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Parking at Stansted
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8.6out of 10
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Located in the county of Essex just 35 miles (56 kilometres) from central London, Stansted (STN) is the UK's fourth busiest airport, serving more than 24 million passengers per year. Only London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester experience higher levels of traffic.
The airport serves more than 170 destinations around the world and 21 different airlines currently operate there. It has earned a reputation as the UK's hub of low-cost flights and it is the largest UK base for budget airline, Ryanair.
Offering scheduled flights to more European destinations than any other UK airport, as well as flights to North Africa and Central and North America, Stansted has one main passenger terminal and three connected satellites where the departure gates are located.
Stansted Airport is located just off the M11 motorway in between the villages of Stansted Mountfitchet and Bamber's Green, close to the market town of Bishop's Stortford.
Visitors travelling by car can leave the M11 at Junction 8A if approaching from the south or Junction 8 if travelling from the north - then follow the signs to the main terminal building. The journey by car takes just over an hour from central London, around two hours from Birmingham and around three hours from Leeds.
National Express bus services operate directly to and from STN, providing links to all major UK cities and airports, while local buses serve the nearby towns of Southend, Basildon, Braintree, Harlow and Chelmsford.
The airport's rail services to and from central London are frequent, with four trains each hour in both directions.
Originally created as a bomber airfield and maintenance depot by the Royal Air Force in 1943, London Stansted Airport has evolved to become a fully modernised passenger facility. The first terminal building opened in 1969 as the British government sought to ease the pressure on Heathrow and Gatwick airports - the current terminal building was opened in 1991.
The terminal's design, created by architect, Norman Foster, features a floating roof supported by inverted pyramid trusses that give the impression of swans in flight. It was awarded the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 1990.
The main terminal building at STN is a bright, airy, spacious environment and the airport contains everything you need for a comfortable travel experience. The open-plan design of the terminal's interior and the ample seating areas make it easier to find a quiet space of your own in which to wait for your flight.
If you need extra privacy, you can upgrade to wait in Stansted's Escape Lounge or hire a meeting room. There are food and drink options ranging from luxurious champagne bars to cheap pubs and tasty burger joints. Facilities at Stansted include:
Stansted Airport offers an official 'Meet and Greet' service, whereby you arrive at a location close to the check-in desks, hand over your keys at the office opposite the red short-stay car park and let the airport's team park your car in a secure location at an official car park. The service is available to Blue Badge holders, although not to motorcycles. Other parking providers also offer 'Meet and Greet' services.
Travellers can park and ride using the JetParks car park at Stansted, which is located a short 15-minute shuttle bus journey away from the terminal. It is typically the cheapest parking option at STN since, unlike Meet and Greet, you’re required to find your own space, but the park is secure, well-lit and easy to navigate for you to find your vehicle upon your return, even if you land in the middle of the night.
Various external providers offer long-stay parking a short distance from London Stansted, but the most popular is the airport's official long-stay car park, which is on the airport grounds around eight minutes from check-in via the transfer bus that runs every 15 minutes. High and oversized vehicles and vehicles with trailers can park in long-stay Zone Q.
The official short-stay car park is a two-minute walk from check-in. Other providers also offer short-stay parking, such as CSL Car Storage, which is 1.2 miles away, and Pink Elephant Park and Refresh, which is at the Hilton Hotel around five minutes away.
The official STN mid-stay car park runs a shuttle bus service every 10 minutes and takes around five minutes to get from the car park to check-in. The car park has a height restriction of 3.5 metres (11' 6), making it unsuitable for Transit-type vans.
STN has a number of two-, three- and four-star hotels. The closest to the check-in is the Radisson Blu, which is connected to the terminal building by a covered walkway and features two restaurants, themed bedrooms and a swimming pool.
The Ramada Jarvis offers three-star accommodation with airport transfers included in the price. The transfers run every 15 minutes and take around 10 minutes and you can add long-stay parking to your booking at additional cost.
The cheapest hotel endorsed by the airport is the Days Inn. Transfer from the Days Inn to airport check-in is by taxi and long-stay parking can be added to your booking for an additional cost, too.
You can find cheaper two-star accommodation at the Travelodge Stansted, where you can book a room with free parking included. However, the parking facilities at the hotel are limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Moreover, you can only park at the hotel for the time that you are staying there.
If you arrive at Stansted in the morning with a hunger that can’t wait to be satiated, there are plenty of options available at the eateries within the terminal building. However, if your appetite can only be satisfied by a buffet, you can head to the Radisson Blu Hotel where a 'Super Breakfast Buffet' is available from 4am to 10:30am on weekdays and 6:30am to 11am on weekends and bank holidays (as of April 2017).
The hotel's Filini restaurant serves up a fine spread of eggs, meats, cheese, pastries, fruit, cereal and yoghurt every day, so you can fill up to your heart's content.
Shopping is the most popular pastime among passengers waiting at London Stansted, but you can beat the queues by taking advantage of the ‘reserve and collect’ service offered by Dixons and pick up those headphones you need for your holiday or a new accessory for your laptop.
If you're travelling with children, a picnic can be a great way to spend some time while you wait for your flight and with M&S Simply Food located inside the terminal building this is more than doable at STN. The shop is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you can pick up everything from sandwiches and deli items to snacks and fresh fruit and veg. If the weather is nice, there is seating outside the terminal where you can sit and enjoy your food, but there is also plenty of space indoors if not.
With four hours of free WiFi available to everyone departing from (or arriving at) Stansted, the airport is a good place to get online and sort out any last-minute emails or catch up on work or news before your flight.
Should you need more than four hours of connectivity, you can pay for 24 hours of WiFi. If you've got work to do and you want a coffee while you log on, Starbucks, Costa, Est Presso and Pret a Manger are all in the terminal building ready to deliver your caffeine fix.
Want to look and feel your very best when you arrive at your destination? Then you could pay a visit to Cloud Spa at Stansted Airport and indulge in one of the nail, brow or lash treatments available there.
Qualified technicians at Cloud Spa can carry out gel manicures that dry instantly and take as little as 15 minutes to carry out, so even if you're in a hurry, you can pamper yourself before you fly. There are nail treatments available for kids, too, as well as filing and cuticle treatments for any member of the family.
Perhaps you need to wind down a bit before continuing on your way. Luckily, Cloud Spa also offers massage treatments to help you relax. You can enjoy a back, neck and shoulder massage for as little as £1 per minute, or go a step further and have a full-body massage for up to an hour.
Between 4am and 8:30pm, the Stansted Airport Escape Lounge provides a place for travellers to relax away from the crowds. While you do have to pay to access it, the Escape Lounge offers unlimited WiFi, a complimentary buffet and bar, personal service from airport staff and a range of newspapers and magazines.
Central London is just over an hour away from STN either by car or by train. If you're going to be waiting at Stansted for a few hours, it is well worth making a trip into the capital.
Of course, London is huge and can offer pretty much anything you might want to find in a modern city, but one of the best ways to experience it is to buy a London Pass, which enables you to access more than 60 tours and attractions. The pass includes access to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, London Zoo, Windsor Castle and many other famous London attractions.
Even without a London Pass, the city is great fun to explore and you could just hop on the underground and visit some iconic landmarks. You can buy a travelcard for zones 1-4, or just use your contactless payment card to get moving and enjoy the sights.
If you're at Stansted between the months of May and October and you're feeling hungry, head west along the A120 to Cammas Hall Farm in Bishop's Stortford. Just 12 minutes' drive from the airport, the farm sells local produce but you can also pick your own fruit when it is in season.
It's free entry so you only pay for any fruit you pick or any delicious treats you order in the coffee shop, and there is a maze at the back of the farm that is great for letting children burn off some energy before a flight.
Sat nav instructions: Cammas Hall Farm, Needham Green, Hatfield Broad Oak CM22 7JT
The well-preserved medieval market town of Saffron Walden is home to many historic attractions and fun things to do. It is just over 12 miles away from Stansted Airport, so if you've got a bit of time to spare before your flight, it is well within reach.
As well as the Jacobian mansion, Audley End House and Gardens, and the Audley End Miniature Railway, Saffron Walden boasts a unique heritage of mazes.
The turf maze, also known as the Labyrinth, on Saffron Walden Common is the largest of its type in the world and one of only eight of its kind in England. While the turf maze will appeal to history buffs, the hedge maze at Bridge End is one for all the family, with over 1,000 yews gathered to create a complex structure that will keep the kids happily hiding and seeking for as long as you let them.
Sat nav instructions: Bridge End Gardens, 17-23 Castle St, Saffron Walden CB10
Records show that a school of some distinction has stood on the site of Cambridge University for over 800 years and you can visit this famous institution by travelling for just 40 minutes from London Stansted.
Travel north by car along the M11 or hop on a train to reach the university, which has nine museums and collections open to the public throughout the year. The college chapels are open to the public at select times and most of the colleges are open for visits (sometimes charging a small fee for visitors).
The university's grounds are historic and contain some fascinating buildings that offer an insight into how life for scholars, staff and students has evolved over the centuries.
Sat nav instructions: Cambridge Visitor Information Centre, The Guildhall, Peas Hill CB2 3AD
To the east of Stansted Airport, just 5.4 miles (8.7 kilometres) away is the long-standing market town of Great Dunmow, where you can explore a bustling high street of shops and pubs. The town was given permission to hold a market by Henry III and the tradition continues to thrive, with a market containing around 30 stalls held each Tuesday. Even if you've only got an hour to spare before arriving at the airport, you could pay a visit to Great Dunmow and get a flavour of a historic Essex town.
Stansted only has one terminal, so you can follow signs directly to the airport when you arrive. There are passenger satellites for different gates, but you will be directed to these once you are inside and transported via Stansted's Airport Track Transit System.
STN is a hub for Ryanair and a busy port for other budget airlines such as easyjet and Jet2.com. British Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines also operate frequent international services from the main terminal.
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The postcode for London Stansted Airport is CM24 1RW. If you are travelling from the north, you will turn off the M11 motorway at Junction 8, while visitors from the south will use junction 8A. The drive-time from central London is around 60-75 minutes.
Stansted Airport benefits from having a dedicated train station, which is connected to London by the Stansted Express service and to stations throughout the Midlands by Virgin Trains. The Express runs every 15 minutes and takes just 47 minutes from London Liverpool Street station, or 36 minutes from Tottenham Hale station, while Virgin Trains operates services connecting Stansted with cities including Birmingham, Leicester and Norwich.
StanstedExpress.com has offers for families, while TheTrainLine.com tends to be the best place to find cheap train tickets for getting to Stansted from anywhere outside of London.
National Express offers buses to Stansted Airport from all over the country and the ticket prices are often cheaper than travelling by train.
If you are travelling to STN from London, easyBus runs services from Baker Street and Old Street with journey times of around an hour and cheaper tickets for early bookings.
Stansted Airport is a sizeable place and you might need to walk for a good few minutes to get from the entrance to your gate. Make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and walking onwards to your gate. If you don't, you might hear your name being called over the announcement system because you're holding up your flight.
Just behind Pret a Manger in Stansted's main building is an area of seating that tends to be quieter than the rest. Head over there if you want to read a book in peace or even have a nap!
If you're travelling on a budget and need to spend the night at Stansted before an early flight, you might decide to get some sleep at the terminal building – and you'll find that you're not alone.
It's quite common to see passengers getting their heads down at Stansted, either in the seating areas or stretching out on the floor with a travel pillow. The trick is, don't be shy! No one will disturb you, but make sure your valuables are safe just in case.
If you're dropping someone off at STN or picking someone up from arrivals, you don't necessarily need to pay to park your car. You can utilise the free set-down area in the mid-stay car park to drop people off and they can then hop on a free shuttle bus to the airport.
The free set-down area is located at CM22 6PU and you'll save yourself the fee that is charged at the airport's own express set-down area. If you're picking someone up from arrivals, you can wait for free at the nearby Birchanger Green Services and set off as soon as you get a call from them.
Stansted tends to be busier in the mornings, so if your flight time is early you might want to leave yourself extra time. The airport has expanded its queue management system to provide additional resource during peak times, but it can still take up to an hour or more to get through security on really busy days. Typically, you will be able to pass through in around 10-15 minutes, but if you're concerned about your wait-time, you might want to upgrade to Fast Track.
Stansted is a hub for lots of low-cost airlines offering short-haul flights and the check-in for a flight to a destination within Europe typically closes around 40 minutes before your departure time.
However, it is strongly recommended that you check your ticket and airline documentation and give yourself plenty of time. Arriving at Stansted around two hours before your departure time is usually adequate.
While STN has plenty of places from which to buy food, there are no rules against bringing your own food to the airport and you will be able to take your edible goods through security – just not your drinks. As such, don't bring any liquids that you won't finish or would be sorry to have to throw in the bin. You can always buy something to drink once you have passed through security.
Yes, the main terminal building and many of the food and drink outlets inside are open around the clock, every day of the week.
Thanks to the £80 million investment that went into improvements at Stansted in 2015, the airport does now have mobile phone charging points, so you can top up your battery level before you fly.
There are several cash points located in the main terminal building at Stansted, both before and after security. You can find four in the check-in area, four in the departures lounge and two in the international arrivals area. What’s more, the machines won't charge you for using them.
There are designated smoking areas outside the main terminal building, but Stansted Airport is subject to the same British law that bans smoking in enclosed public spaces everywhere in the country. This also applies to electronic cigarettes.
If you have items that you don't want to take with you on your trip, you can use the airport's left luggage facility. Head to the services desk at the international arrivals concourse and a team member from Luggage Point will safely store your luggage for you at a cost per item. It generally costs more for larger items.