All the experts and many not-quite-so-experts agree that air travel will test your endurance this summer. Planes, airports, gates, even usually serene lounges will be packed. Why expect airport parking to be different? If you plan to drive your car to your departure airport and leave it there until you return, you have to make sure you can get a place. And you want to keep the cost as low as possible. Fortunately, you have options.
Official airport parking. Almost all commercial airports offer paid long-term parking, and most offer different levels of location and price, from closed-in hourly to remote long-term or “economy.” Parking is often an airport’s largest single revenue stream, and airports are not averse to charging what the market will bear. That can be stiff: “Economy” parking at Boston’s Logan Airport costs $58 for the first day then $29 a day, San Francisco long-term costs $25 a day, and even my small home airport at Medford, Oregon, charges $12 a day long term.
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All airport parking used to be on a “When we’re full, go somewhere else” basis. Recently, however, many big airports have begun accepting advance reservations with guaranteed space — possibly at a surcharge or limited to one of the higher-base-rate lots.
Independent parking lots. More than 100 large and midsize U.S. and Canadian airports have attracted independent airport-area parking lots, and most offer, at a minimum, reserved parking plus frequent free shuttles to/from the airport. They usually charge less than the adjacent airport’s least expensive official long-term lot. If you want, many offer your choice of indoor, covered, and uncovered parking; valet service with your car rather than shuttle, and even car detailing and servicing. Several online agencies arrange airport parking:
Airport Parking (airportparking.com)
Airport Parking Reservations (airportparkingreservations.com).
Cheap Airport Parking (cheapairportparking.org)
Long Term Parking (longtermparking.com) small
Park ‘N Fly (pnf.com/) 12 locations plus partners
Park Ride Fly USA (parkrideflyusa.com)
Parking Access (parkingaccess.com)
The Parking Spot (theparkingspot.com)
These agency websites link to the reservations websites of independent local lots near an airport and they compare rates, services, and availability, with quite a bit of overlap in the listings. A few websites appear to be different front ends for the same operation.
Stay and Park. Another approach is to arrange to stay and leave your car at an airport-area hotel/motel the night before departure, especially before a very early departure or if you have to drive a long way to/from the airport. Hundreds of accommodations offer stay-park packages that can include up to two week’s “free” parking. Free is in quotes because the parking-inclusive daily rate is almost always higher than the lowest available rate. But, overall, a stay-park package is often cheaper than parking alone at a big airport. Several outfits specialize in these packages:
Buy Reservations (buyreservations.com)
Park Sleep Fly (parksleepfly.com)
Stay 123 (stay123.com) and Hotel N Parking (hotelnparking.com)
Some parking agencies also offer stay-and-park options. These parking and hotel agencies list mainly the same parking lots and hotels, but the overlap isn’t total. You might want to check several just in case any one agency doesn’t cover all your options.
Some agencies also offer long-term parking at major cruise ports, where parking can be a bigger problem than at airports and no official long-term parking may be available. In many cases, however, the agencies arrange cruise parking at the same lots and hotels that they list for airports, sometimes with a port shuttle, sometimes without.
However you plan to arrange your parking, be sure to check parking status at your airport before leaving home. Most fields tell you what’s available and many list local alternatives. No matter what else, advance parking reservations are becoming as important as airline, train, hotel, and rental car reservations. You don’t want to miss a flight looking for a parking spot. With everything so busy and crowded, “winging it” no longer looks to be a viable summer travel strategy.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)