I recently had an interesting discussion with a dear friend of mine, who was traveling overseas for business. She had parked her car at the airport for 30 days and ended up spending more money for parking that the amount she initially doled out for her round-trip ticket. Flexing my analytical muscles, I asked her why she didn't simply take a cab to and from the airport. Her answer was "Convenience." The truth is that all of us, every now and then and to varying degrees, spend money to maintain a certain lifestyle or to seek convenience, but that doesn't make economic sense. To save money on airport parking, try solutions as diverse as long-term parking, public transportation and enrollment in a rewards program.
General Money-Saving Tips for Airport Parking
A few basic tips you should keep in mind as you ponder the best way to cut airport-parking costs, a relevant budgetary staple for frequent travelers.
- Book early to save on parking costs, especially if you do it during a promotional period or in the parking agency's low season. You could reap savings as high as 30% from the normal rental price, so don't underestimate the importance of early booking.
- Always book before showing up and requesting a parking spot. Even if you book one day before arriving at the parking lot, it is always better. The worst thing you could do is to show up at the airport and park without booking – unless, of course, unpredictable circumstances compelled you to do so.
- Park a few miles from the airport and ask the parking agency to give you a ride to the airport. The ride might last 15 or 20 minutes, but trust me, you'd save much more money on parking costs than if you had parked your vehicle at a facility inside or closer to the airport.
- Use a cab to ride to and fro the airport, but pre-book it. That way, you wouldn't have to pay the often exorbitant tabs that cab companies charge for outbound trips, typically because they know that arriving passengers sometimes don't know the city, are foreigners, or just want to get to their final destinations and, therefore, pay little attention to prices. So tell a taxi driver to meet you at a pre-arranged place, so that he or she can give you a cheap yet convenient trip to and fro the airport.
Why Should I Use Long-Term Parking?
Long-term parking typically is cheaper than rates that most agencies charge on a daily, weekly or fortnightly basis. Talk to your parking agency before the airport-based rental agency. Some agencies have mutual agreements allowing you to use your regular parking pass at the airport, even if it means paying a few extra dollars a week. The largest rental agencies - such as Hertz, Avis, Alamo and Budget – may allow you to park your vehicle at the airport while paying off-airport rates. Check with the companies' customer service departments for more information.
Is Public Transportation to the Airport More Cost-Effective?
Public transportation is one of the most affordable ways to move to and fro, especially when it comes to places like airport, hotel and tourist attractions. Check your city's department of transportation as well as schedules of buses and trains that go to and fro the airport. You also can get a list of all public transportation schedules by visiting the website of your departure or destination airport. This is especially important if you'll take off or land in a major city like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
Should I Check in at a Nearby Hotel?
The beef I often have with hotels located nearby airports is that they generally are pricey. It is as if they take advantage of their prime location to charge relatively steep room rates, especially at major airports or when there are only one or two hotels in the vicinity. The laws of supply and demand apply, so the room rate goes up. Unless you have a coupon or other reduced rate, I wouldn't recommend checking at a nearby hotel to save on airport parking. This is because you might end up paying more for the room than the parking space your little coupé or big 4x4 would otherwise occupy while you're on the road or overseas.
Should I Get a Rewards Credit Card?
I like rewards cards as a way to reduce personal expenses on everything from travel to parking to shopping to balance transfers. So the answer is "Yes, you should get a rewards credit card." Talk first to your credit card company to see if your card can be upgraded or activated – who knows, you already may have a rewards card. With this card, you can accumulate points when you spend, and can, in turn, convert the points into rewards that help reduce your overall expenses. So it's a win-win situation: you spend money on car parking and accumulate rewards dollars that ultimately reduce or even annul how much you initially paid.
What Other Options Do I Have?
You can save money on airport parking, or avoid airport parking altogether, through other means. Why not talk to a relative or friend and ask him or her to take you to the airport? What about that favorite neighbor of yours, who has spent the last five Thanksgiving dinners with your family and who seems to be always generous and obliging? He can lend you a driving hand to the airport. Another way to pay zilch or a few dollars for airport parking is to park away from the airport and take the free shuttle buses that some large airports provide to passengers. Also, don't forget those coupons; they can be helpful to decrease your overall parking expense. Finally, travel during the off season or during non-peak hours, so that you don't have to fight for parking space with the driver in the next car. Some airports electronically adjust parking spot rates based on demand and supply.
You can save money on airport parking if you prepare in advance and enquire with airport personnel, study bus and train schedules, and make arrangements to sleep at a reasonably priced hotel in the neighborhood. You also can reduce your parking tab by enrolling in a rewards program that specifically provides automobile rental rewards and coupons.