We used Courtlands Parking at Heathrow. We left our 4 year old estate car for a week at their site. The car had a few minor scratches and chips but no other damage. We returned to find the front offside badly scraped with broken trim and discovered on the road home that there is now a problem with the braking that did not previously exist. Courtlands denied that the damage occurred on their premises and pointed out the cross-hatched representation on their 'assessment of the car' form. This might have been acceptable if the survey had been conducted while we were present. We wasted time having photographs taken of the damage and filling in a claim form. Within 48 hours Courtlands refusal to accept our claim arrived.Be aware - take photos of your vehicle with a witness present - this firm is not trustworthy.M Phillips
I love to travel but I hate most of the fuss associated with going places. Packing is my number one hate but second to that is finding decent car parks that don't break the bank. Whilst flying can be ridiculously cheap these days, parking seems to get more expensive every year. Over the Christmas break, I needed a car park but I'd put off booking until only a couple of days before I went. Normally I book weeks or even months in advance but this time Christmas got the better of me and I was expecting to pay the price for my lethargy.
I've had some bad Heathrow parking experiences a break in at one hotel, rats eating my brake cables at another so I'm wary these days and when I find a car park I trust, I want to stick with it and to recommend it to other people.
There are oodles of airport parking search engines available these days - most of them offering more or less the same prices for each car park, but many of them not offering all the car parks at any one time. I generally use abcholidayextras.co.uk or basically any of the first half dozen thrown up with a google search.
~ Things to consider when choosing a car park ~
1. Do you also want accommodation? - this is a great idea if you have a really early flight. If you book early enough, you can get deals where a hotel room and 2 weeks parking needn't cost you more than the parking alone. But book early and bear in mind that the hotels don't always employ the most stringent security principles. On a number of occasions at Heathrow I've exited my allegedly secure car park to find that the barriers were up and any idiot could have driven out with a stolen car, at will.
2. Are you likely to be tight for time? during rush hour in the morning and evening in particular, what looks on paper like a 10-20 minute transfer time could take you an hour. How often does the car park run a shuttle service? If you are the type who likes to turn up 6 hours before your flight 'just in case' or because you really love duty free shopping, feel free to book a more distant car park. Or alternatively if you are flying at a time when the traffic is likely to be light, that should be fine too.
3. Are you willing to book with cowboys? - we once booked a real fly-by-night car park at Gatwick run by a bunch of tattoo encrusted skin heads who worked with only a mobile phone contact number. We were nervous throughout our holiday and not convinced the car would still be there when we got back.
4. Do you mind if the car park operators move your car? - me, I couldn't give a wotsit if they drive it off and park it in a field for a fortnight so long as it's there when I get back. To be honest they can rent it out to a visiting tourist and so long as they fill the tank I probably won't notice. But lots of people don't want someone else retuning the radio or moving their seat position. If you are one of those, you'll probably not want to use the car park I'm about to recommend.
5. Do you want a valet pick up / drop service? You do? Sounds like you are on expenses. I've never done it, never seen the need, but there are times (i.e. when someone else is paying) that you might be willing to pay well over the odds to stop outside the terminal, jump out and let someone drive off with your car. Sounds like luxury to me.
6. How long do you need to park? - be aware some of the car parks have minimum stay requirements that can catch you out if you are only going for a short period.
7. Which terminal will you fly from? - not all car parks run shuttles to Terminal Four. You don't want to find this out WHEN you arrive.
8. Do they do transfers 24 hours per day? - sounds crazy but not all car parks will take you to or from the terminals when you need them to.
9. Do you hate to plan anything in advance? - you'll be the one who turns up on the day, parks in the NCP and pays the full-rate. It's your life, it's your choice - me, I'll be advance booking and saving money for a few coloured drinks with umbrellas in instead.
~ Why choose Courtlands? ~
For me, finding Courtlands was a lucky fluke. I searched three different sites and they came up cheapest but I'd never heard of them. Then when I checked the directions for the car park I realised that this was an address I already knew and was the reincarnation of my long-held favourite car park.
~ Yep, it's sad but true, I have favourite car parks ~
The Courtlands business is based at what used to be called the ACP car park - that stood for Airways Cranford Parking. It's based on Bath Road, about half a mile from all the big hotels. I used this car park for years when I lived in Suffolk and I needed to use Heathrow a lot for work. Earlier this year I discovered that ACP had moved - a long trek out to Hillingdon to a monster site just over a humped back bridge in the middle of nowhere in particular. I wondered who had their old site and luck would have it, it was Courtlands.
You might be wondering why I've always liked this site. Firstly it's easy to find, secondly it's near to the airport, thirdly they always had lots and lots of shuttle buses and I never had to wait long. And finally, nobody ever robbed or ate bits of my car.
~ How do I get there? ~
Leave the M4 at Junction 3 (rather than junction 4 which is the airport turn off) and follow direction Heathrow and Feltham. When you reach the Waggoners Roundabout (it's the first roundabout after about a mile - named after a pub) take the 3rd exit signposted to Heathrow. This is the A4 - also known as Bath Road. Go through 3 sets of traffic lights and take the turning on the left immediately after you pass the offices of Bunzl.
You can use J3 if you want to but you need to pull off an interesting U-turn by the underground station in order to get onto the right side of Bath Road.
~ Procedure ~
When you arrive, park your car in the car park in front of the Portacabin office and go into the office. Show them your booking reference and the staff will put a tag on your key and will give you a receipt with instructions of how to contact them when you return. Then leave the office, tell the driver (there's usually one waiting outside) which terminal you need and hop into the mini-bus. They say that the transfers go every 10 minutes and take 12-15 minutes. When the roads are quiet and you are the first drop off, it can be as little as five minutes. Also because they use minibuses rather than full-size buses, you generally wait a lot less time because they have fewer people to wait for and they can whiz down that nifty little rat-run tunnel.
~ When you get back ~
As soon as you get your luggage, give them a call and they'll confirm the pick up point. At terminal one it's bus stop number seven. You should be waiting 5-10 minutes but if it's a particularly busy period and they can't get into the pick up zone there may be a short delay. When you arrive back at base your car will be waiting and within 2 minutes you should be back on the road.
~ So what does it cost ~
They say it can be from as little as £5.20 per day but I think you'd be lucky to get that rate unless you are going for a fortnight and booking early. We paid just over £30 for 3 days but I left it very late to book and it was by far the cheapest available.
~ How do I book? ~
Either directly through their website - www.courtlandsparking.com - or if you find them listed with another car park comparison site, you can book through that. I found that by booking direct I didn't have to pay extra for using a credit card. You can print out your booking confirmation immediately and within an hour or so you will receive an emailed confirmation as well.
~ Service with a Smile ~
The driver who picked us up on our return could not have been nicer. He was thoroughly charming and couldn't apologise enough that some other moron he was supposed to be collecting didn't turn up. In the end he decided it would be worse to keep the person waiting at T2 in suspense any longer so he called back to base and told them he was off.
Whilst we were waiting he told us that both he and another Courtlands driver had been nominated for the Heathrow Driver of the Year award last year - with an invitation to a big awards ceremony at the Waldorf. He didn't win - the award went to a driver who had leapt out of his bus to save the life of a chap on the pavement having a heart attack - but he was still chuffed to bits to have been nominated. We offered to stage a medical emergency for him to enhance his chances for next year. He chatted to us and to the passengers at T2 and we had a very jolly ride back to the car park.
On arrival the car was easy to find and we went merrily on our way - no problems with the car at all. All the windows in the right place and no little critters had been at my cables. What more could you ask for?