With an early morning flight and trains disrupted due to Easter, I tried to make my journey easier by staying overnight in a 'pod'-style hotel at Gatwick: Yotel Gatwick Airport. Booking online in advance, I paid £56 for the night.
With a 6.30am flight, I turned up at around 8:30pm. On arrival I checked in at Mission Control - AKA reception. The young male receptionist was very polite and helpful.
Armed with my card key I found my way to my cabin. In order to fit as many as possible in, these little rooms are evidently staggered over and under each other; some are entered up a few steps and others down. The doors have windows in them which can be closed by pulling down a blind.
I'd booked a standard cabin. The website explains that this is for 1-2 people - as they state, it would be a tight squeeze for two, though you could manage it if you're very intimate and very keen to save money. It's like travelling on a sleeper train, though slightly more spacious. The single bed (a comfortable width) is high up in a large recess, accessed using a step which folds down. Up here there's a shelf, lighting controls and a flat screen TV at the foot of the bed. The 'living' area is narrow and it's a tight fit with one suitcase. A table folds down beneath a mirror, while a coat hanger offers a place to stow your coat and travelling clothes. For storage there's also a narrow shelf and an overhead rack with a spare cushion. A folding stool hangs upon the back of the door.
The cabin has power sockets and USB charging sockets (I wish I'd discovered this beforehand, as it would have saved me from taking a UK charger on holiday). Opposite the bed, across the living space, is the 'bathroom', divided off by a glass screen and sliding door (you do have to be very intimate to share). Here there's a toilet, washbasin, and a good overhead rainfall shower. The towel was thick and soft; the white duvet and mattress were comfortable, and all the fittings and furnishings seemed good quality.
Useful items including ear plugs, an alarm clock, shower cap and spare towels, along with hot drinks and water, are available free from Mission Control upon request. Other toiletries and food are for sale.
The only really audible sound is the rush of the air conditioning ring in the ceiling. This bothered me at night, and although the receptionist adjusted it for me, it was impossible to eliminate all the noise and the breeze of cool air. Ventilation is obviously necessary in such a small space, but this was still a distracting annoyance.
I enjoyed the design and neatness of the space-saving ideas. You wouldn't want to spend much waking time in the cabin, but then that's not what they're for. These are for sleeping. Signs in the hall urge "Sssssh". If you do spend any waking time here, with the table and stool, it's possible to eat and to work if you don't plan to sleep at once. I thought it was all clever and convenient. However I did have problems sleeping. Whether it was the distracting air-conditioning, pre-travel tension or latent claustrophobia, it seemed very hard to relax. I think that's probably just me, though. I'd still return for the sheer convenience of the Yotel, and I think lots of travellers must find this a very handy way to rest before or after an inconveniently-timed flight.
I found the hotel friendly and efficient. I liked the bowl of chocolate Easter bunnies at reception. If you're claustrophobic the small spaces and lack of daylight could be a problem. Otherwise, this is a neat and clever solution to getting some sleep with as little hassle as possible. If the idea doesn't appeal, there are traditional hotels at Gatwick where you may find prices not much higher.
There are a few shops and a branch of Boots in the South Terminal, close to the Yotel lift. If you're arriving in the evening, you may be able to find food at reduced prices in the Marks and Spencer food shop.
> Yotel Gatwick availability and booking