How to find cheap airport parking deals
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Our experts reveal their six top tips to save on airport parking at Stansted, Gatwick and other UK airports
You may think that to get cheap airport parking you’ll need to leave your car in a muddy field half an hour away from the airport. Not so. Some airports, including Stansted, have their own ‘budget’ on-site parking options that are sometimes even cheaper than privately run off-site equivalents.
To find this out we researched the cheapest on-site and off-site parking we could find, including walk-up and advance prices, at 10 of the UK’s most popular airports for a week’s holiday at the end of July. We only included car parks that were Park Mark accredited for security and peace of mind.
Here’s our recommendations of things to look out for and help keep costs down when booking airport parking for your next holiday.
1. On-site airport parking can be cheaper than off-site
It’s generally cheaper to park off-site than on-site, because on site car parks are closer to the terminal. In the most extreme example we found, it’s a three-minute walk at Heathrow T4 versus up to 30 minutes on a shuttle from the EasyHotel.
However, to counter off-site competition, many airports now offer a ‘budget’ parking option. Edinburgh has ‘Plane Parking’, while London Stansted has ‘Jetparks’. Prices will fluctuate throughout the year, but when we researched prices in April 2018 we found that it was cheaper to park on-site at both Edinburgh and Stansted airports than the cheapest off-site option. For some other airports such as Birmingham, Luton and Leeds Bradford on-site parking was not significantly more expensive.
2. Never just drive up and park
It may seem obvious, but definitely plan in advance. Not only does pre-booking guarantee you a parking space, but it’s also considerably cheaper. Some car parks even allow you to pre-book as little as two hours in advance.
When we researched prices in April 2018 we found parking from Luton Airport would cost you £50 pre-booked vs £210 if you just turned up – a 367% increase.
When choosing and booking, price comparison sites such as holidayextras.co.uk or airport-parking-shop.co.uk are a good place to start if you want to see the range of options available.
Although we found price differences between comparison sites and booking direct to be minimal, sometimes there are exclusive deals, so always check multiple websites, including the airport’s own.
For instance, holidayextras.co.uk and Luton Airport offer to price match if you find a cheaper price within 24 hours, while Bristol Airport gives you a 10% discount if you sign up for its (free) email newsletter. It’s also worth doing a web search for discount codes if you want to save a few extra pounds.
3. Which is more expensive: self-park or meet-and-greet parking?
With most on-site and some off-site car parks you’ll be able to self-park, therefore keeping hold of your keys. Otherwise you have to leave your car and keys at a meet-and-greet reception and staff will park for you – which might also mean that they’ll move your car if they need to while you’re away.
There’s not necessarily an issue with this, but it’s something to weigh up if you’d rather have peace of mind over price. We didn’t even find massive price differences between self-park or meet-and-greet parking so definitely factor this in if it’s an issue for you.
4. Hotel parking
Choosing a hotel-parking package is an alternative to traditional airport parking. However, it’s unlikely to be cheaper than just parking your car without a hotel stay.
Even if you do find a good deal, be aware that not all parking is actually at the hotel you book with. Often you’ll have to drive yourself from there to the local off-site car park – making time a consideration.
5. Other cheap alternatives to airport parking
Another option is parking in someone’s driveway or garage. Sites like justpark.co.uk or parklet.co.uk allow you to search for available spaces – usually from entrepreneurial private owners. This option is unlikely to be considerably cheaper than traditional airport parking and there are no security guarantees. While you’ll agree to a ‘lease agreement’ this option is probably not for the risk-averse.
If you’re flying from Gatwick South an unusual choice is Car and Away. You book and pay to park your car as usual but it’s then rented out to vetted drivers, earning you money. You can set mileage limits, and your car is fitted with a telematics unit, covered by insurance and breakdown cover, and cleaned before your return. We think this is unlikely to appeal to most, but if you opt for it, note that any ‘income’ earned is taxable.
6. How your flight delay could cost you more in airport parking
You could be charged if you turn up too early, or more likely, collect your car later than booked for – fees are typically at the car park’s ‘on-the-gate’ daily rate. Some car parks may have a grace period where you’re covered for a certain amount of time, but always check the smallprint.
Sadly, though, if your flight is delayed or cancelled and you have to pay for extra parking costs it's unlikely you'll be able to claim anything back from your airline other than the usual flight delay compensation.
It’s also worth checking how frequent the parking transfer service is, especially if your flight is early in the morning or late at night.