As if rising airfare wasn’t bad enough, here's another expense that never seems to let up: airport parking. Outside of a few cities that provide excellent public transit options (New York's JFK and Boston-Logan come to mind), most of us who fly have to drive ourselves to the airport or pay outrageous cab fares from home. On-site airport parking is typically expensive — oftentimes ludicrously so. Yet, it’s convenient and reliable, which is why those rates likely won't fall anytime soon. The good news is that most cities offer alternatives for parking, and frequent flyers with a proactive nature can easily shave hundreds of dollars from their annual parking budget.
Third-party lots: As airports have continued to raise parking rates (while stalling when it comes to adding more spaces), private companies have started to exploit the obvious business opportunity. In fact, many third-party, offsite parking lots have nationwide networks. As an example, The Fast Park network now operates parking facilities in 16 cities while also maintaining a frequent parker reward program. If you’re parking for a two-week business trip, you’ll end up with a couple of free parking days to use on your next vacation. The Parking Spot is yet another network that mostly serves larger airports. These facilities are typically around 10 to 20 miles away from the airport itself, so you will need to budget more time when arriving. The savings from showing up early and parking further away? You’ll save anywhere from 50 to 75 percent compared to the daily parking rate at the airport itself. (Psst... don't forget to search online for coupons before leaving home; most parking networks offer printable discounts!)
Park-and-ride lots: If your local airport isn’t connected to the city’s outskirts via bus or subway, it may encourage the next best thing. Park-and-ride locations can generally be found by searching the ‘Parking’ sections of airport websites (here's an example at RDU). The key thing to remember is the address of the lot ahead of time; if you drive straight to the airport, you’re unlikely to find signs from there guiding you to a cheaper parking alternative. Generally speaking, these lots are located between 1 and 10 miles away from the airport, and allow you to catch an airport-serviced bus to your terminal. The savings? Usually it’s around 50 percent cheaper than on-site parking.
Friends and family: It may sound obvious, but hitching a ride can be a great way to save money on long-term excursions. If you’re about to embark on a month-long business trip, even discounted per-day lots will put a major dent in your wallet. When it comes to long-term stays, where you’re looking at $75+ to park even at third-party lots, you may consider asking a friend or family member to drop you off. Even if you toss them $20 for their time, you’re coming out ahead. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your vehicle’s safety for weeks on end.
Any other frequent flyers have tips on saving cash when it comes time to park at the airport? Let us know in the comment section below!
[Photo: La Jolla Mom]