Until I moved to Norfolk late last year, my regular trips to Heathrow Airport for my frequent flights to Germany involved an easy bus ride from Harrow, where I was pleased to mix with fellow travellers on the 140 bus to Terminal Two. But now the trip to Heathrow, combined with London business meetings, mean that I need to use my car for the trip to Heathrow - and for the first time for years I have to explore the options for parking the car for the few days I am abroad.
A choice of services
As befits the busiest airport in the world, public transport to and from the airport is reliable and frequent with a choice of trains, coaches, Heathrow Express from Paddington Station, taxis and car hire. In my research I found very quickly, that the choice of airport car parks is no less comprehensive, with over 25 companies offering off-airport facilities, in addition to the main on-airport car parks operated by BAA (British Airport Authority). For me, in the end, it was easy to choose, in the recently-refurbished Q-Park London Heathrow, a completely re-vamped and redesigned secure off-airport car park at reasonable rates and handy for Terminal Two, situated just off the A4, five minutes from the tunnel. For the first-timer, the site offered quick and simple and easy access and exit routes, with clear directional signposts from the main road.
Meet and Greet at Heathrow
Additionally though, amongst the other car parks which caught my attention, was the one operated by a company called Chauffeured Parking Services Limited who offer a special Meet and Greet service where uniformed drivers can meet your on arrival, and on clearance of customs on your return, to take care of your car, parking it for you and returning it to you at the terminal to save time. This additional convenience comes at a premium of course - as an example, parking for one week in July costs £98.00 inclusive of chauffeured assistance.
Money Saving Ideas
However, when saving money is important - and it is to me as a regular traveller - then it pays to shop around. As an example of the kind of costs which are involved in “drive up and pay" facilities, short stay parking (recommended for stays up to five hours), available from all four terminals has prices which start from £2.30 for up to 30 minutes, but can cost £44.50 per 24 hour period.
Business parking for travellers who need parking for up to three or four days, or those wanting greater speed and convenience is available in Business car parks situated closer to the terminals than long stay. They also operate a more frequent courtesy coach transfer. These are suitable for leisure or business parking and are available from all four terminals. But again, prices range from £21.50 - £26.50 per day.
Far more manageable costs are to be had simply by planning ahead and booking a selected car park in advance. Additionally, by using one of the many 25+ car parking organisations with off-airport facilities nearby to all terminals, savings of up to 60% can be found. Amongst these for example, is Purple Parking Heathrow with 1 week rates in July for £39.00, with its regular courtesy bus service to the airport - and Meet and Greet facilities at additional costs if required, or Park 4 Less, which, although not practical for Terminal 4, is an equally low cost plan at £39.95 for the same period. For me, the higher 1 week July cost of £54.95 is justified by the fine new facilities offered at Q-Park, with the additional security of its Park Mark award, and the fact that this car park is the nearest off-airport car park to the airport.
Book ahead for best deals and for guaranteed space
Thus, my change of circumstances really opened up a new world of understanding of what Heathrow Airport parking has become - a competitive, wide-ranging set of services both off-airport and on-airport and with varying costs and conditions. The overall message though is very clear - it pays to research and understand what the various booking agents and online comparison websites are now able to do: they ensure that the costs of parking at Heathrow remain manageable and in keeping with individual needs. Certainly, airport parking can be booked on the day, but to pre-book means more economical rates and the security of having a guaranteed parking space, in good time for flight departure and with the level of assistance you prefer.
Jimi St. Pierre writes for several Travel Companies in the UK, including Country Connect , the publisher of a daily news feed to the UK travel industry via the Virgin Media Traveleye extranet. A useful website for a range of Heathrow car parks is Heathrow Airport Parking Discounts as well as other UK airports at Holiday Parking UK