Choosing the destination is only part of the travel process. For most people, especially if travelling to far flung destinations, the flight will be a major cost of taking a holiday. It’s important therefore, to make the right decision, not just on airline, but where to fly out of. In a previous article we discussed how to save money on airport parking, and in this article we look at the top 5 airports in the UK and why you might want to choose them.
Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world and it must come first on our list. Every year, twice as many passengers fly through it than its nearest rival, Gatwick. Heathrow has flights going to every corner of the globe.
Located just outside London, Heathrow can easily be reached by rail. Those arriving into London by rail or bus can even take the Underground all the way out to its terminals. You can also travel by the Heathrow Express rail service, which is faster but expensive. Bus services also connect London with the airport, Victoria bus station has a coach which leaves every 30 minutes.
Short term parking at Heathrow is very costly (£8 for two hours), long term airport parking is plentiful but check current prices and booking policy before you leave. With all the airports here, good roads mean taking a taxi is easy. However, one road accident and you may find yourself very delayed. Always allow extra travel time, just in case.
The opening of Terminal 5 eased the overcrowding problem the airport had become infamous for. In all terminals there is a good selection of restaurants and bars. If you need to sleep near the airport there is a Holiday Inn 15 minutes drive away.
Next it must be Gatwick, located 30 miles outside the capital. As with Heathrow there are excellent connections with London at various costs. The most expensive, and fastest, method is the Gatwick Express rail service, costing near £30. The cheapest is to go by easyBus, which costs about £2. Gatwick Parking can be difficult, in the summer car parks are often full, so if you are choosing to park long-stay at the airport then you will need to book ahead.
Gatwick is divided into two terminals, North and South. Both have excellent facilities, including a wide range of shops, restaurants and bars. There are also entertainment facilities and hotels both on and off-site.
Unlike Heathrow and Gatwick, Stansted airport, our third choice, is a hub for budget airlines. The airport is low-cost operator Ryanair’s, main hub.
Flights out of Stansted tend to be early morning so you may find yourself travelling to the airport at night. Bus services to the airport from London’s main bus terminals run 24 hours a day. Travel to the airport is often delayed so plan two hours minimum. Trains, including the fast, Stansted Express also run to the airport from central London. If you choose to drive, the airport is well connected by the M11 and parking is plentiful.
Accommodation in Stansted and around the airport is expensive. Many budget travellers choose to spend the night on the floor of the airport. In summer around 400 people a night sleep in the terminal building!
While less busy than the London airports, Manchester Airport it is a wise choice for those living further north. With land travel costs so high in the UK, a significant amount of money can be saved by flying from an airport closer to home. Manchester Airport has won several awards, including being ranked the worlds best airport in 1995.
The airport is well connected to Manchester by road, rail and bus. Bus services run 24 hours from locations all over the city. There are several Manchester airport parking options, including long stay car parks at the airport, but for more reasonable rates park at one of the off-site locations, which are less than one mile away and connected with a shuttle bus.
The airport has a large number of shops, restaurants and bars and an excellent Radisson hotel for guests needing to spend a night.
The final choice takes us back to London. Luton Airport is located 35 miles north of the capital. It is an important hub for Europe and serves many low-cost operators.
With its own station, it is easy to reach Stansted by rail. Up to ten trains an hour leave from most of London’s major stations for the airport. As usual, bus travel is slower, but significantly cheaper. There are short term and long term car parks with plenty of space and shuttle buses link these to the terminal. As with all the airports mentioned here, Luton has excellent shops, restaurants and bars. Similarly to Stansted, people will often choose to sleep on the terminal floor rather than pay for expensive local hotels.
[photo credit @Flickr: dcmaster]
Is your preferred airport one not mentioned in this list? Why is it your favorite? Please share your knowledge with us and this post too if you think others might benefit from it!
Some of the links in this article might be making us some money, however we would not include them if we didn’t think they can benefit travelers.