Top 10 Airport Parking Tips for a Stress-Free Trip

Planning airport parking in advance is one of the best ways to ensure a smooth, stress-free trip. With the right preparation and knowledge, you can save time, money, and headaches when parking at the airport for your flight. Follow these top 10 tips to make airport parking simple.

1. Book Your Parking in Advance

Booking an airport parking space in advance is highly recommended whenever possible. According to Parkopedia, over 60% of airport parking reservations are now made online. Advance reservations guarantee you have a space waiting and can bypass driving around looking for an open spot. 

Parking apps and airport websites make this process easy. Enter your travel dates and compare parking rates to find the best deal. Many airports offer discounted rates for booking early. For example, you may save up to 50% on long-term parking by reserving a spot at some airports like LAX. Advance booking also ensures parking availability, which is especially important during peak travel seasons when airport parking garages fill quickly.

2. Choose the Right Type of Parking

Airports offer different parking options, so choose wisely based on your trip duration and budget. The major types of airport parking include:

Short-term parking – Closest to the terminal and most expensive. Best for trips less than a day.

Long-term parking – A bit farther away but more affordable. Ideal for 1-2 weeks of parking

Economy parking – The most distant lots but lowest rates. Perfect for trips over 2 weeks.

Valet parking – Drive to the terminal and leave your car with an attendant. Most convenient but priciest option.

Off-site parking operated by private companies provides shuttle services to the terminal for budget travelers. Consider all airport parking choices based on pricing and convenience to select the optimal lot. For example, valet parkingmay be worth the extra cost if you have lots of luggage.

3. Consider Off-Site Parking Options

In addition to on-site airport lots, many private parking companies offer off-site lots with shuttle services. These are located near the airport and provide transport to the terminal. Off-site parking is typically 20-60% cheaper than airport parking. The trade-off is needing to ride a shuttle versus walking from on-site lots. 

Research options like WallyPark, The Parking Spot, or Park ‘N Fly that have locations near major airports. Read reviews and compare parking rates to find reputable off-site providers that fit your budget. Arrive early to account for shuttle transport times when using off-site parking. Also consider parking at nearby hotels that offer shuttle services.

4. Check for Discounts and Deals

Booking in advance not only locks in availability, but also gives access to discounted airport parking rates. Many airports and private parkingcompanies offer promotions like:

  • AAA or AARP membership discounts
  • Loyalty/frequent parker programs 
  • Coupons and parking deals
  • Deals for airline passengers
  • Promo codes and salesSigning up for airport parking newsletters and loyalty programs provides insider access to special offers. Comparing rates across multiple providers can help you discover the best bargain. Saving on parkingmeans more money for your vacation!

5. Take Note of Your Parking Spot

After parking your car, snap a photo of the parking section sign, level number, and space. Some airport parking facilities are massive with thousands of vehicles, so noting your precise location is crucial to finding your car upon return. Alternatively, tie a unique item like a bright ribbon or flag on your antenna to make your vehicle stand out. Simple steps like these prevent wandering aimlessly through a huge parking garage searching for your car.

6. Secure Your Vehicle Properly

Ensure your car is properly locked and secured before heading to the terminal. Check that windows are rolled up tight and remove any valuables from plain sight. Experts recommend keeping a spare key hidden somewhere on the vehicle like inside the gas cap compartment in case your keys get lost. 

Additionally, purchasing parking insurance can give peace of mind if anything happens to your vehicle while parked at the airport for an extended period. These policies provide coverage for damages or theft. Taking simple precautions secures your vehicle while you’re gone.

7. Keep Your Parking Ticket Safe

When parking at an airport, you’ll receive a ticket to insert at the automated pay station upon exiting. Protect this ticket – if lost, you could end up paying penalty fees! Keep your parking ticket in a safe spot like tucked inside your passport for easy access when you return. Never leave tickets loose on your dashboard or visor where they can blow away.

8. Plan for Extra Time

Accurately gauge how much time you need to park, check-in, and clear security. During busy travel periods, airport parking facilities fill up quickly. Allow ample time to find a space, ride any shuttles, and walk to the terminal. Rushing causes mistakes, frustration, and can mean missing your flight. 

According to Parkopedia, airport parking demand peaks in summer months. Likewise, plan on extra time if traveling at crowded holidays. Aim to arrive 2-3 hours pre-flight to avoid parking headaches. You’ll have time to relax with a coffee or meal before your flight instead of stressing about delays.

9. Use Shuttle Services if Available

Many on-site and off-site airport parking facilities provide convenient shuttle services to transport travelers to and from the terminal. Using shuttles eliminates the need to lug heavy bags long distances from distant economy parking lots. 

Look for clear signs pointing the way to shuttle pick-up zones. Know the shuttle schedule to coordinate your airport arrival accordingly. Tip: Allow extra buffer time for shuttle transport when catching a flight to account for waiting, loading, and travel time to the terminal. Shuttles make airport parkingsimpler.

10. Consider Valet Parking for Convenience

Valet parking is the ultimate in airport parking convenience. No wandering through jam-packed garages or waiting for shuttles. Simply drive up to the terminal and hand your keys to the valet. They’ll park your vehicle and retrieve it when you return. 

Though pricier, valet parking alleviates hassles for travelers juggling luggage, small children, business travel, or those with limited mobility. Valet attendants handle everything for you. Look for promo codes to offset the higher rates. For travelers wanting seamless, door-to-door service, valet parking is the way to go.

With smart preparation, airport parking can be simple instead of stressful. Booking in advance, allowing extra time, taking note of your parking spot, and using shuttles or valet service helps ensure a smooth start to your travels. Follow these airport parking tips for one less thing to worry about on your next trip.

Why is Planning for Airport Parking Important?

With over 2.2 billion passengers flowing through US airports in 2022, the parking facilities are extremely busy. During peak seasons like summer, the airport parking garages fill up completely. Without reservations, you may end up driving around searching for an open space or parking farther away and needing to take shuttles. 

Booking your airport parking spot in advance not only guarantees availability, but can also save you significant money through discounted rates. Pre-purchasing parking eliminates the hassle of dealing with machines or cashiers when you arrive at the airport stressed and short on time. Proper planning sets you up for a smooth, relaxed trip from the very start.

What are the Different Types of Airport Parking?

The type of airport parking you choose depends on your specific trip needs and preferences. Airports offer various parking facility locations and price points. The primary options include:

Short-Term Parking

Short-term parking is best for trips lasting less than a day. These parkingspots are located closest to the terminal, providing convenience at a premium price. Short-term parking rates average around $30 per day or more. The benefit is walking right to the terminal without needing shuttles. These limited spots fill fast, so reservations are key.

Long-Term Parking

Long-term airport parking works well for travels between 1-2 weeks. The parking facilities are farther from the terminals than short-term, but offer significantly cheaper average rates around $15-20 per day. This balances convenience and affordability. You’ll need to budget extra time to walk or take a shuttle from these lots. Long-term parking reservations are recommended for availability and price locks.

Economy Parking

Travelers who need parking for over 2 weeks can save substantially using economy parking. These are the most distant lots and cutoff shuttles are required to reach terminals. However, the average prices are budget-friendly at around $10 per day. The trade-off for major cost savings is needing more time to reach the terminals using shuttle transport. Booking well in advance is advised to secure an economy parking spot.

Valet Parking

For ultimate convenience, valet parking allows you to drive right up to the terminal and hand your car over to an attendant. You avoid wandering massive garages or waiting for shuttles. Upon return, your vehicle will be waiting curbside. However, this door-to-door service comes at a premium cost of $40 per day on average. Valet parking is ideal for travelers with mobility considerations or lots of luggage.

Off-Site Parking

Private parking companies located near airports offer cheaper alternatives to on-site airport parking. These off-site lots provide shuttle transport for cost-savings of 20-60% versus airport-operated facilities. Research reputable off-site airport parking providers like The Parking Spot or WallyPark before booking for ratings, reviews, and price comparisons. 

Many hotels in the vicinity of airports also offer parking packages with shuttles to capture airport traveler demand. Explore all options to find the best deals.

How to Choose the Best Airport Parking Option?

With all the airport parking choices, narrow your selection by considering:

Trip duration – Short vs. long-term on-site lots or remote economy lots

Budget – Lower rates of remote or off-site parking vs. premium terminal convenience 

Luggage – Valet or close short-term parking if hauling heavy bags

Time constraints – Proximity of short-term or valet parking for rushed schedules

Personal mobility – Valet services or close parking if you have mobility limitations 

Doing some research in advance on the parking rates and locations at your airport provides the information needed to select the most ideal parking solution. Don’t just default to the priciest on-site parking. There are likely more affordable options that still meet your travel needs.

On-Site vs. Off-Site Parking

Should you book on-site airport parking operated by the airport or off-site parking offered by private companies? Here are the key trade-offs to consider:

Convenience: On-site parking overall is more convenient, especially short-term lots. Off-site parking requires shuttle rides of 5-15 minutes.

Cost: Off-site parking averages 20-60% savings versus on-site. Certain off-site providers run deals like “park here, get airport parking free.” 

Security: Both generally have similar security like video surveillance and guards. Some travelers perceive on-site as safer. Check reviews. 

Booking: On-site parking can sell out during peak travel. Off-site has flexible capacity.

Rewards programs: On-site parking gives airport-specific loyalty rewards points.

Review the pros and cons before deciding between on-site vs. off-site. Pick what best balances convenience, price, and availability for your specific trip.

How to Save Money on Airport Parking?

Here are top ways to get the cheapest airport parking rates:

  • Book well in advance for early bird discounts
  • Compare rates across multiple on-site and off-site parking providers
  • Consider remote economy lots or off-site parking for lower prices
  • Join loyalty programs for frequent parker rewards and deals 
  • Check for discounts like AAA, AARP, or coupon codes
  • Use parking apps for deals and price drop alerts
  • Parking at airport hotels can provide big savings over airport lots

Signing up for email alerts from multiple airport parking services makes it easy to jump on parking sales and promotions when they are announced. A little bit of research and planning goes a long way towards major airport parking savings.

How Early Should You Arrive at the Airport to Secure a Good Spot in the Car Park?

Experts recommend arriving at the airport 2-3 hours before your scheduled flight, especially during busy travel periods. This provides ample time to find parking, take shuttles, and move through checking bags and security lines. 

Rushing creates parking stress and increases chances of missing your flight. Allow extra buffer time if parking off-site and relying on shuttles. With flights often delayed, early airport arrival means you can relax instead of worrying about missing your plane.

For trips requiring airport parking, research your options, book early for best rates and availability, allow plenty of time, and take basic safety precautions. Proper planning ensures your parking experience is smooth, cheap, and stress-free, letting your vacation start on a positive note.