“ Address: Percival Way / Luton / LU2 9GP / England „
I really disliked staying in the Express By Holiday Inn at Luton airport. I have stayed in alot these hotels and they have been fine, it's just the Luton airport one that's awful. I have stayed a night in the Luton airport Express By Holiday Inn twice and both times the room was messy and hadn't been cleaned by anybody since the last people had left. The breakfast room was very busy and was quite cramped. The hotel is in just about the worst position as it could possibly be, level with were the planes take-off. The last thing you need when you need to get too sleep for an early flight the next morning is a number of large jet planes flying just outside your window at 200mph and on full engine power. I would rather sleep in the comfort of my own home and have to get up at 1:30am then have to sleep uncomfortably in a horrible hotel again.
Apologies in advance for this fairly lengthy review.
We were attending a wedding in June 2007 and the happy couple very kindly took the time and effort to organise a rate of £39.95 per night at the Holiday Inn Express, Luton Airport so guests who were coming from near and far could stay over for one or two nights without breaking their bank balances.
It was clearly stated on the wedding invite that we were to give the groom's surname in order to get the aforementioned rate instead of the advertised rate of about £80 a night. It was a bit of a nightmare when calling up 6 weeks in advance to book a room at the discounted rate as the person who answered the phone seemed rather clueless. It took a good 20 minutes on the phone before they bothered to speak with the manager who confirmed that we could, in fact, book the rooms for that reduced rate. We were later told by the bride and groom that the majority of the guests booking in had had the same problem with the hotel staff unaware of any discount until they went and checked with a manager.
We were a bit surprised to see that the hotel charges £5 for the first day for parking and then £15 a day thereafter; although in the hotel itself the signs said parking is £10 a day after the first day, which is rather conflicting information. The bride and groom were actually clever enough to negotiate with the hotel so their guests did not have to pay anything for parking which was rather sweet of them, although the barrier to exit the car park seemed to be open the whole time we were there.
Considering the hotel has nearly 150 rooms there are only 71 parking spaces available, and they operate on a first come, first served. When we returned on the Saturday evening from a wedding reception we found we had to park alongside the hotel where there were no spaces marked. There were half a dozen cars parked this way when we returned at 12:30 and I know there were more than a dozen cars coming back after us so I can imagine it was a bit chaotic in the car park. The hotel staff didn't seem to have a problem with guests parking this way so I can't really say it was an issue and people were sensible enough not to block any fire exits so it was still health & safety compliant.
We arrived at about 5pm on the Friday having sat in traffic for ages to get there. There were a couple of elderly couples checking in before us and it took ages for their check in process which was rather annoying, our check in process took about 10 minutes which was not really satisfactory considering I had printed off the booking reference email they had sent when I had initially booked the room for the weekend - I had booked the room over the phone and they just took my surname and said it was all booked. I insisted that they give me an email address I could write to so that I could confirm the booking - I never trust things to go according to plan when it seems that simple. They did actually email me back confirming the details and giving me a booking reference number to us. Even with this reference number; the check in process was very slow which was not very impressive.
You can check in to your room from 14:00 onwards and need to check out by 12:00 to allow time for rooms to be serviced before the next guests arrive.
The hotel doesn't look very impressive from the outside. It's all rather impersonal looking but this is not the sort of place you go for a weekend away to pamper yourself. It's mostly used by people who are flying out from the airport and I saw at least a couple of airline staff (presumably the really cheap airlines put their staff up here)! The reception area is very small and the bar is right next to it and it all seemed rather cramped for the staff having to work there. There's priority check in desk which was manned by someone even though no one was in that queue and the regular check in desk seemed quite slow to move. I have to admit that when I asked the chap at reception a few questions such as what time the bar closed and what time breakfast was served until he was friendly enough but it felt rather forced and it felt like he only smiled at me eventually because I kept saying please and thank you and had a permanent smile on my face whilst I spoke with him. We asked for 2 room keys so we could come and go as we pleased when we went to the bar later in the evening - the room keys were basically like credit cards with a brown strip and it wasn't rocket science figuring out how to use them. Pretty standard for most hotels these days, but also like other hotels that have these type of room keys, it was hit and miss as to whether they worked first time every time!
The hotel boasts 147 guest rooms of which 92 are non-smoking. We had requested a smoking room which I found strangely enough that the room itself didn't smell of smoke when we entered but the corridor outside the smoking rooms smelt quite smoky! Apparently all of the rooms have a double bed and some have additional sofa beds or futon type beds for family groups.
When we first walked into our room we were somewhat disappointed to see just how basic it looked. There was no wardrobe to hang up our clothes which was a necessity as we were going to a wedding and I had 2 outfits which I was going to change in and out of and hubby had one suit and 2 shirts which were nicely ironed. There were however 6 hangers on a rail which we had to make do with begrudgingly, these were over the tea/coffee area which wasn't the best layout as far as I was concerned.
There was a double bed which didn't look very comfortable BUT I have to say it's the most comfortable bed I remember ever having slept in whilst staying at a hotel. The quilt was feather soft and the bed itself was pure heavenly luxury. I don't know what it was about the bed but both hubby and I found it extremely comfortable to sleep on for the two nights we stayed there.
On first appearance and inspection (as I have got rather paranoid now after reading about some really grubby hotel rooms), the room seemed very clean. There didn't seem to be dust on any of the surfaces which was good but having walked around barefoot in the room during the afternoon and then when I sat in front of the mirror on the bed and looked at the soles of my feet they were quite grubby. I was pretty shocked as I assumed the carpet would be as clean as it looked!
The bathroom was quite small but clean. The shower was cramped but it was a good strong power shower with adjustable temperature controls which worked as they should (I only mention that they work as I've heard of people staying in various hotels where they couldn't adjust the heat in the shower and nearly scalded themselves as it was so hot). There was a Dove soap and shampoo in one dispenser in the shower and Dove hand soap by the sink. The towels provided were not exactly bath size towels but they suited our needs so no complaints there. The toilet roll provided was of the cheapest that one could imagine; I wasn't impressed with that at all. One thing which was very clever about the bathroom was that you could open the door into the bathroom and close it into the toilet unit so you could use the toilet separately to the shower and sink. My husband and I were most amused by this clever door and childishly had fun opening and closing it for a while before we got bored and grew up again!
The TV was very polite and welcomed us to the room but apart from the 5 basic terrestrial channels and Sky News there were no other channels available to watch. We weren't actually bothered though; we weren't staying there to watch TV, although some of the channels which seemed like they should be available weren't working. It was a fairly small TV, about 16-18 inches I think. There was internet connection available in the room (for a cost); a keyboard was there on the table next to the TV to use with the TV available as your monitor. We didn't need to check the net so we didn't take advantage of this payable facility.
There was air conditioning (or possibly a cooling and heating system) available in the room which worked really well and we didn't feel overly warm or cold once we put this on. We could hear the planes landing and taking off even through the triple glazed windows but not so much that it was annoying.
I have to add here that even though we found our room to be pretty clean; a family that we know who also stayed for two nights whilst we were booked in had to have their room changed. They had a folding bed which had what seemed like a huge bloodstain on it and had to ask for their room to be changed and this took a good half an hour to sort out which was rather tiresome for them. I don't think they were offered much in the way of an apology though but they're quite nice gentle people so they didn't make a fuss.
There was a vending machine available near the reception which sold drinks and sandwiches which was pretty handy as the restaurant stops serving at 9pm which I thought was rather early. We went down to dinner at 8.30 and ordered 2 main courses, hubby had lamb, mashed potatoes and green beans which was about £13 and I had one of the "specials", which was gammon, chips and pineapple which was £12. We both enjoyed our meals but it was more to do with being very hungry than actually liking the food very much. I do think the food was over-priced for what it was but the portions were big enough to fill us up and my husband is quite a big eater. The bar prices were quite steep, a glass of wine was £5.50 and spirits were about £4.50 or more depending on which brand you ordered. A mixer of soda water was £0.90 and a very small bottle of tonic water was £1.70 which I felt was ridiculous.
There was also an ice machine at reception which was pretty cool and paper cups available to fill up with ice if you wanted to take ice back to your room.
Some of the seating in the bar was very comfortable, lounge type sofas and some of the seating was very basic. It wasn't very welcoming but it served its purpose.
The hotel advertises that they have a cocktail lounge but it's just a bar basically when you have dinner served and you can sit and have your drinks. I noticed all evening that the staff were not very alert and a few times we had to take the empty glasses up to the bar as the table was getting quite full up with glasses. We were in the bar till 12.30, there were 6 of us, we weren't exactly drinking a lot but I think they only came round once to collect the glasses. Tables around where people had long gone just had empty glasses sitting on them for the whole evening which really wasn't very impressive. There was a/c on in the bar during the evening but where I was sitting it was really cold. I didn't mind as I prefer to feel cool when I'm having a few drinks but my companions were really quite cold. No one thought to ask to have the temperature changed so I don't know if they would have acceded to our request. I left it to my husband to go to the bar when required and we noticed that it took a long time for them to serve drinks but the staff were polite enough when actually serving, just very slow! The staff closed the shutters in the bar at about 12:15 and they made a real point of slamming the shutters down so we would know they were waiting to close up. I found this rather amusing but also quite rude at the same time. We were not a loud bunch, we were 2 doctors, a teacher, a lawyer and my hubby and me, just having regular conversation, and certainly not loud and drunk and I felt it was a bit cheeky that they made it so obvious that they wanted us to leave the bar area. Funnily enough on the Saturday evening, many of our fellow guests from the wedding and the bridesmaids and ushers, who were also staying in the hotel, came back after 12:30 and they opened up the bar again and when I met the others in the morning they said they were up drinking in the bar till after 05:00! I guess they were too drunk to notice if the service was good or bad.
The breakfast area was rather small considering how big the hotel is. Breakfast is available to 09:00 on weekdays and 10:00 at weekends. It's all self-service; you can help yourself to toast (which you need to put in the toasting rack yourself as in most self-service restaurants), various cereals, various fruit juices (including orange and apple juice), milk, tea, various types of coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat, mini muffins, butter, margarine, marmite, jams, marmalades, cheese, yoghurt, fresh fruit and fruit salads. There were no staff members around in the breakfast area that I saw over the 2 days I stayed at the hotel and several of the guests were grumbling about having to wait ages for things like bread for toast, or fruit having run out. There are clear signs displayed asking people to put their trays up on the racks provided but not everyone took any notice of this but there were no staff around to move these trays that were left on tables, so it was up to guests themselves to put away other people's trays.
The check out experience was far more efficient than the check in process. It literally took a few minutes and we found that our bill was printed off 100% accurately first time so we didn't have to query the cost. It was a pleasant surprise to find that we didn't have to remind them that we shouldn't be paying car parking charges, although as we left we heard the receptionist quite rudely telling the chap behind us: "You must pay the parking charge!" The car park barrier was up when we left just as it was when we first entered and when we had come and gone several times the day before. We assume it was broken?!
Here's some info about the hotel which might be of interest to potential guests:
1. They have analog or high speed internet access available and fax facilities as well as an unstaffed business centre.
2. Wireless Data Connection is also available to use.
3. Only guide dogs are allowed in the hotel.
4. All rooms have tea/coffee facilities but no mini bars.
5. Hairdryers are available in all rooms.
6. Ironing facilities are available on the lower ground floor and there is a safety deposit available at reception.
7. The hotel is a quarter of a mile from Luton Airport, 32 miles from Heathrow Airport and 35 miles from Stanstead Airport.
8. A taxi to Luton Airport will cost £5 and take about 3 minutes.
9. Luton Airport Parkway train station is a mile away from the hotel and will also cost you £5 to get there by taxi.
The contact details for the hotel are:
Address: Holiday Inn Express, Percival Way 2, Luton, LU2 9GP
Tel: 01582 589100 (there's also an 0870 number to call which costs more: 0870 400 9093)
Fax: 01582 589189
The hotel website is here to view: http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ex/1/en/hotel/LTNAP/welcome
OVERALL RATING = 4 out of 5 stars
I'd say that we mostly enjoyed our stay at the hotel. For comfort of the room I'd give a strong 8 out of 10 (the bed alone would get 10 out of 10), for the atmosphere I'd give a 5 out of 10, for the restaurant/bar/breakfast area I'd give a 5 out of 10. For staff service levels, I'd give 7 out of 10, no one was rude but some of them just seemed really lazy.
For a cheap and cheerful hotel with breakfast included in the price, it's certainly cheap for the room prices we got but not for the bar or restaurant, not very cheerful but adequate for our purposes, which was to have a bed for 2 nights to save us driving. I'd stay there again if I needed to be in the area and didn't have to spend a lot of time in the room or bar but I wouldn't stay there for the full price that they advertise which seems to vary between £80 a night to £120 a night.