In the last 2 years, we have flown in and out of London Gatwick (LGW) Airport at least 20 times. It is the hub for an airline we use exclusively. We always fly into London when we travel to Europe because it’s a great ‘launching’ point to anywhere else on the continent. It’s like the JFK of the US.
Here are 10 tips that will make your trek through Gatwick a little easier:
1. Use Gatwick Connects
If you are going to take a connecting flight from Gatwick don’t drag your luggage from the baggage reclaim area to your connecting flight’s check-in counter. Instead, use Gatwick Connects located right in the baggage reclaim area. They will collect your luggage and get it to your next flight. It’s free and easy to use.
You need to connect to the following airlines to use the service:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Transat
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Norwegian Airlines
- Thomas Cook
- Virgin Atlantic
There are other important exceptions that you can read about here.
2. Use The eGate
Your days of long lines and custom forms are over. Now you can use the super fast and super easy eGate. Just make sure your passport has the ‘symbol’ on it. For more information, you can go here.
3. Take The Tram Between Terminals
There are two terminals at Gatwick–North and South. To go between terminals you need to take the shuttle which runs every 2 minutes, 24 hours a day.
South Terminal— Location of North Terminal Shuttle (Near Train Station)
North Terminal— Location of North Terminal Shuttle
4. Keep Your Passport and Boarding Pass Handy
If it seems like you are constantly pulling out your passport at LGW you are, so make sure it is handy. Otherwise, you will have to stop and dig it out of your secret compartment every time. So until you are in your seat don’t put it away.
Another handy dandy tip–be prepared to use these scanners. They use them for TSA, Boarding Gates, and Border Force. The first time I used one of these it was very stressful!
I know it looks easy, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it isn’t. Especially with a load of impatient Brits behind you.
5. You Can Leave Your Shoes On At TSA
One day I am going to make a TSA cheat sheet for every airport we’ve been to–since each one has it’s own little quirks. In LGW, you can leave your shoes on except if you are wearing boots. Boots have to come off. TSA is stressful enough, so if you have a little edge, I think it helps and I hate taking my shoes off.
6. For Priority Pass Members Make Reservations At The Lounge
This is a little irritating to me because we pay a hefty fee to get a Priority Pass Membership with our credit card. It’s not the only reason we have the card actually, the main reason we have the card is the 3x travel points!
If you don’t know what the priority pass it’s a very popular card that gives you lounge access to airports all over the world—in theory. At LGW, your priority pass will get you into the No.1 lounge at both terminals—but I would say you will be turned away at least 50% of the time for not having a reservation. When they are ‘full’, priority pass holders will only be admitted by advance reservation.
It will cost you £5/person to reserve a spot in the lounge, and even though it irks me it’s worth it. You will eat and drink at least that much if you are there long enough and the free wifi and comfortable seats are worth the money.
For No1 Lounge, reservations go here.
7. Join My Gatwick for Free Wifi
To get free wifi, join mygatwick. It will pop-up automatically at the airport when you are trying to connect, but if you pre-join then it will be less hassle. Usually, when you are at the airport, the last thing you want to do is fiddle with the wifi.
8. For Healthy Food Options Try Itsu
I don’t know about you, but we are always looking for healthy food options when we travel and it’s such a hassle to find a place. We always eat at ITSU in the South Terminal. It’s reasonably priced, clean, and there are lots of tables with USB ports. Their food is fresh, not fried, low calorie, and prepackaged for take-away, or eating in.
9. Use Gatwick Express To Get To London
Gatwick Express, in the South Terminal, will get you to London Victoria Station Non-stop in under 30 minutes for around £34 return. A taxi will probably cost you four times that much one way. Book online for a 10% discount here –you can book up to 3 months in advance. You do not want to get your tickets at the station, it’s way too hectic! Once you book online they will send you an eTicket which you can print out and bring with you.
10. You May Not Want To Hassle The VAT Refund
Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax you pay on goods and services you purchase in the UK. It’s roughly about 20%. I won’t get into the particulars of it but basically you can get a refund on the VAT you paid on some items–you can read all about it here.
What I will tell you is it’s a HUGE hassle. We have done it once- and it was such a minuscule amount it wasn’t worth the trouble. But if you want to attempt it, I will tell you how to go about it at LGW since it was like going through a corn maze.
First, and most important you need to complete all the forms. Next, you need to take all that with you along with the items you bought and find the VAT office. Obviously, if you’re checking your luggage you need to do your VAT refund first so you can show them your stuff, then you can pack it the suitcase and check it in.
The officer will stamp your forms, then you will go to the Moneycorp people to get your money, with fees and everything it turns out to be about 10-15%. You will be refunded in pounds, if you want US dollars, you will get a horrible exchange rate.
If you want less stress, I would say skip it, unless you’re spending a large amount of cash on one item. It has to be the most time-consuming process I have ever encountered and I am sure that is intentional.
We actually love London Gatwick Airport, it’s one of our favorite airports. It’s so familiar to us now we feel very relaxed and stress-free there. Hopefully, with our top 10 tips, you will feel the same way too.
What about you, do you have a favorite airport? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.