By Marcel | Edited by Steve N Updated 28 Jul 2015
Airports can make more from parking and shopping than planes. Leave your car there while you're on holiday and it can cost a fortune.
In this guide
Do you need airport parking?
Even done right, airport parking can be pricey. The longer you're away the more it costs, so quickly weigh up alternatives. Aside from bribing a relative to drop you off with promises of duty-free goodies, it's often cheaper to:
Use non-specialist train services. Dedicated 'airport express' trains are costly. But the same lines are often used by normal rail services, so you can travel the same route more cheaply (it's likely there'll be extra stops). See Cheap Train Tickets .
Consider a pre-booked taxi. Local taxis can be cheaper if you've heavy luggage. Don't rely on getting a return taxi at the airport though. Airports can give a monopoly to one firm, bumping up prices as there's no competition. Book ahead with your local firm, giving your flight number so it can vary pick-up time, and it's often cheaper.
Get a coach. Dedicated airport coaches are often cheapest for getting to the airport, but there's a trade-off, since they usually take the longest. Book in advance and the savings can be huge. See National Express* and Megabus (which also serves Edinburgh and Birmingham International).
While alternative transport methods are cheaper, watch out if you usually park on the street using a residents' parking permit or equivalent. Sadly, if the parking bay your car is in is suspended, councils don't usually accept the excuse that you were on holiday and didn't check. If you're leaving your car at home, there are tips to help.
Check your council's website
Many councils have a part of their website that lists forthcoming roadworks and suspensions so it's always worth doing a quick check, and moving the car to somewhere unaffected if necessary.
Allow a trusted neighbour who has their own car insurance to move it for you
An obvious alternative is to give a trusted neighbour a key so they can keep an eye out and move the car for you. Yet it's worth considering the insurance position of this though.
If they have fully comprehensive insurance then often, though not always, it includes what’s called driving other cars cover. This provides them with third party cover in case there's an accident. Though always double-check your own insurer's terms.
Park in a council's special car park
Some councils operate special car parks where for about Ј5-Ј10 a day you can leave your car when you're on holiday to guarantee no fine. This is an ill-disguised money-making scheme which boosts council funds through the fear of parking penalties, but it may be a necessary evil for some - check with your local council.
Book early for max savings
For some, airport parking works out as an economical and hassle-free route, yet without a little prior thought you can end up paying substantially over the odds. There's a simple golden rule:
The earlier you book your airport parking, the more you're likely
Book well in advance and you could cut the cost by up to a third, though the exact saving depends on when and where you're booking. But even if you've forgotten to do this:
Don't just turn up at the airport - booking first, even on the day of your flight, can save you money
The most expensive prices are almost always for those people who just drive in, park and pay. If you get on the web and book first, even if it's just before you head out (or your partner does it from a smartphone in the car) you'll usually save. Some inspiration from the MSE forum:
Just got a brilliant deal using one of Martin's links for a four-day break. By parking in the short term parking, it's only costing just over 40 quid instead of Ј115! Granted we booked for the August bank holiday in March, but it goes to show there are bargains to be had by booking ahead.
Step 1: Check comparison sites with discounts
The easiest way to find cheap parking is by using one of the special comparison sites that search the web to find you the best deals. There are a number of these, but most of them tend to turn up similar results. However, due to commercial relationships some share with certain parking operators, it's possible to shave off a few percent of the cost here and there.
Top airport parking screenscrapers
Here are the best, plus see the standalone direct operators that can offer cheaper rates if you go direct. It's well worth trying a few to find which offers the best price for your needs. Of course, a bigger discount doesn't guarantee you'll get the best overall price, so ensure you try a few comparison sites before buying.
Extra 10%-30% off and no card fees
Holiday Extras* - the biggest of the sites
The biggest of the sites, Holiday Extras* has been running since 1983 and sells the whole range of major car parking options at each airport. Plus go via the link above and we've blagged an extra 10% off most car parks, as well as all airport hotels and lounges.
You'll also get 14% off all airport hotels, 15% off all lounges and 30% off four car parks, with no credit or debit card fees. This is a useful extra as it's usually 2% for credit cards (min Ј1, max Ј4), or for debit cards, 9p for parking or 26p for hotels.
Handily, you'll also get free text confirmation (usually 59p). The offer's currently scheduled as ongoing, but won't work for most airport-owned car parks. It won't always have the cheapest price, so check the others below too.
Offers an extra 13%-30% off
If you book via this SkyParkSecure* link, we've blagged 15% off most airport parking and no booking fee. Plus you'll also get 22% off 31 selected car parks, and 30% off at Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Doncaster and Birmingham airports. The discount's currently scheduled as ongoing, and is valid at 148 out of 200 car parks overall.