Pick a Cheap Journey not a Cheap Flight

London: one city, five (potentially six) airports.

If you want to optimise your holidays in terms of time and cost, analysing the outbound airport options is a good place to start. Each journey to the airport takes a different amount of time and has a different cost. Furthermore each have varying times for the ‘first train’.

So why spend your time doing this? It can be tempting to throw some dates and a destination into Skyscanner and quickly pick the cheapest flight. However the cheapest flight is not always the best deal. Why do I mean by this? Well the flight is just one part of a journey, back in the day it was by far the most expensive part but this is not always the case, with the journey to the airport being up to 50% of the cost, particularly on cut price airfares.

Hence I introduce my ultimate London Airport Analyser – Journey Time and Cost.

Firstly, highlights:

  • Many trains from Clapham Junction are faster and cheaper than the Gatwick Express.
  • Trains to Gatwick and Luton run all night.
  • The Heathrow Express offers the best time saving, the tube to Heathrow taking 47mins versus the Heathrow Express taking 15mins.
  • Always buy a ticket to ‘Luton Airport’ not ‘Luton’ or ‘Luton Aiport Parkway’, otherwise you have to buy an additional bus ticket to get to the airport.
  • Get your bearings: northern airports= Luton and Stanstead, southern airport= Gatwick, western= Heathrow, central= City, far away= Southend (so far!).

 

Airport Gatwick
Cheapest Practical Method National Rail from Victoria or Clapham Junction to Gatwick Airport.
Cost for the Cheapest Practical Method £11.10
Time for the Cheapest Method 25mins
From Clapham Junction to Gatwick, +8mins if from Waterloo.
Fastest Method 30mins
Gatwick Express Train from Victoria – NB faster if you can’t travel from Clapham Junction.
Price for the Fastest Method £19.90
At ticket office, cheaper online and in advance.
Earliest Train 01:12 Clapham Junction to Gatwick.
05:00 Gatwick Express from Victoria.
Top Tip Save money by getting a direct train from Clapham Junction which is as fast as the Gatwick Express but half the cost.
Pro 168 trains a day from Clapham Junction to Gatwick.

A quick, cheap journey.

Con Convenient only for those closer to the south of the river.

 

Airport Luton
Cheapest Practical Method Thameslink from St Pancras to Luton Airport Parkway, then airbus to Airport.
Cost for the Cheapest Practical Method £12.50
Time for the Cheapest Method 36mins
From St Pancras to Luton Airport.
Fastest Method As above.
Price for the Fastest Method As above.
Earliest Train 01:15 Train from St Pancras.
Top Tip Direct trains are 20mins, stopper trains can take almost an hour. Plan ahead to make this work.
When buying your train ticket buy it for ‘Luton Airport’ as this includes the bus fare from Luton Airport Parkway to Luton Airport, otherwise you pay extra for the bus.
Pro 204 trains a day from Kings Cross to Luton Airport Parkway.
Con You must get a bus from Luton Airport Parkway to Luton Airport.

 

Airport Stanstead
Cheapest Practical Method Stansted Express from Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport.
Cost for the Cheapest Practical Method £16.60
Time for the Cheapest Method 47mins
From Liverpool Street to Stanstead Airport.
Fastest Method As above.
Price for the Fastest Method As above.
Earliest Train 03:40 Stansted Express from Liverpool Street.
Top Tip Book return tickets, online and in advance to get the best deal.
I prefer catching the train at Tottenham Hale as it’s on the Victoria Line and less hectic than Liverpool Street, however harder to get a seat.
Pro Lots of cheaper carriers fly out of here.
Con A long journey.

 

Airport City
Cheapest Practical Method DRL from Bank or similar to London City Airport.
Cost for the Cheapest Practical Method £4.90
Time for the Cheapest Method 21min
From Bank Station to London City Airport.
Fastest Method As above.
Price for the Fastest Method As above.
Earliest Train 05:33 DRL from Bank.
Top Tip Ride at the front of the driverless DRL like a roller coaster.
Pro You will feel like a baller flying out of London City.
Con Mainly only short business flights and smaller aircraft.

 

Airport Heathrow
Cheapest Practical Method Tube from many central stations to Heathrow Airport.
Cost for the Cheapest Practical Method £6
Time for the Cheapest Method 47mins
From Green Park station to Heathrow Airport.
Fastest Method 15min
Heathrow Express from Paddington to Heathrow Airport.
Price for the Fastest Method £27
Bought on train, cheaper online and in advance.
Earliest Train 05:10 Heathrow Express from Paddington.
05:48 Tube from Green Park.
Top Tip Book online and in advance to save.
Pro Can make a good cost saving getting the tube if you have time.
Con Limited train and tube hours.

Note: All one way prices, all from London to airport. By most practical I mean not catching 3x buses. Also, cost and timing research undertaken 27/02/17.

It starts to become obvious that as a Southsider, Gatwick is my no.1. I fully acknowledge that the journey times stated above depend on your starting point.

Finding a better deal, an example:

How considering the ‘whole’ journey works; for example say you want to go from London to Rome (return), leaving Wednesday 22 March after work (after 5pm) and returning Sunday 26 March after 10am. Put this into skyscanner:

Boom cheapest flight £76 return with Ryanair. A steal right?

img_8057

However… flying from Stansted Airport, okay, so immediately you’ll need to add on a return ticket on the Stansted Express which is £26 if you book ahead online.
£76 + £26 = £102

With the train costing around 30% of the flight it becomes apparent the how transport to the airport is a worthwhile consideration. I already have a zone 1-3 travel pass on my Oyster (which I buy for work) therefore it is beneficial for me to use airports whose journeys are partly or wholly within the zone 1-3 Oyster catchment area: e.g. London City, Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.

For example I know it only costs £5.80 on my Oyster to get to Gatwick (£11.60 return). So perhaps I can find a flight leaving from Gatwick. *Applies filter to Skyscanner*  Boom this return flight is £80.
£80 + £11.60 = £92.60

That’s £10 cheaper than the ‘cheapest flight’. A £10 saving won’t make you rich but a quick google of train costs and using a Skyscanner filter isn’t a lot of work for a £10 saving. Furthermore, considering I’ve visited around 50 destinations in the last 1.5years, that could be a £500 saving AKA 2 or 3 more European weekend getaways!

Even if there was no cost saving or the cost to a convenient airport was more, time might be your key consideration. This is certainty the case for me, I have changed from buying the cheapest train and flight combos to the most time efficient. It all depends what is more important to you and the nature of the holiday; for weekend trips, timing is critical and you’ll be able to read about my favourite time saving tips for mini-breaks in my next post.

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