Parking your car at the airport can be an expensive proposition. On-site parking, in lots within walking distance of the terminal, can run $20-$30 per day, sometimes more. That might not seem like a lot, but if you multiple it by the number of days you will be gone, the price of parking can easily exceed the price of your airline ticket.
Luckily there are plenty of parking options beyond the standard terminal-side lots. The general rule is that the farther a lot is from the airport, the cheaper it is to leave your car there. All lots have shuttle buses that run to the airport and almost all offer complimentary rides to the airport. However, not all run at the same rate and some do not offer 24 hour service. This means that you might find yourself saving money but waiting for a shuttle bus that only runs once an hour, or worse, will not run again until tomorrow morning. A little research can help you avoid this problem.
Here are some money-saving options for parking your car before your flight.
On-site Economy Lots
Most airports have on-site lots that are at the far corners of the airport. These are serviced by shuttles either run by the airport or by a third party. They are generally cheaper than parking in lots nearer to the terminal. However, they are more expensive than off-site lots run by private companies (not affiliated with the airport). Many drivers, however, are willing to pay a little more ($2 to $5 more per day, on average) for the convenience and superior security that come from actually leaving your automobile on airport grounds.
Park-and Rides Just Outside the Airport
Some airports have privately-owned parking lots just outside their gates. These are cheaper (usually) than on-site lots, but more expensive than parking lots that are further away. Park-and-rides normally have shuttle service but it pays to check and make sure how often service runs (anything more than 15 minutes between buses is suspect) and if it runs 24-hours per day, or at least at the times when you plan to be coming and going.
Parking Lots Further Away From The Airport
The further away a parking lot is, the cheaper it tends to be. Lots over two miles away from the airport generally offer the cheapest rates. If you are looking for the most value, these remote parking facilities are the best option. However, as always, it pays to know the details of a lot’s operation before deciding to leave your car there. Ask how often shuttles run (15-30 minutes is the industry norm) and how long it takes, on average, to get from the lot to the terminal. If you are willing to spend a few more minutes in a shuttle bus, you can save anywhere from $5 to $25 per day on parking.
Most cities have decent public transportation to and from the airport. Many even have express trains or buses that connect the terminals with the city’s downtown areas. If this service is available in your city, it may be worth considering as an alternative to car parks. It might not even be necessary to take public transportation all the way from the airport to your home. You can use transit to get closer to home and then take a short, cheap taxi ride to your front door.
Coupons and Promotions
Because competition is tough (most airports have several car parking facilities vying for customers) it is easy to find promotions via third party sites and Google searches. Many parking lots (such as Park ‘n Fly) are national chains with locations in each major city. If you browse their central web site or search for coupons, you will undoubtedly come across some discount opportunities that can be used at any of their locations.
Airport hotels often offer guests and the general public a place to park. This may be cheaper than parking in the airport. If you are a guest, this is a no-brainer because the hotel will offer free or greatly discounted rates. If you are not a guest, it may still be worth it. Generally, hotel shuttles ferry both guests and parkers to and from the terminals regularly.
The obvious choice for those who want the cheapest parking deal is to choose the parking lot that is the farthest from the airport. However, those who put a premium on convenience can find a lot nearer to the terminals and search for coupons to save money on parking.