Should You Stay Near The Airport Or In The City?

by joeheg

When you have a morning flight, there’s always the question of whether it’s better to stay at a hotel near the airport or if you should stay in the city. My best answer to this question is an emphatic, “It’s complicated.”

I know, you’re thinking what a cop-out that is. You wanted me to tell you what to do. If you’ve read any of my posts, you should know I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. What I will do is give you some of the questions you need to ask to make the best decision based on your situation, and throw in some examples we’ve been in, AND what we’ve learned from the choices we’ve made.

Airport Hotels

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Yeah, my dad and his wife’s travel agent booked them a non-refundable room at the Best Western Incheon Airport before they talked to me and I would have booked them a room at the Grand Hyatt instead.

While we’re not here to question their taste in hotels, was it a good idea for them to stay at the airport, or should they have found a room for the night in Seoul?

In their case, staying at the airport made sense. Here’s why:

  • They were arriving around 5 P.M. and leaving at 11 A.M. the next day.
  • After spending 6 weeks in Southeast Asia when it was in the 80s every day, it snowed when they arrived in Seoul. Even if it wasn’t snowing, they didn’t have clothes for the cold weather, so there was no way they were leaving the hotel.
  • It’s around an hour’s trip to get from Incheon to downtown Seoul so even if they wanted to do something, they would have had limited time available and would have needed to wake up extra early the next morning to get back to the airport.

We’ve also stayed at airport hotels in the past because it made sense for those trips.

In one instance, we were flying home from Manchester, U.K. For this trip, it made sense for us to stay at an airport hotel:

  • We traveled from Leeds, so we needed to travel a significant distance to get to the airport, necessitating a hotel stay.
  • Hotels at Manchester Airport are convenient to the airport terminal and the rail station.
  • It’s only a 20-minute train ride to the city and trains leave every 10 minutes. It was quite easy to stay at the airport and still visit the city.
  • Our flight was at 11 A.M. so staying at the airport would be easier than traveling from the city with all our bags on the morning of our flight.

City Hotels

So when would it make sense to stay in the city instead of at the airport?

I’ll use another example from one of my father and his wife’s trips:

  • They were landing in Taipei at 5 A.M. and leaving the next day at 10 A.M.
  • They wanted to see a night market in Taipei.
  • Travel time from the airport to the city by Metro is around 35 minutes.


With a more extended layover, you’ll have time to see something of the city. Unless you have a really early flight, staying in the city can be a great way to get a sense of somewhere you may have never visited before.

Here’s another example of when staying in a city hotel might not be such a good idea:

On a trip to London, Sharon and I stayed at the Great Northern Hotel near King’s Cross station.

  • We were already staying in the city so we would have needed to check out of our hotel to check into a hotel near Heathrow for one night.
  • We had tickets to see Harry Potter And The Cursed Child on our last day in London so we’d have no way to get to the airport hotel and back to the city.

However, staying in the city presented some problems getting to the airport. Our flight from Heathrow was at 8:45 in the morning and it takes an hour on the Underground to get from Kings Cross station to the airport. We had to catch the first train in the morning to get there on time.

It might have been a good idea to check into an airport hotel in the morning and just leave our luggage and travel back to the city to see our show. Not looking at how we could get to the airport for our flight was an oversight on my part. I almost had to pay for a costly taxi ride so that we could be sure to make our flight.

Final Thoughts

The main things you need to think about when choosing between a city hotel and an airport hotel are:

  • How close is the airport to the city?
  • What forms of transportation are available (including their times of operation and costs)
  • How much time will you have to explore?
  • Do you want to see the city or do you need to get work done?
  • What time does your flight leave?
  • Are you staying for one night or multiple nights?

All of these things should factor into your decision. You might want to see the city and have plenty of time, but if you have an early morning flight, it still might be necessary for you to stay at the airport hotel.

I hope these case examples have shed some light on the things you need to consider when choosing where to stay before a flight or an overnight layover.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


jRG July 29, 2019 - 1:13 pm

I’ve stayed at the BW Incheon airport and it was quite nice. And it’s a two stop subway ride to the airport. Easy decision.

joeheg July 30, 2019 - 12:15 am

My dad said the hotel was fine for their needs but didn’t offer much more than a place to stay. Maybe a better place to eat dinner would have been nice but after such a long trip they were just looking forward towards their flight home the next day. Best Western Incheon room

lenin1991 July 29, 2019 - 2:59 pm

Your London example exposes another complication: it depends where in the city you stay. If you had stayed close to Paddington — which itself isn’t far from the West End theaters — it’s only a 15-minute trip on Heathrow Express, with trains starting at 5:10am.

joeheg July 30, 2019 - 12:11 am

I’m 100% in agreement with this. It’s exactly why you need to evaluate every situation differently. The Great Northern was a great value when we booked as it was a new addition to SPG. We also like the Hotel Indigo near Earl’s Court but having a hotel nearer to the Heathrow Express might have been a better choice for this trip.

Bob M November 19, 2020 - 5:51 pm

We often stay in our local airport hotel the night before leaving if we are on an early flight, say before 10 or 11am. Although the airport can be reached by car or public transport within an hour from home, the stress of a rushed departure from home combined with the added stress of morning rush hour traffic or commuter trains, easily justifies the choice of a relaxed non peak journey the day before for us.
Furthermore, one of the local business hotel chains at the airport offers free car parking for 10 days for less than the price of the airport car park if we are away for more than 5 days. A no brainer!


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