Something to declare: London; check-in creep: cheap flights
Saturday 10 November 2007
Destination of the week: London
The UK capital is basking in the Euro-glow of the new high-speed rail link to Paris and Brussels, which begins on Tuesday, but there are plenty of reasons to visit for travellers going no further than London.
The big lure is the Tutankhamun exhibition at the O2 (the former Millennium Dome). From Wednesday, the celebrated sarcophagus is returning to London after more than 30 years. Tickets are selling extremely fast (through www.02arena.co.uk), but if you have no luck, then consider a 21st-century treat: the temporary ice rink at Somerset House. This central-London venue reopens for the winter on 21 November and continues to 27 January. A family ticket for two adults and two children costs £29. Call 020-7845 4600 for general information; or 0844 847 1520 for tickets; you can also book online at www.somersethouse.org.uk.
More imminently, entrance to the Museum in Docklands (0870 444 3855; www.museumindocklands.org.uk) is free today and tomorrow to celebrate a new gallery devoted to the part played by sugar and slavery in the development of London. The opening hours are 10am-6pm daily. Normally, adults pay £5.
Visit the German Gym (020-7837 4292), a beautiful Victorian building wedged between King's Cross and St Pancras, by 17 November, to learn the story of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link; 8.30am-6.30pm from Monday to Friday, and 9am-noon on Saturday; free.
London is the most expensive city in western Europe for hotels, but some bargains are available. The Travelodge chain yesterday launched a nationwide sale of rooms from £19, if you book through www.travelodge.co.uk. You must reserve by 25 November and stay between 16 December and 20 January. Rooms at the starting price are scarce in London, but there are options if you pay a little more. At the excellent Travelodge in the City, close to Liverpool Street station and convenient for both Docklands and the West End, there are a number of rooms available at £29 a night for early December, and many more at £49.
Warning of the week: check-in creep
No: "check-in creep" is not the person who rudely pushes in ahead of you, but the practice of easyJet, Ryanair and other airlines of gradually extending the minimum time that you need to present yourself at the airport desk before your flight's departure time. Both of the leading low-cost airlines flying from the UK have, over the years, doubled check-in from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Now it is British Airways' turn to insist that travellers turn up even earlier at the airport. BA has quietly extended the check-in time for short-haul flights at Heathrow and Gatwick from 35 to 45 minutes. The aim, says the airline, "is to ease your journey through the airport". It points out that an increasing number of travellers check-in online.
The 45-minute rule applies also to long-haul travellers – which, in the case of Gatwick, means that the deadline has actually been reduced from one hour.
Bargain of the week: go west in comfort
Premium economy class looks increasingly attractive as the length of a flight increases, and a fare of £599 return from Manchester to Antigua, Barbados or Chicago is especially attractive. Book by 18 November on 0870 60 70 222 or at www.flybmi.com, and you can get this price for travel before 7 December (to the Caribbean) or 14 December (to Chicago), and from Christmas until 13 March. The Chicago deal is also on offer for travel 28 March-30 April. Business class is available at £1,099 (Caribbean) and £1,179 (Chicago).
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