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Summer holiday essentials: airport hotels and parking

Everything you need to know, every day this week

The Sofitel offers easy access to Gatwick's North Terminal
The Sofitel offers easy access to Gatwick's North Terminal

One reason speculators invest in airport hotels is to capitalise on delays and disruption. But to boost occupancy, proprietors offer good deals for travellers with early flights.

Location is very important. At the UK’s main holiday airport, Gatwick, the ideal hotel for North Terminal is the Sofitel (sofitel.com), and for the South Terminal it is Bloc (blochotels.com/gatwick), located just before the security gate with pod-style rooms in a variety of categories, including for families. There’s also a branch of Yotel located close to arrivals (yotel.com). Stansted’s Radisson Blu is a short walk from check-in (radissonblu.com).

You will pay a premium to stay at these properties compared with “off airport” locations. But crafty travellers could try the Arora in Crawley, which is right next to a railway station with four trains an hour to Gatwick, taking eight minutes to South Terminal (gatwick.arorahotels.com). The Ibis at Luton is a 10-minute walk from the airport (ibis.com).

Hotels in the Heathrow area have no conventional shuttle buses, but a “Heathrow Hoppa” that runs as infrequently as once an hour and charges £4.50 for the privilege (nationalexpress.com); if you are flying from Terminal 5, the Sofitel is by far the best bet.

Holidayextras.co.uk is a good source of airport hotel bargains, especially the “Mystery Hotel” feature. Familiar hotel brands protect their core revenue by selling some rooms through intermediaries who undertake not to name them until the booking is made. Next week, for example, you could find yourself staying at “A four-star hotel linked to Gatwick’s North Terminal” for £95 per double room only, compared to £120 at the Sofitel North Terminal.

The website also includes parking-inclusive accommodation packages. Parking is a very strong incentive, because many hotels will throw in a week or two when you take a room before or after your flight. For example, book a night at the Holiday Inn near Edinburgh airport next week and you’ll get a week’s parking included for £159. The hotel has a pool and two restaurants and is around a three-minute transfer (with shuttles running every 10 minutes) from the airport.

Parking could be a boon at airports such as Gatwick, which is currently operating a revised train timetable, with fewer services running to the Sussex airport as a result of an ongoing industrial dispute between parent firm Govia Thameslink and the RMT union. Recently, services have been subject to frequent delays and cancellations.

Finally, always book parking in advance and shop around on price comparison sites before committing to booking. It’s also worth checking transfer times to the terminal, security and cancellation policies.

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