A friend has booked some cheap flights that mean we need to be at Gatwick airport at 5am to catch our flight. We can stay in London the night before, but how can we get there as cheaply as possible? (A taxi is a last resort!)
Get the 4am Southern train service from London Victoria, gets you into Gatwick at 4.46am
There's also a 4.30am Gatwick Express that'll get you in at just gone 5am, but tickets are bit more on that.
See http://traintimes.org.uk/london+victoria/gatwick/04:00/tuesday for examples for tomorrow (well, that URL will always work for the coming Tuesday, but the site has a search!)
(There's also the option to stay in Brighton, and get the 3.50am train to Gatwick, but you'll probably find London both easier to get to and cheaper to stay in, even if it lacks a beach!)
You could also consider sleeping overnight. I've done it at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted and can assure you Gatwick is a nice airport to spend time in. Luton has the bottomless coffee, but Gatwick has a Wetherspoons pub in departures with wifi and pancakes ;)
Another option is to train out to Gatwick the night before and stay at a hostel, hotel or B&B. I have seen places on hostelworld for as cheap as £13 and some of the more expensive ones offer a free pick up / drop off service. if you're in luck you can get a room at the travel lodge or premier inn for £39. This option does cost more but it removes the rush and the very early wake up.
The possibly cheapest transfer wasn't mentioned yet, or is introduced only recently.
National Express offers transfers to Gatwick from more than 90 pick-up points (02/2016). The following connection as example:
- 3:30 (London Victoria)
- 4:40 (North Terminal)
- 4:45 (South Terminal)
for as little as £7 (including service charge).
Mid 2016, it will increase to £9. However, sometimes there are some promotions and in case you own a coach card (£10/year) it becomes 30% cheaper.