Planning your Trip
Preparation is key before you fly, there's just so much to think about and remember!
It's a good idea to plan your trip carefully so that you are not rushing around the hour before you have to leave for the airport, so we have put together a little step by step guide to keep you ahead of the game.
Before You Leave for Gatwick Airport
The pre airport prep is the most important stage of your journey; you don't want to forget anything or miss your flight!
If you're super organised, you could start packing your bags about a week before you travel, making sure to include all your travel documents. That way you can think of things and pop them in your bag during the week, rather than having a headless chicken moment on the day of your flight. Even better still, write a list and pack from that!
Here are the most important things you should do before you leave:
Passport - You won't get very far without it! Be sure to check the expiry date of your passport, probably best to do so before you book your flight. You don't want to find out a week before you fly you need to make an emergency trip to a passport office to renew your passport. You can renew your passport at any time and any time left on your existing passport will be added to your new one up to a maximum of 9 months.
Boarding Passes and Check-In - Most airlines now allow and encourage you to check in online before you fly. This is great if you are travelling with just hand luggage as it means you can print off your boarding pass at home or have it stored electronically in your phone. Then you just have the security queue to get through when you arrive at the airport.
Luggage - As we know, there are restrictions on the size and weight of hand and cabin baggage, so check with your airline before your journey and weigh and measure your bag at home to make sure it will fit.
Banned items - There are various banned items you are not permitted to carry in your hand or cabin luggage. Hand luggage is now a lot stricter so visit our security page to double check. It's worth knowing that often gift wrapped presents may be opened by security or customs so you should avoid wrapping gifts before you travel.
Medicines - All medicines should be carried in their original packaging and you must also have your prescription with you. You should have enough medicine on your person in case it is difficult to get a prescription while abroad.
Dress - It's always best to travel in clothes that are comfy, especially is you have a long flight. Your best heels or suit may seem like a good idea at the time, but will that still be the case after a few hours of airport and flight life? Probably not...
Department of Health - If you want health advice for travelling abroad, in particular if you need any vaccinations before you go, visit the UK Department of Health website or speak to your local GP.
Getting to Gatwick Airport
There are plenty of ways to get to Gatwick airport, and you should be able to find out all you need to know on our transport pages. Here is a summary of a few things to remember:
- Plan out your route to get to the airport.
- Ensure you check the price of fuel at PetrolPrices.com to make the journey as cheap as possible.
- If you are being dropped off or dropping someone off you will find the short stay parking signposted from the motorway. It is then a short walk under a covered walkway.
- Book your long term airport parking in advance.
- Ideally you should book your taxi in advance to get the best deal.
- The taxi should drop you outside Gatwick Airport in the designated taxi drop off.
Train or coach:
- Check beforehand if there is any planned engineering works that could impact your journey.
- Make sure you have your tickets with you if you have pre-booked.
- Ensure the car hire allows one way drop offs.
- Check the vehicle for damage when you collect it and drop it off.
- Make sure the car hire company has a location at Gatwick airport.
You should leave plenty of time to get to the airport and plan for the worst; it's better to make the most of duty free for an extra hour than be the one running to your gate and having to do the walk of shame, feeling the burning glares from your fellow passengers. As a guide, check in opens at Gatwick Airport as follows:
Internal flights within the UK and Ireland: 2 hours prior to takeoff
Within Europe: 3 hours prior to takeoff
Outside of Europe (Long-haul): 4 hours prior to takeoff
Prepare for Security
Security can be a hassle at the airport, but you can make the process easier by preparing for it early. Start by making sure any liquids you carry through are in containers no larger than 100 ml and placing these in a clear plastic bag (you can only take one).
If you are taking any baby milk or food, be aware that you may be required to taste it. In addition, if you're transporting any medicines, make security aware. You may also require a doctor's authorisation for carrying your medication, so check with both your airline and the airport in advance.
Be aware of what you cannot take in your hand luggage, which includes sharp objects and tools, explosive devices, and anything that could be dangerous. There is a section on dangerous goods at the Civil Aviation Authority website, so check this before you go.
Store Important Info Online
One way to keep your important information safe and accessible wherever you go is to store it online. Scan your:
- Travel insurance documents
- Anything else you don't want to lose
You can then upload these to an online account like Google Drive or email them to yourself. That way, you can access the documents from anywhere where you have an internet connection. You could also leave photocopies with someone back home just in case.
Check Travel Conditions Well in Advance
If you have to travel to the airport by car, check the roads well in advance. For a long-haul flight, aim to arrive at the airport three hours in advance. But remember, if you break down on the way, or if there is a crash and you get held up, you could end up missing your flight if you don't arrive on time.
Travelling by train? Check the trains before you go and find out about any possible last-minute changes. Again, do yourself a favour and leave early.
If you have an early morning flight, the other option is to stay in a nearby hotel. There are plenty of hotels near to Gatwick Airport, and most of them can arrange to take you to the airport.
Get Your Holiday Money Before You Arrive
There are a number of places to get your travel money at Gatwick Airport, but it's always best to book it in advance because you can get better rates and zero commission this way.
Visit a number of websites and find out which has the best deal. Work out how much you would get in total, rather than just looking at the rates or the commission.
You may also want to take some travellers' cheques with you. These are not used much these days, but they can be a good emergency option because if you lose them, you can cancel them and pick up new ones all over the world.
Travelling Far? Give Yourself a Day to Relax
If you are going on a long flight, remember that jet lag can become an issue. You will be excited when you arrive, but give yourself a day to chill out and take it easy so you can fully adapt. And if you can get some sleep on the flight, even just a few minutes, this can sometimes help to reduce the effects of jet lag.