Our scheduled two hour layover at LHR December 20 turned into an extended vacation since we couldn't get confirmed seats until December 25--or at least that's how we're choosing to view our unscheduled time in London.
After taking stock of the situation, we booked ourselves into the Premier Inn on Bath Road. We could have taken the Hoppa Bus which services the LHR terminals and area hotels. However, with the number of bags we had, we elected to cab it. At a cost of 12GBP, the cab ride's convenience was more than worth it when compared to 4GBP per person for the bus and having to schlep bags on and off ourselves.
We elected to stay by the airport as we wanted the convenience of getting to the airport in the mornings to see if the situation would change and we could fly out early. We could then have the afternoons and evenings to play tourist though it was a 45 minute tube ride to the center of London.
At an average cost of 97GBP per night, we were highly satisfied with this low frills property. The room was clean and serviced by Housekeeping daily. The staff was helpful--they answered our questions and allowed us the use of the front desk phone to call the local number for the airline (the phone in the room only worked with a phone card). Costa Coffee is open 24 hours. In the lobby, there were 3 computers at a cost of 20 pence per minute for access to the internet. WiFi was available for 5GPB for one hour or 9GPB for 24 hours.
Bus numbers 81, 98 or 222 took us to the Hounslow West tube station with the bus stop being across the street from the property. It cost 2GBP to get the train station; and from there, we paid 7.50GBP for the one day Travelcard.
Armed with a tube map, a bus map, and recommendations from a front desk staff, we set out for the city in the afternoon. Instead of paying 46GBP for a one day bus tour, we created our own city tours each day. We read up on the various sites, determined what we wanted to see and plotted the transport route accordingly. We did some walking and shopping around Piccadilly and Oxford. We had dinners in the city and partook in afternoon tea. We probably would have done more had it not been so cold!
In the grand scheme of things, we consider ourselves lucky in that we had the means to take a bad situation and make it work for us. We could easily have been one of those souls who had no choice but to camp out at the airport. At its worst, this was highly inconvenient to us; but at its best, we got to get reacquainted with a city we haven't visited in years.