Random thoughts: T5 Fast Track, Zipcar by the mile, why I’m moving to Paris for 5 days!

Here are a few random observations from the last couple of weeks which you might find useful!

Try the new Fast Track security channel at Heathrow Terminal 5

At some point in the last year, a new – totally separate – Fast Track security channel opened at the north end of Terminal 5.  See the photo below.  This is for British Airways and oneworld status card holders and Club and First passengers.

Since we normally travel with checked bags, we usually get dropped at the south end of Terminal 5 near the business class bag drop desks and use South security.  However, I’ve done two hand baggage flights over the last week and used the tube to Heathrow both times.  This makes the new Fast Track lane exceptionally convenient as it is directly opposite the T5 tube entrance.

Even better, you come out directly by the entrance to the Galleries North lounge.  It is perfectly feasible to get from the tube lift to the lounge in under 5 minutes at a quiet time.


The new Zipcar ‘pay by the mile’ cars come recommended

I’ve written about Zipcar a few times on Head for Points.  We use it in London instead of running our own car and it works very well.  There are about 15 cars within 10 minutes walk of our house and the nearest is literally 30 seconds away.  Zipcar is currently offering a £30 driving credit for new members who join before 30th September – see here.

One downside of Zipcar is that the ‘pay by the hour, everything included’ model gets expensive if you are visiting somewhere for the day.  They have now introduced cars with a ‘pay by the mile’ hybrid model.

On Sunday we went to Hobbledown.  (If you have kids under 10 and live in south or west London or Surrey then you really should go to Hobbledown, it is the classiest place of its type that we know.)

The last time we went on a weekend we had a Zipcar for 9 hours at £9.50, total cost £85.50.  Yesterday we booked one of the new ‘£4 per hour plus 29p per mile’ cars.  I haven’t had the bill yet but the total cost should be around £47 which is a substantial improvement.  The downside is that the ‘pay by the mile’ cars carry very in-your-face green Zipcar branding ….

Zipcar £30 sign-up bonus

Why am I off to Paris for five days?

My wife is about to head off to Germany with my son for five days – my daughter is already there.  I usually use this annual event to do a long-haul trip.

I started off looking at Tokyo and seeing if I could make the flight times stack up.  Other ideas came and went.  However, when I did my Eurostar review trip to Paris in May, I realised something – I am getting fed up doing short trips.

Every trip I do on my own these days involves only one or two nights in a hotel because I don’t like to leave the family for longer than necessary.  However, spending just two nights in New York or the Middle East – as I have done four times in the last two years – or one night in a European city, which I have done countless times recently, isn’t satisfying me any longer.

When I was in New York, I had my usual list of places that I like to revisit.  Once I’d done those, my time was up.  When I was in Paris in May, I did a couple of museums and that, literally, was all I had time to do.  It is impossible to get away from ‘greatest hits’ sightseeing on short trips.

I dumped the idea of Tokyo and settled on Paris.  By spending five days there, I will be able to get back to sort of travelling I did when I was young, seeking out the second and third tier experiences I rarely see these days.  Without the family around I can work at night and have the days to myself.  The urge to jump on another long haul flight was strong but hopefully this will be more fulfilling.

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  1. They have a fast track lane at the south end also. It’s smaller but I used it just yesterday on a flight to Manchester from terminal 5. Not sure if it’s new, since I to had previously only used the northern end of t5 before.

    • We tried to go through there on Friday. Was redirected to the normal security lanes as they were quicker!

      • I heard about this fast track channel last week and used it on sunday for the first time (from the tube via the check-in kiosk) on my way back to Amsterdam: was in the North lounge within 7 or 8 minutes :-)

  2. James A says:

    Don’t worry you can always jump on an ex CDG deal once you get there 😉

  3. Frenske says:

    Thanks for Hobbledown tip. We just live 10 minutes away, but never heard of it.

  4. Some recent reports of BA check in chaos @ LHR & people missing their flights – including an annoyed Philip Schofield the other day! BA systems seem rubbish at the moment. Easy to end up on an overbooked flight.

    You can (nearly) guarantee your seat by doing online check-in T-24 hrs. You don’t need to print your BPs.

    Indeed – don’t print your BPs if you want a free exit seat – self serve machines @ terminal method

    • There are no exit rows in Business or First 😉

    • It’s their new IT system called FLY and has been appalling according to friends that have recently passed through – massive delays all over the shop. Glad I’m avoiding it at present!

      • yep I’m a bit worried for Thursday, we’re going to get there way early provided the traffic plays ball

    • I know you can select exit row seats for a cost at T-14 days but if there are any remaining at T-24 hours are you able to select them for free? Many thanks.

  5. Can anyone use the fast track lane? I thought it was for those with elite status etc.

  6. Sort of related, but what is people preferred route when transiting through T5 (off an international and onto domestic). I have always used the transit route, although a few times now the queue has been 40 mins long. A few people in the queue said they normally go landside, then back in, and thought it quicker.

    • Int to dom varies depending on UK Border queues (you’re stuck reclearing security regardless). They used to have a fast track lane for this but BA stopped paying for it (there’s still fast track for int to int connections). Unfortunately they lump everyone together and usually have only one UKBA agent working – last time I spent 30 min queuing as there were 4 non-EEA passport holders at the front of the queue, then 3 EEA passport holders (much quicker). eGates would have been much quicker than this, however I’ve been through at other times when there were just a couple of EEA passport holders ahead of me and I was through much quicker than the eGates!

  7. I used to avoid the old T5 north fast track because the in-transit fast track mergers with incoming passengers at the north security and so the T5 south fast track is normally quicker (accepting the fact I just said I avoid the north entrance so how would I know!). A dedicated north entrance for incoming passengers is welcome news.

  8. I get what you’re saying about longhaul/shorthaul: with a young family we’ve reduced our long trips and are really enjoying filling gaps where we haven’t been in Europe. But that said, have you really exhausted BA’s European network. It’s a personal choice but I’d always prefer to find somewhere new: pretty much everywhere has some top tier attractions and enough to fill a few days, plus at this time of year better beaches/pools/etc.

    • No, not exhausted it – but I want to go somewhere I know. Going somewhere new means I am back to feeling obliged to hit ‘tier one’ attractions! If all I do in Paris for a day is go out for a long lunch at a decent bistro then I will consider it a day well spent.

  9. Rob,
    A second or third tier experience you might want to try is a visit to the auction rooms of Drouot (metro Richelieu-Drouot). Don’t know when you will be enjoying your 5 days (Closed until mid-August), but every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday open for viewing of all sorts of junk through to middle to high end antiques, with sales taking place on Wednesday, Friday, Monday.

    Presumably you will be taking Eurostar, so before the return I can recommend restaurant Terminus Nord literally across the street facing the main entrance to Gare du Nord. This restaurant is part of a group with several other fairly famous Paris Brasseries in their line up (www.espritbrasserie.com).
    I mention them, not only because I like the food and atmosphere in Terminus Nord ( pricey though), but also because they have a loyalty scheme which gets you 10% discount, points towards free meals and other rewards as well a free champagne as an aperitif – not Avios, but I can live with that.

    • Cheers Zark. Looks like I will miss Drouot which is a shame as I am at Christies and Sothebys in London quite a lot when I am wearing non-HFP hats.

      Flying out (as the Mrs is flying to Germany so we all go to LHR together) but train back.

      • Hard to beat lunch or dinner in Montmartre. And Paris does oysters/ seafood particularly well
        https://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants-cafes/the-best-seafood-in-paris & others

        • Hi Harry. I know you’re a keen card churner so I thought I’d ask you. I have just referred my girlfriend for The Amex Platinum card. Do I need to cancel my Priority Pass account so she can then give me a supplementary platinum card so I can then get a new priority Pass card?

          • Hi Nick just seen this – actually I am a slowmo vapid sort of horrorshow zombie when it comes to churning – all I do is circulate Gold cards.

            Can anybody else help?

            • Hi Harry, Thanks for the reply. Maybe Amex could merge the accounts. I’ll find out.

  10. Last year, I was in Tokyo in September and Paris in October a few weeks later. I love both, but I would have gone with Tokyo. Best food in the world, wonderful people, some amazing hotels (MO and Aman) and just such an experience of culture. We were only there 5 days, but that felt a good enough time to see what we wanted to. Plus they have a Robot Restaurant.

    • Done Tokyo a couple of times, to be fair. With better flight times it might have worked but the jetlag on top of 12 hours each way – and flight times which didn’t work well with the time window I have – knocked it out. I don’t really want to do Japan again without spending more time in Kyoto either.

  11. You are visiting Paris for 5 days. Not sure how that qualifies as ‘moving’ unless you are going the clickbait route.

  12. There was me thinking that you were going to say that UK passport holders flying first/business can use fast track at T5 on re-entering the UK instead of queuing for ages whilst Americans get through in half the time via fast Track.

    But sadly no such luck!

    • Michael says:

      Admittedly not with fast track, but there’s nothing to stop UK/EU passport holders using the foreigners’ queue if it’s shorter – legally it’s the same as ‘All Passports’ in other countries and the agents are happy to let you in. The only snag is the purple dragons by the entrance who try to stop you, but a quick ‘it’s in my bag thanks’ stops that :)

      • Just pretend you can’t understand them (you’re a stupid foreigner).

        Not difficult as they don’t generally speak very good English either! lol

        Strange, that

  13. blackberryaddict says:

    I also took the north fast track for the first time last week – very impressed. I had become annoyed with the south version (which btw has there since the opening of T5 I think), but it is often slower than the normal south security as Heathrow is not targeted on the speed of fast track.

    But the north version was very good on Friday afternoon. I normally arrive at T5 on a local bus, for which the drop off point is also on the north side, so this is perfectly positioned. It was very fast, and does drop you out opposite the south lounge – unfortunately there was a queue to get in there, so I did walk up to GF.

  14. OT – Last day of sale. Malaysian to the Philippines for £265


  15. Esperluette says:

    Have you seen
    Musee Rodin
    Musee MArmottan

    Small human size museums in old houses full of treasures.

  16. You should try Georgette.

    Marie-odile and her team closes in august, But if you are there in july, that’s fine.
    Open from monday to friday, for lunch and diner, Not expensive at all for the good food provided.


    And it is not far from Lafayette street when you walk from gare du nord to opéra… or from the intercontinental.

    • Sounds good, thanks. Just spent the morning rebooking as (for unfortunate reasons) rates are falling daily in France at the moment.

      • Attacks definitively frighten people.
        I never seen a so easy traffic last december during the shopping christmas period after the november attacks..
        So it is good for you or any of the people willing to spend their time in Paris : that must explain the falling rates. That’s good you take profit of it. And places to visit must be less crowded than usual.

        The weather is so warm this week also (34° celsisus in the afternoon). It may be a second reason for low occupancy.

  17. It is also paris quartier d’été festival time now.

    Few tourits or foreigners do it, but it is always a specific experience.

    The paper programm/schedule is easier to read to know what’s happening in day d but here is the internet link:

    Any town hall should have the paper programm but the hotel should get it for you.

    Some events are free, other paying but not expensively. And sometimes in locations where even the parisians do not have usually acces to or do nit often go. All depend on the day.

    If you need some fresh air in the evening, you can watch for free some movies seated on the grass after 10pm at la villette:
    It is cinéma en plein air with “dress code” thema this year. Some movies are in english.

    There is also “Cinéma au clair de lune” end of july and in august with movies about new-york, so in english, free too but you may have already seen those movies.

    Well all of that is for your culture in paris grabbing activities…

  18. If you are a member of zipcar in, say, London, can you use it in another city where it operates, such as new york, or do you have to be a member in each place you want to use it?

  19. And another (potentially stupid) question – does the amex plat cover the extra insurance on zipcar as it does on a normal car rental from hertz? High excess charges on them in the US ($1000) and £500 in the uk.

    • Almost certainly not, although never tested it.

      Zipcar will sell you a waiver to take down the excess. In reality, they can’t tell who causes any small bits of damage because the car just goes back into the system for the next person who doesn’t notice anything and drives off. You’ll never get dinged for scuffed wheel trims or tyres or scratches. It would need to be a serious bit of damage before you’d pay anything.

      • Page 8 here – 6.9 : http://www.americanexpress.com/uk/platinumcard/Platinum_SOB.pdf
        Going to call them to see what they say.
        I see no reason why it wouldn’t be applicable, as zipcar is still classed as a rental car, so I should be able to decline the extra insurance just as I do with other companies.

        I had never considered zipcar before, but with a trip to CA next month and with august in CA being a period of hertz blackout dates (therefore a much higher and poorer value redemption), and with silly rates in some places, may be just what I need.