
Overall, the level of attention and accommodation we received at The Waldorf Hilton was impeccable. At every turn, we felt as if our family was as welcome as any business traveler in the executive areas of the hotel; that to me was the defining moment of true and honest comfort. The Waldorf Hilton hotel experience also taught me this: When traveling with kids, the size of the room isn’t as important as the size (and sincerity) of the service provided.
RMT’ers, can you think of an experience or “perk” from a recent vacation that became your defining moment of what top-level accommodations really means?