Thursday, January 13, 2011
For those who have never heard of the Yotel, you probably would guess I am simply mispronouncing hotel. However, it is indeed not just any hotel. The YO brand, which started with YoSushi aims to "constantly and never endingly innovate in order to deliver high luxury without the high cost." The Yotel is at once more and less than a traditional hotel and defines innovation.
Yotels are currently located in London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, Amsterdam's Schippool and apparently coming soon to Times Square, NY. The concept fits a need not easily solved before...a place to rest in between flights, when stuck at the airport or on a long layover (or for laying your head between sightseeing and partying in NYC, I guess). It is particularly good for those who cannot sleep well on international flights and need rest before moving on to the final destination...be it a business meeting later in the day or an early next day flight. The Yotel rents by the hour (well, I believe the pricing is really three hour blocks) and offers a quick stop right in the airport. I call the rooms "pods" because they are designed to maximize the space with the primary goal of resting. You don't need a lot of space to lay your head and the Yotel "pods" are quite space-efficient.
On a recent stay, we had a "premium" room, the biggest by far and designed for two people or one person who would like to work and move around a bit. The room has a double bed, which lifts and lowers with the touch of a button for use as bed or couch. There is a small work table that lifts up from the wall opposite the bed and a chair hangs in a nook next to the desk to pull out when needed. When the bed is down, the walking room is minimal and the desk/chair combo cannot really be used. There are two nightstands, which are open underneath for hand baggage storage, and the bed contains room underneath for luggage. The bathroom has a sliding panel door (glass, so not very private--though there is a curtain to pull closed) and contains all the basics--a rain style shower, toilet, sink and even some pleasant smelling body wash/shampoo. You can request a hair dryer and some other items (power converters, alarm clocks-who uses one any more?, ear plugs-a necessity). The flat panel TV offers a wake-up alarm, email/internet, a variety of TV channels and pay movies. The room also comes with free wi-fi for catching up during your layover.
The smaller rooms have the same bathroom, but only contain a bed or "sleeping pod". They are staggered, so you may have an upper or lower "bunk"--your neighbor below or above you is separated by a wall and the bathroom is all yours, so you have your privacy. If you walk along the hallway, you get the feeling of a cruise ship and you can peek in the windows of the empty "cabins", but slide down your window cover and you have complete privacy. The lighting has various settings so you can rest in total darkness, read with some light or have bathroom lighting only.
Much like a small cruise ship cabin (especially an inside option), the room is cozy and you feel a bit cut off from light and life. Perfect really for sleeping well, especially if jet lagged. If you are going to be there through waking hours, you can work or play on the wifi, read and watch T.V. but you may also wish to get out in to the terminal a bit. The Yotel galley offers food and drink 24/7 and the prices are a good value, especially by room service or London standards. The menu is limited, but they offer good basics as well as quick breakfast options for those on the go. The Heathrow Yotel has a pub just outside its doors and it is a good place for a meal or a pint beyond the tiny space of your pod. There is also a small coffee shop, selling sandwhiches and pastries downstairs as well as a general airport store, ATM and money exchange. The Heathrow Yotel is in Terminal 4, a quick, free train ride from the main terminals.
Check out various videos people have taken of their Yotel rooms on Youtube (this link goes to one, but you can search for a variety).
P.S. It is truly the little things that count nowadays in airline travel (for those of us who can't shell out the $14,000 for first class overseas)...I am wearing the little socks I got on Virgin Atlantic around the house and enjoyed having them to keep my feet warm (and my own socks clean) on the plane. Virgin gives you a little bag with socks, a sleep mask, pen, toothbrush and toothpaste and a small envelope to collect for their children's charity. It may not be leg room, but the little comforts are still a plus. I also still advise going for the "specialty" meals--tried the lowfat one on this trip and not only do you get served first, they just seem fresher. It was quite decent and many thanks to the gentleman across the aisle who offered me his dessert which was much better than the low fat fruit.