Knowing how to find cheap airport parking (and avoid the highest prices) is a really useful skill to have if you are jetting off abroad and somewhere hot in February. Holidays can come with all sorts of added expenses to consider, from travel insurance and travel money to getting or renewing passports and hiring a car for your trip. But all too often, some can be overlooked, such as the cost of airport parking.
Given the current financial difficulties, it’s really important for holidaymakers to think carefully about ways to reduce the money they spend on their trip, and that isn’t just limited to finding cheap flights or saving on hotels.
So how do you go about reducing costs should you need to park at the airport?
Seamus McCauley, head of communications at Holiday Extras, says: “This year, more than ever, it’ll be important to book your holiday extras early, and make sure you check all the options for the best deal.”
How to find cheap airport parking
The most convenient option for drivers is going to be parking at the airport itself. Most airports will have sections of their websites dedicated to their parking services, outlining the sorts of prices you will face. Chances are there will be different levels of service or convenience open to you.
With Stansted for example, you can choose between car parks that are as little as a one-minute walk from the terminal or as much as a 20-minute transfer by shuttle.
However, there are plenty of other options open to you. Many airports have car parks operated by third parties which may be just outside the airport complex itself. These can prove much cheaper, though obviously you will need to consider the fact that getting to the terminal will take longer.
Some of the best known providers of these airport parking services include:
There is some overlap in terms of the airports covered by these providers, while they also offer a variety of different services. For example, some providers offer the choice of on-site parking, off-site parking and even meet and greets. This is where you simply drop your car off with a member of staff at the terminal itself, and then pick it up again when you return from your break.
The costs between different providers, and between their different services, can vary significantly. That’s why using a price comparison site can prove really useful. Just as you might use a comparison site to shop around for credit cards or travel insurance, there are sites that allow you to compare parking prices at airports too.
These comparison sites can help you spot the best deal for your budget. They may also be able to secure a cheaper price than if you booked directly with the parking provider.
Airport parking comparison sites worth a look include:
As with other products and services, it may be worth running searches across more than one comparison site ‒ some may have access to better deals than others for your specific trip, for example, meaning you save a bit more money which can be spent on the holiday itself.
Some of these sites also allow you to compare deals for additional services. With SkyParkSecure you can also compare deals for airport lounges, Looking4Parking lets you shop for car hire deals, while Holiday Extras does both of those plus things like travel insurance.
Is airport parking cheaper the earlier you book?
As a general rule, the cost of parking at an airport is much cheaper if you book significantly in advance.
Stansted reckons that savings of as much as 68% are possible by booking your parking in advance, while other airports also trumpet similar savings. Birmingham Airport, for example, suggests that you can save 60% by pre-booking.
There is an important caveat to bear in mind, however. Flexibility is important when booking parking ‒ it’s all too easy for travel plans to change, should your flights be cancelled and rearranged for example. As a result it’s a good idea to check that wherever you book to park allows you to rejig your booking details without a charge.
How to cut the cost of airport parking
There are plenty of steps to follow if you want to reduce the cost of parking at the airport for your trip.
Start your research early
The first is to be proactive, and start researching prices early. Leaving it until the last minute means you will inevitably end up paying far more compared with booking in advance. So just as it’s a good idea to arrange your travel insurance as soon as you book your trip, you should also look at booking your parking arrangements.
Understand that convenience costs more
It’s also important to bear in mind that convenience comes at a premium. If you want to park close to the terminal, then chances are you will have to pay more for the privilege. However, by parking in an off-site car park you will likely reduce your costs. This obviously has to be balanced against the time you’ll have to spend waiting for a shuttle to transport you from the car park to the terminal, as well as the stress that could be involved if you’re travelling with many suitcases and small children.
Use comparison sites
Parking comparison sites are a great way to help you compare what you’ll pay for the different levels of parking service at your airport, while the fact that they may also have access to discounted rates mean they can save you even more cash and find the best package for your budget.
It could be cheaper to combine airport parking and a hotel stay
Bizarre as it sounds, it might actually work out cheaper to combine booking your parking space with a night in a hotel before your flight.
Seamus McCauley, head of communications at Holiday Extras, explains: “For example, the cheapest Birmingham Airport hotel with parking for a week included from 16th August is £75.65; the cheapest parking-only for the same week is £89.99. At Gatwick it's £100 vs £119, and even when the best price for a hotel is more than the cheapest parking it's often only a few pounds more - so before you book your extras make sure you’re not missing out on a deal.
Consider renting a residential space
It’s also a good idea to consider websites which allow you to rent the parking spaces and driveways of residents near to the airport. While you will need to find a way to get from the house to the terminal itself, these parking spaces can prove cheaper than the on-site or off-site parking at the airport itself.
Anthony Eskinazi, founder and CEO of JustPark, points out that with flights changing last minute, not everyone has the chance to book their parking ahead of time, which can mean they end up having to pay far more.
However, he adds: “JustPark doesn’t charge a premium for last minute bookings - so whether you’re booking weeks in advance, or you have a last minute change of plan - you’ll pay the very best price available.”
It’s also a good idea to check out voucher code websites when booking your parking. Our sister brand MyVoucherCodes has a collection of discount codes for parking which can help you cut the cost. What’s more, these codes aren’t just limited to booking through the airports themselves, but also if you book through comparison sites like SkyParkSecure and HolidayExtras.
What happens if I pre-book my airport parking but need to cancel?
This will all come down to where you’ve booked to park, as different airports employ different rules. As a result, you’ll need to check the terms and conditions for your specific airport parking provider. Many will allow you to change the date and time of your booking without charge, should you need to rearrange your trip.
At Gatwick for example, you need to cancel at least 24 hours before your booking starts in order to secure a full refund. However, at Manchester Airport you have until just one hour before your booking starts in order to cancel and get your money back.
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John Fitzsimons has been writing about finance since 2007, and is a former editor of Mortgage Solutions and loveMONEY. Since going freelance in 2016 he has written for publications including The Sunday Times, The Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Mail and Forbes, and is committed to helping readers make more informed decisions about their money.