Over the years, well since 92, I have used most means of transportation to get to the airport. Coach, train, taxi and my own car. I always return to using my own car mainly as I prefer the flexibility and being in control (well, I imagine I am). One negative point in using your own car is finding somewhere to leave it when you get to the airport and one that does not break the bank.
Premium Onsite Parking or Valet Parking.
Normally, you leave you car with an attendant at the terminal and they park it for you. When you return, your car will be waiting for you at a bay close to the terminal. Whilst this would be most travellers preferred method of parking, it normally comes at a premium. A good example of valet parking would be Heathrow Valet Parking at Heathrow Terminal 2, 3, 4 & 5.
Off Airport Parking.
With off airport parking, you drive your car to a car park away from the airport, catch the parking providers bus to the terminal. When you return, you get on the bus at the terminal and go to the car park. Whilst this method is normally the cheapest, it does add additional time to your journey and if you are running late, you do not want to be sat in a parking providers bus waiting for it to leave for the terminal or go one a tour of all the other terminals in the airport before it arrives at yours. This is my least favourite parking method, as you normally have to allow 30 – 60 minutes on to your journey. All airports will have some form of off airport parking.
Meet and Greet.
Meet and Greet combines the best of the above. You call the parking provider when you are 20 minutes away from the airport, they then dispatch a driver to your terminals ‘meet and greet’ collection area. The driver will inspect your car and note any damage, confirm your return details and take your car to off airport parking. When you return, you call the parking provider when you have collected you baggage and they will dispatch a driver with your car to the ‘meet and greet’ collection area. You then make your way to this area to meet your drive and car. Give your car a once over then head off home. Occasional you may need to wait a few minutes for your driver to turn up. Most airports will have meet and greet parking, including London Heathrow and Gatwick.
Whatever parking solution you go with ….
- Make sure the company is insured and has a secure parking area. The parking providers website should provide details.
- Take a few photos of your car before handing it over and a photo of the current mileage (maybe I am paranoid).
- If your driver is not at the airport waiting for you, call the parking provider to chase.
- When dropping off your car, make sure the drive has company ID and has the details of your reservation.
- When receiving your car, make sure it is as you dropped it off and the increase in mileage is as expected. If you are not happy, escalate there and then.
I have used all of the above parking methods and have never had any problems. Meet and greet is still my preference.