How to find the cheapest airport parking options

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Finding airport parking can be stressful and expensive, so it’s important to understand all the options available to you. Here’s how to find the best and cheapest solution for your needs
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A woman heads to the terminal with her luggage after parking her car at the airport
Airport parking can cost more than flights

Booking a holiday is stressful enough, and that’s before you think about insurance, packing and transfers. One element you mustn’t forget is airport parking. 

Getting this sorted well in advance is far cheaper than leaving it till the day you fly, so it’s good to get organised. Not only will you ensure you get a space, but experts estimate you can save up to 70% by booking ahead.

But with so many options available - including short stay, long stay, valet parking and even park and ride - it can be tough to work out what you need. Read on to compare cheapest parking and learn how to find the best deals.

How much does airport parking cost?

Brace yourself, because airport parking can be extremely expensive. It’s not unusual to pay more than £50 a day if you book through the airport, which could mean a £400 expense for a week-long holiday.

Driving up without booking costs even more, often hundreds of pounds a day. Experts say that booking in advance saves you 70% on average, and you’ll even save if you book on the way to the airport rather than just turning up. 

For example, Stansted estimates that an eight-day stay in the short-haul car park in October would cost you £368 if not booked, compared to £69.99 if you plan ahead. In long stay, the same trip would cost £59.99 if booked, compared to £172 if you drive up on the day.

Shopping around pays dividends here, with private options and park and ride services all excellent ways to cut costs. 

Spending abroad can be costly, so make sure you compare the market for the best exchange rates available on your travel money before jetting off.

Official onsite airport parking – short and long stay

Most airports offer both short and long-stay parking. This tends to be expensive but has the benefit of being convenient and usually very close to the terminal. 

Short-stay parking is designed for minibreaks, business trips and the like. Prices vary, so make sure you research before you book. For instance, Heathrow charges £5.30 for a 30-minute stay. For longer trips you pay £77.10 per 24-hour period.

If you’re flying long-haul, you’d be better off looking at long-stay parking. Again, most airports have their own official onsite options. These can be costly. Manchester Airport says it charges £59.99 per day, for a stay of eight days or longer in August.

Generally speaking, the parking options run by airports are more expensive than private equivalents, so make sure you’ve explored other options before you sign on the dotted line. 

If you do choose onsite parking, book well in advance. If you leave it till the day of travel, you’ll often have to pay substantially more, and you run the risk of not being able to get a slot. Even booking from home on the day of your flight can save you cash.

Make sure you get the best possible cover when you go away by comparing travel insurance deals. You can find the cover you need at the right price whatever your travel plans.

Offsite parking – short and long stay

Offsite parking is run by private, external providers. Even though it’s offsite (ie outside the airport grounds) - it can be as near and convenient as official airport parking. 

It’s also usually far cheaper. There are handy specialist comparison sites that can help you find a great deal. These include SkyPark Secure, Looking4Parking, Holiday Extras and Better Car Parks.

Short and long stay costs at major UK airports

Here’s how much airports charge for their short and long-stay car parks. Many offer deals if you book in advance, so you might be able to cut costs by being organised.

Updated 29 March 2022
AirportShort stay costsLong stay costs
Gatwick£45 per day (if not pre-booked)£25 first day, £20 thereafter (if not pre-booked)
Heathrow£77.10 per dayFirst day £34.70, subsequent days £27.90 (off-peak)
Stansted£69.99 for eight days in October pre-booked. £368 for eight days in October if not pre-booked.£59.99 for eight days in October pre-booked. £172 for eight days in October if not pre-booked.
Luton£67.50 per day if not pre-booked£30.00 per day if not pre-booked
Manchester£79.99 for eight days in October - pre-booked onlyLong stay parking closed
Edinburgh£44.99 for seven days pre-booked, £270.00 for seven days not pre-booked£28.99 for seven days pre-booked, £154.00 for seven days not pre-booked

Prices can vary by date and when you book, examples here for roll up customers unless otherwise stated

Park and ride

Typically, park and ride is available both through the airport itself and through private parking providers. Often the cheapest approach, you park your car and then take a shuttle bus to the airport.

Again, it’s well worth shopping around, as each airport will have several options available. Specialist comparison sites can help you find a good deal and sometimes will offer special offers and savings to bring costs down further.

Valet parking

Valet parking is ideal if you have a lot of luggage or mobility issues, but it does come at a cost. Sometimes this is also known as ‘Meet and Greet’ parking. 

Typically, you drive to the terminal and then hand over your keys to a valet who will take it to secured parking. One note of caution, as a valet will be driving your car, check terms and conditions carefully to see what happens if your vehicle is damaged.

Hotel parking 

If you’ve got an early flight, you might consider an airport hotel. Sometimes, hotels will offer parking for the duration of your trip, and this can be an extremely cheap way to store your car while you travel. 

Sometimes, you’ll even find that the cost of the hotel and parking combined is similar to what you’d pay for parking alone. For instance, at Gatwick, pre-booked airport parking typically costs around £48 a day, but you can get a hotel and parking for just £62.

Make sure you check how transfers are arranged and what they cost – some hotels will get you to the terminal free of charge. Use a comparison site to compare the cost of rooms and see what parking is available.

Check cancellation policies

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that travel plans can change in an instant, so flexibility is a critical consideration when booking your parking. 

Check the terms and conditions carefully, including the cut off point for cancellations. Most onsite parking will give you a full refund as long as you cancel far enough in advance. 

Private companies will set their own terms, and sometimes charge more for added flexibility. Most travel insurance companies don’t cover extras as standard. 

You could pay more for insurance that does, or you can make sure that you choose parking that lets you cancel. Do your sums to see what’s cheapest.

Public transport

Given the expense of parking, make sure you’ve considered all your travel options. It could be cheaper to get the train, although you’d have to carry all your luggage. 

This works well for short haul, or lone travellers, but can be a real hassle if you’re a family going away for a week.

Pre-booked taxis might also work out cheaper, depending on your distance from the airport. Ring round your local taxis to get an idea of costs - but remember you’ll need to book both ways. 

Pre-booked Ubers are also an option, but there is a risk if they can’t find a car on the day. Make sure you leave enough time for worst-case-scenario traffic.

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