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  4. I spent $483 on hotel day rooms to combat long connections and jet lag before a big conference. Take a peek inside JFK's wacky 1960s-inspired hotel — and a hidden oasis within Heathrow's terminals

I spent $483 on hotel day rooms to combat long connections and jet lag before a big conference. Take a peek inside JFK's wacky 1960s-inspired hotel and a hidden oasis within Heathrow's terminals

I spent $483 on hotel day rooms to combat long connections and jet lag before a big conference. Take a peek inside JFK's wacky 1960s-inspired hotel — and a hidden oasis within Heathrow's terminals
Entrance to TWA Hotel, a short walk from JFK's Terminal 5.Kari McMahon/Insider
  • I had a 32-hour flight from the UK to the Bahamas to reach a major conference, Crypto Bahamas.
  • To combat jet lag and long connections, I spent $483 on day rooms to rest from traveling.

I had a 32-hour trip from the UK to the Bahamas for a major crypto conference.

I had a 32-hour trip from the UK to the Bahamas for a major crypto conference.
Crypto Bahamas sign at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I attended the Crypto Bahamas conference hosted by global thought-leadership forum SALT and the crypto exchange FTX, which was founded by 30-year-old crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

To reach the conference, I needed to take three different flights: Glasgow to London, London to New York, and New York to the Bahamas. It meant I would be spending a lot of time in the airport.

With a desire to optimize my time at the conference, I looked into how I could best leverage my time in the airport to combat jet lag. I came across the concept of "day rooms," which are rooms in airport hotels you can rent for the day or by the hour.

I spent around $483 on three day rooms during the trip, which started on April 25 and finished on May 1.

Traveling internationally is a completely different experience now compared with before the pandemic.

Traveling internationally is a completely different experience now compared with before the pandemic.
Long queues at security at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 around 6 p.m. on a Monday.      Kari McMahon/Insider

Part of the reason I ended up with such long wait times at airports is that traveling has changed a lot since the pandemic. Airports and airlines are short-staffed resulting in cancellations and delays. Checks on health visas and vaccination documents is making the check-in process longer, and there's the new challenge of getting a COVID-19 test before the flight.

I booked a COVID-19 test at Glasgow airport at 8 a.m. ahead of my 10:40 a.m. flight for £55 ($68). The process was smooth with no lines and only a 15-minute wait for my rapid antigen results. However, at busy travel hubs like Heathrow, the lines were much longer.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, a significant number of UK flights had been canceled or significantly delayed due to staff shortages. I tried to book flights that would provide enough buffer time to get an alternative in case of a cancellation or delay.

With an 8-hour wait from arriving in London Heathrow until my flight to JFK, I headed to Terminal 3's Aerotel.

With an 8-hour wait from arriving in London Heathrow until my flight to JFK, I headed to Terminal 3
Aerotel entrance at London Heathrow Terminal 3.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I landed at London Heathrow from Glasgow around 12:00 p.m., which meant an eight-hour wait until my flight to New York at 8:00 p.m.

I collected my bags from my British Airways flight at Terminal 5 and leveraged the Heathrow Express' free terminal service to go to Terminal 3, which is where the airport hotel is and where my next flight would depart from.

I booked a $68 solo plus room for around 6 hours in London Heathrow's Aerotel.

I booked a $68 solo plus room for around 6 hours in London Heathrow
A solo plus room at London Heathrow's Aerotel.      Kari McMahon/Insider

The hotel provided amenities, such as bottled water and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The hotel provided amenities, such as bottled water and tea and coffee-making facilities.
Tea and coffee facilities in the room.      Kari McMahon/Insider

A bathroom with a walk-in shower to freshen up in.

A bathroom with a walk-in shower to freshen up in.
Aerotel's solo plus room's bathroom.      Kari McMahon/Insider

The hotel was within walking distance of a number of cafes in the departures and arrivals area of the terminal.

The hotel was within walking distance of a number of cafes in the departures and arrivals area of the terminal.
The hotel faces out into the arrivals section of Terminal 3 close to cafes and the Heathrow Express.      Kari McMahon/Insider

Within the arrivals area, the terminal had a Boots, a Caffe Nero, and a Marks & Spencers. I could also walk to the departures area, before security, and pick up food from Costa or Pret a Manager.

The only frustrating part of using a day room was there was no desk with a chair to eat or work at.

The only frustrating part of using a day room was there was no desk with a chair to eat or work at.
The storage area of the room with no table or chair to work at.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I'd seen reviews online that complained of the rooms not containing chairs or desks. The hotel rebutted those comments online, but I can confirm that the tables provided were not suitable for working or eating at.

I had to come up with an inventive way to eat lunch.

I had to come up with an inventive way to eat lunch.
Creating a makeshift table at the end of the bed to eat lunch.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I made a makeshift area to eat with a small table positioned at the end of the bed. It was OK for a quick bite, but not ideal for a full meal!

I spent around 6 hours in the room working on the bed and freshening up before my next flight.

I spent around 6 hours in the room working on the bed and freshening up before my next flight.
Bed in Aerotel rooms.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I checked out of Heathrow's Aerotel around 5:30 p.m. to grab dinner ahead of my 8:00 p.m. flight to JFK. Getting food at Heathrow is no easy task right now.

I checked out of Heathrow
Dinner at Spuntino at Heathrow Terminal 3.      Kari McMahon/Insider

Another challenge with travelling right now is that demand is still high post-pandemic. Queues to get through security at Heathrow were long and slow.

Most restaurants in the departures lounge were packed around 6:30 p.m. I decided to eat at a restaurant called Spuntino and I was informed that a number of dishes were unavailable when I asked for a table. The restaurant was clearly short-staffed and by the time I finished my meal the flight was boarding.

I paid $115 in total to upgrade my seats to economy delight for the journey to and from London and New York.

I paid $115 in total to upgrade my seats to economy delight for the journey to and from  London and New York.
Economy delight seats on Virgin Atlantic flight.      Kari McMahon/Insider

As part of my mission to fight jet lag I wanted select a seat on the plane where the chances of being sat next to someone would be slim.

During online check-in, the Economy Delight cabin, which is essentially economy seats with a tiny bit more leg room, looked fairly empty. I decided to upgrade in the hopes I wouldn't have anyone sat next to me. I was in luck, on both flights I had an empty seat next to me.

The upgrade on the way to New York cost £35 ($43) and on the way back it cost £55 ($71).

I arrived in JFK around 10:00 p.m. and reached my second day room by 11:30 p.m.

I arrived in JFK around 10:00 p.m. and reached my second day room by 11:30 p.m.
Entrance to TWA Hotel, a short walk from JFK's Terminal 5.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I arrived into New York's JFK Terminal 4 around 10:00pm. After passing through customs and collecting my bags, I used JFK's AirTrain to travel to Terminal 5 to reach my second day (night) room at the TWA hotel.

TWA hotel utilizes the head house of the TWA flight center, which closed in 2001. It's less than a two-minute walk from the AirTrain station and is the only hotel that's on JFK's grounds.

The hotel is a throwback to the 1960s and a must-visit location for any aviation nerd.

The hotel is designed to replicate many of TWA Flight Center's original features. It also features bars, a food hall, an infinity pool overlooking the runway, and a roller rink.

The hotel is designed to replicate many of TWA Flight Center
The bar area in the TWA Hotel.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I paid $323 for a deluxe king room. It was huge.

I paid $323 for a deluxe king room. It was huge.
A deluxe king room at TWA hotel.      Kari McMahon/Insider

There was far too much to explore in the TWA Hotel making it a worthwhile stopping point for anyone with a long connection.

There was far too much to explore in the TWA Hotel making it a worthwhile stopping point for anyone with a long connection.
Food hall at TWA hotel where several stalls are open 24/7.      Kari McMahon/Insider

By the time, I arrived at the hotel it was 11:30 p.m., I just wanted to get some sleep.

There was plenty to explore, however, for guests who arrive early from museum exhibits to the fitness center and pool. The hotel also contains a restaurant, several bars, and a food hall with some stalls open 24 hours, which is ideal for anyone with a late-night or overnight connection.

TWA hotel does offer day rates. Despite only spending around 6 hours in the hotel I had to pay an overnight rate.

TWA hotel does offer day rates. Despite only spending around 6 hours in the hotel I had to pay an overnight rate.
Departures and arrivals board at TWA Hotel.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I used the AirTrain to head to Terminal 2 where I got breakfast before the final leg of my journey to the Bahamas.

I used the AirTrain to head to Terminal 2 where I got breakfast before the final leg of my journey to the Bahamas.
A tablet to use for ordering at food at Due Amici in Terminal 2 departures.      Kari McMahon/Insider

When I arrived I didn't immediately feel like I conquered the jet lag but after a night's sleep I found a good routine for the rest of the week.

When I arrived I didn
Sunset at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I even managed to attend a party with my colleague the day I arrived in the Bahamas.

I even managed to attend a party with my colleague the day I arrived in the Bahamas.
Insider reporters Vicky Huang on the left and Kari McMahon on the right.      Vicky Huang/Insider

On the way back, I had a last-minute need for a day room at Heathrow. I used alternative sites to find a better and cheaper deal.

On the way back, I had a last-minute need for a day room at Heathrow. I used alternative sites to find a better and cheaper deal.
Aerotel solo plus room at Heathrow.      Kari McMahon/Insider

Around a week before the journey, British Airways canceled my return flight from London to Glasgow. When I rebooked the flights, I was stuck with another six-hour wait at the airport. I decided to book another day room, so I could get work done and freshen up. When I looked up the prices on Aerotel's website, the cost of a room was £199 ($246). Knowing that I'd paid £55 ($68) before, I tried to find an alternative rate and used dayuse.co.uk to get a room for £75 ($92).

The second day room at Aerotel still didn't have a desk or chair.

The second day room at Aerotel still didn
No desk or chair in second Aerotel room.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I found having a strategy for combatting jet lag is one of the best approaches.

I found having a strategy for combatting jet lag is one of the best approaches.
Pepperoni pizza at the Pizza Lab at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I still felt a bit groggy on the first day I arrived in the Bahamas, but by having a plan and using my time in the airports and day rooms to focus on sticking to a regular eating routine and catching up on sleep, it helped get me into a good routine ahead of the conference.

But don't expect to always be on the go and working.

But don
The view from the room's balcony.      Kari McMahon/Insider

I expected that by using day rooms and having so much time in airports that I would be able to get lots of work done. At times I needed to switch off and relax while travelling and at the conference.

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