10 ways to save on airport parking
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Some airports in higher-priced cities, such as at Chicago‘s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), cost even more, with valet parking ringing in at $64 per day. If you are spending $20, $30 or a staggering $64 per day on airport parking, your family will quickly owe hundreds of dollars before your vacation is even over.
Thankfully, there are many options available to cut down on parking fees when you fly, many of which cost much less than you may think. Here is a rundown of the top ways to save money on airport parking:
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Look for airport parking coupons through third-party websites
There are almost always coupons available for some of the economy and off-airport parking lots at most airports. This is particularly true if you are parking for a weekend or more than a couple of days.
Start with a Google search of “discount parking coupons at” with your specific airport noted to see what options may be available.
Additionally, check Groupon for airport parking coupons and discounts, as the site often offers a selection of discounts.
Check the airport website for parking discounts and limited-time promotions
In addition to running a generic search for discounted airport parking options, check directly with your airport’s website to see if there are any available discounts.
For example, at Houston’s IAH, you can save up to 33% on terminal parking when you pay for parking in advance on the airport website. That means you could end up paying $16 per day (a daily savings of $8) instead of $24 per day.
Paying in advance can give you the added benefit of securing your spot, too, which can be especially helpful as travel demand surges.
Some major airports, such as Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), even occasionally offer free parking for a certain number of vehicles during peak travel times like Thanksgiving.
Bundle an airport hotel stay with extended parking
If you are considering staying near the airport either at the start or end of your trip, you may be able to leave your car at the hotel and take the property’s shuttle to the airport for less than the cost of parking at the terminal.
It is always worth asking if you can leave your car for free. While this may not be permitted, many hotels do offer “park and fly” packages. While they generally cost more than the lowest rate for just the hotel room, the added fee is usually minimal.
For example, when I stayed at the Hyatt Place Houston-North property by IAH (formerly known as Hyatt Place Houston/Bush Airport), there was an option to book the Park Stay Fly package, which was only $19 more than the basic cost of a hotel night and included up to 14 days of parking. In other words, parking would cost just $1.35 per day on a 14-day trip.
You may find the greatest savings by checking with airport hotels directly, but you can also use sites like ParkSleepFly to find parking deals at airport hotels that don’t require booking a room.
The official prices to park at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), for instance, are $10.50 to $44 per day (depending on the lot), but I found an offer through the ParkSleepFly website that would let you park at the Hilton Newark Airport for just $16.95 per day.
Use a parking app or website to find cheap airport parking
Apps and websites can help you secure discounted parking spots both at and away from the airport.
To maximize your savings, check several different sites and compare prices. Some discounted parking websites to consider include SpotHero, BestParking, ParkWhiz and Cheap Airport Parking.
Get paid to leave your car with TravelCar
If you’re keen on avoiding any parking charges when you travel and OK with strangers driving your vehicle while you’re away, consider TravelCar, a car-sharing service that parks your car for free when it’s not in use by renters. When your car is being used, you’ll get paid 7 to 21 cents for every mile your car is driven by renters. Your car also gets washed while in TravelCar’s possession and you’ll receive up to $1 million in liability insurance to cover any theft or physical damage.
Your car must be less than seven years old and have no more than 95,000 miles on its odometer for you to participate in this offer.
Consider monthly airport parking options if you fly frequently
Should you find yourself frequently flying, it may make sense to purchase a monthly parking membership. Not all airports or parking lots offer these memberships, but you won’t know until you ask.
For example, San Antonio International Airport (SAT) has a monthly parking program for its short- and long-term parking lots that can even be shared with family members or coworkers.
Choose a smaller regional airport
Free parking is unheard of at major airports, but it can still be found at smaller airports with scheduled passenger service.
For instance, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), which is served by United Express, offers flyers complimentary parking. You can also park for free at Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI), a smaller airport in Bloomington, Illinois, that offers flights from Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines.
Know, too, that free parking may be available out of a fixed-base operator if you are flying on a chartered or private plane.
Pay with a credit card that rewards airport parking
Assuming you have to pay something for your airport parking, be sure you are maximizing that expense. Some parking lots and programs offer points or even frequent flyer miles for your parking.
When it comes time to pay the bill, use a credit card that will give you a bonus on parking charges.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card typically award three or two points per dollar spent on parking, respectively. The Citi Premier® Card also awards 3 points per dollar spent on most parking charges under its travel category. Additionally, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 3% cash back on parking.
Get dropped off at the airport
You may roll your eyes at this obvious tip, but getting dropped off at the airport by a friend or family member is by far the easiest and most effective way to save money on airport parking. If you are flying with young kids, I cannot overstate the value of being dropped off curbside at the airport.
Getting a ride to the airport will not only keep you from paying for airport parking, but it will also help you save time and avoid the hassle of hauling car seats, luggage and more onto shuttle buses to get to your terminal. We fly so frequently that we don’t bother family members for rides to the airport every time we travel, but on longer trips, we often swap chauffeur roles with my parents, taking turns dropping each other off at the airport.
Price out Uber, taxis, car services and public transportation options
Before you decide that parking is the best course of action, also be sure to price out using Uber, Lyft, a taxi or a car service.
Depending on how far you live from the airport and how long you will be gone, one of these services may cost less than parking at the airport. Even if the cost savings are not there, going with one of these options could be less stressful, especially when traveling with a family.
If you live in a city with good public transportation to the airport, don’t forget to consider that mode of transportation, too. A subway or metro ride for multiple people is often significantly less than what you’d spend on on-site parking. Just be sure you budget plenty of time for this option, especially if you’ll need to transfer lines during your journey.
Airport parking charges are never fun, but they don’t have to be excessive. If you know how and where to look for discounts and alternatives, you can avoid paying through the nose to park at the terminal.
Whether you travel regularly or only a few times a year, a little extra research before you go can help you save a considerable amount the next time you need airport parking.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson.
Featured photo by Fabian Sommer/picture alliance/Getty Images.
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