The Ultimate Airport Parking Guide

Lady in an airport car park

If you’re planning on travelling abroad this summer the chances are you will be flying from one of the UK’s main airports, such as Manchester, Birmingham, London Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton or Edinburgh.

If this is the case, no doubt the flights are booked, accommodation sorted, maybe the holiday wardrobe has been taken care of and the last on the list, after travel insurance, will probably be airport parking, if you are planning to drive to the airport.

There are a few options to consider when booking your airport parking, but the first thing to decide is whether you actually need to drive to the airport. Most UK airports have decent transport links, with train operators such as Avanti West Coast and coach operators including National Express not only running regular services to the main UK airports but also offering some pretty good travel discounts to boot.

But if you live a short drive from the airport then it might be a better option to book a taxi, as the fare could work out cheaper than the airport parking charges. But if you’re a family or a group, have babies or young children, are carrying several suitcases and carry-on bags, have baby luggage, including a buggy or two, or taking sporting equipment, such as golf clubs, then it’s probably going to make sense to travel to the airport by car and book airport parking.

So, when is the best time to book your airport parking? What are the different kinds of airport parking and how do you know if your car will be safe? Our ultimate guide to airport parking will put you in the know and save you money.

Book your airport parking early

Airport parking prices can vary between the types of parking, the airport you are flying from and the month of the year (availability), so the golden rule is to book your airport parking early. Booking in advance should get you a much better price and generally the best advice is the earlier you book the better.

It is always the most expensive if you just turn up, park and pay, so book first, even if it’s just before you begin your journey to the airport.

Also, if you are booking in advance, it may be wise to add cancellation cover to ensure your booking can be cancelled or is flexible, just in case your situation changes.

Choosing the right airport parking option

On-airport parking

On-airport parking is parking in a car park which is located on the airport grounds. These are the airport operators’ own car parks and they are usually a short walk to the terminal, so they can be quick, easy and convenient, however, occasionally ‘off-site’ car parks could be closer to the terminal building, depending on the size of the airport.

On-airport parking is good for passengers with lots of luggage, business travellers and passengers short on time.

Park & Ride

Park and ride is where you park your vehicle in a car park outside of the airport grounds and catch a shuttle bus directly to the terminal. Also referred to as ‘off-site’ parking, park and ride is often the cheapest airport parking option, a little extra time will usually be added to your journey to the terminal, but the shuttle buses do run regularly. Some of the best park and ride car parks however are just as quick and convenient as on-site parking.

It is very important to check the estimated transfer time, the benefit of park and ride is usually a lower cost, but you will usually have to factor in extra travel time for the transfer. Don’t cut it too fine, especially during peak travel periods, you don’t want to leave too little time and miss your flight!

Park and ride is good for passengers looking for cheaper airport parking and passengers who can spend a bit more time getting to the airport terminal.

Meet and greet parking

Meet and greet parking or valet parking as it is sometimes known as is a great service, but it is usually the more expensive airport parking option. You simply drive to the terminal where you are met by a driver who you give your keys to, they then park your vehicle for you and when you return it is waiting at the terminal for you.

If you prefer complete convenience without the hassle of finding a space yourself, parking or catching a transfer bus, this is the best kind of airport parking, however the price will usually reflect this.

Meet and greet parking is good for families, passengers with lots of luggage, business travellers and passengers short on time.

Look out for the Park Mark Award

Make sure your car is in safe hands by looking out for the Park Mark Award. If a car park has Park Mark accreditation it shows the car park has taken measures to deter criminal activity and anti-social behaviour and has received expert consultation from Police assessors to help keep the security up to a high standard. This may include such things as perimeter fencing, security lighting, entry and exit barriers, CCTV and 24-hour staff.

That way you won’t come back to an unpleasant and costly surprise.

Know your rights if something goes wrong

It makes sense to book with a credit card and the Consumer Credit Act will offer some protection – but only for purchases over £100.

If you are thinking of booking meet and greet parking, there is usually some cover for any damage to your vehicle after you’ve handed over your keys. Although damage may be unlikely, it is still worth checking the parking company’s T & C’s before you book.

Unfortunately, as in life, things can go wrong and unexpected problems can arise. For your own peace of mind, it may be better for you to book with an established company with a reputation, than a totally unknown name.

Airport parking discounts from Health Service Discounts

We have negotiated some top airport parking discounts for health workers and NHS staff from the biggest names in airport parking, including;

Holiday Extras

Holiday Extras are the biggest name and have been providing airport parking since 1983. They offer a wide range of airport parking options and cover all the UK’s major airport.


Recently acquired by the Manchester Airport Group (MAG), Looking4Parking specialises in online airport parking price comparison as well as offering deals on private car, train, bus and other types of transfers to and from airports.


SkyParkSecure is one of the UK’s leading airport parking providers. Launched in 2001, initially as a single car park at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, they have also recently been acquired by the Manchester Airport Group (MAG).


APH has been providing airport parking, hotels, and lounges to UK travellers since 1980. Still family-owned, APH are the leading independent airport parking company in the UK, parking more than 300,000 customers’ cars every year and operating their own car parks at Manchester, Gatwick and Birmingham airports.

Purple Parking

Purple Parking is the UK’s largest off-airport car park operator and have held the “Park Mark” safer parking award ever since the scheme began in 1992. Purple Parking offers everything needed to park at the airport from Meet & Greet to Park & Ride and even specialist business parking.


BCP, formerly Better Choice Parking, is another of the UK’s leading airport parking operators. Established in 1978 with one car park at Gatwick Airport, they were bought by Holiday Extras in 2007.

Check if a hotel and airport parking package is a better choice

Many airport hotels offer room packages that also include parking for the length of your trip. This is great if you live a long way from the airport, or you have a very early flight. Some only cost a little more than the airport parking alone and sometimes they can even cost less.

Wherever you may be flying off to we hope you have a safe and enjoyable trip and happy airport parking.

Don’t forget! Membership to Health Service Discounts is free for all healthcare workers – both NHS and non-NHS. Sign up today by clicking the banner above.

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