Will you be visiting Gatwick for business or pleasure? Well, according to the airport’s own data, it’s more likely to be the latter. When it comes to London airports, Gatwick is firmly the holiday maker’s choice with 84% of its yearly 45 million passengers passing through the airport’s revolving doors on their way to a leisure break. This goes some way to explaining how relaxed Gatwick feels compared to its west London neighbour – although its size probably helps here too. It may be the UK’s second largest airport, but Gatwick has only two terminals compared to Heathrow’s five, making it much easier to get around. Rest assured though, Gatwick’s still packed with facilities for you to enjoy, whatever brings you here. And with five Premier Inn hotels near Gatwick that surround the airport on all sides, you’ll be able to enjoy a great night’s sleep in one of our super-comfy beds, no matter which direction you’re heading from or to.
Gatwick has two terminals called North and South. North is the newest and smallest, opening in 1988 and taking up 98,000 square metres. South Terminal (where you’ll also find the train station) opened way back in 1958 and is considerably larger, taking up 160,000 square metres. Travelling between them takes two minutes on the free airport shuttle train, and both have a great range of shops and restaurants. Just make sure you don’t get so carried away you miss your flight. Gatwick is a silent airport, meaning there are no announcements telling you when your flight is boarding!
What better way to kill some time before your flight than by spending your holiday money? Grab some designer sunnies at Ray Ban or Sunglasses Hut, get some on-trend flip flops at Havaianas or stock up on holiday pampering treats at Jo Malone. Don’t miss the Harrods outlet here, which stocks British heritage brands like Paul Smith and Hackett, plus luxurious dresses, handbags and scarves from the likes of DKNY, Michael Kors and M Missoni.
Best places to eat and drink
Try the Comptoir Libanais for Lebanese canteen food (it’s a bit like a Middle Eastern version of Carluccio’s). Or head for the buzzy, industrial-looking Jamie’s Italian for fresh pasta, made on the premises. Go to Jamie’s Union Jack bar for a cocktail or beer, or you could treat yourself to a stay in one of Gatwick’s fantastic airport lounges. With prices from £30, you can enjoy free Wi-Fi, graze on snacks and pour yourself all the pre-flight liveners you can drink.
Gatwick is the first Family Friendly accredited airport and it goes out of its way to make travelling with kids stress free. There are family lanes at security as well as baby change facilities and feeding rooms. There’s a small kids’ zone near Boots or, if you have 20 minutes to kill and fancy a walk, follow the signs for Gates 101 to 113. You’ll walk along Pier 6 - a glass-fronted bridge raised so high that planes taxi underneath it.
You can ask for help at special assistance help points, which you’ll find on the terminal forecourt, short-stay car parks and on some routes within the terminals where there are long walking distances. There are reserved seats for people who find standing difficult and Blue Badge bays in both the long and short stay car parks. For short stay parking that avoids lifts or stairs, use level three of car park five.
South Terminal’s a treat for shoppers, with high- street favourites Zara, Next, JD Sports and Superdry all having outlets here. There’s also Victoria’s Secret which is great for lingerie – for yourself or as a gift for someone special. If your break sees you hitting the slopes or doing some outdoor adventure, Snow and Rock is great for picking up some last-minute essentials, such as hats, fleeces and ski goggles.
Best places to eat and drink
All the usual suspects are here, like Costa, Giraffe and Nando’s. For drinks, the Wetherspoons Flying Horse (a nod to Gatwick’s past life as a racecourse) is best in terms of value. For something more special, try the WonderTree restaurant. Jugs of sangria to share, lovely décor plus it’s run by Giraffe so expect a wide variety of tasty food to choose from. They promise to serve all meals within 15 minutes, so you won’t miss your flight, either.
There’s a soft play area upstairs in the food court which has a TV screen and plenty of space for the kids to play while mum and dad relax with a cuppa. If you’ve got a lot of time to kill, why not try booking into an airport lounge? Many offer free Wi-Fi, board games and even table football. Expect to pay around £30 per adult and less for children, but if you’ve forgotten to bring snacks, it could work out as good value.
If you need special assistance, look out for help points at the train station, arrivals and on the terminal forecourt. Assistance is free, but the last place you can ask for it is in the South Terminal’s departure lounge. After that, you’re on your own and walking distances to the gate can be long – a 10-minute walk to the furthest. Blue Badge parking is available – choose level two of car park three in the short stay to access the airport with no lifts or stairs.
Some 28 miles south of London, Gatwick Airport’s easy to get to with lots of travel options at your disposal. But if you’ve got a morning flight to catch, why not save yourself the stupid o’clock alarm call? Get your holiday off to the best possible start by booking into one of the Premier Inn hotels near Gatwick Airport. That way, on the day of your departure you can just stroll to the airport after a leisurely breakfast.
Gatwick’s well-connected to anywhere in the UK, as it’s just 10 minutes from the M25, on the M23. Both North and South Terminals and the various car parks are all well-signposted. You can’t park closer than the official airport car parks, which have both short and long-stay parking options, as well as valet parking. A great idea, especially if you have an early morning flight, is to book into a Premier Inn near Gatwick Airport.
Both easyBus and National Express coaches offer good services from Gatwick. If you’re coming from London, catch the easyBus from Earls Court/West Brompton, London Waterloo and London Victoria to both North or South Terminals. UK bus operator National Express operate direct services from London, Brighton, Heathrow and Birmingham and even as far afield as Bradford and Swansea to both North and South Terminals. Local buses drop off at the lower South Terminal forecourt.
The quickest train is the non-stop Gatwick Express which will take you to the airport from London Victoria in 30 minutes with a train departing every 15 minutes. You can also get trains from Brighton, Reading, Southampton and St Pancras, as well as other stations all over the UK direct to Gatwick airport. All trains bring you into the railway station at the South Terminal. If your flight’s departing from the North Terminal, just jump on the free airport shuttle train from here.
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