Types of Airport Parking: A Comprehensive Guide

Types of airport parking are a crucial consideration for travelers when planning a trip that involves air travel. Understanding the different options available, such as short-term parking for quick pick-ups and drop-offs, long-term parking for extended trips, valet parking for a luxurious experience, and economy parking for budget-conscious travelers, is essential for making an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs and preferences. Each type of airport parking has its own unique features, benefits, and drawbacks that should be carefully evaluated before making a reservation.

Airport parking facilities can vary significantly, from covered parking garages that protect vehicles from the elements to uncovered lots that offer more affordable rates. Pricing structures also differ, with hourly, daily, and weekly rates available to cater to different travel durations. On-site airport parking provides the convenience of being close to the terminals, while off-site parking services often offer lower prices and shuttle services to and from the airport.

When comparing airport parking options, it’s essential to consider the amenities and services provided, such as car wash facilities, valet assistance, and the frequency and reliability of shuttle services. Security measures, including surveillance cameras, well-lit parking lots, and security patrols, can also influence travelers’ choices. Regional differences in airport parking regulations and availability should be taken into account, as well as the various reservation options, such as online booking, mobile apps, or phone reservations.

Loyalty programs and discounts offered by airport parking providers can help frequent travelers save money and streamline their parking experience. Understanding traveler preferences and needs, such as convenience, cost, and safety, is key to selecting the most suitable airport parking option. Additionally, familiarizing oneself with airport parking policies and regulations, including time limits, penalty fees, and vehicle size restrictions, can help avoid unnecessary complications and expenses.

By analyzing customer reviews and feedback, travelers can gain valuable insights into the quality and satisfaction levels of various airport parking options. This comprehensive exploration of the types of airport parking aims to provide travelers with the knowledge and tools necessary to make well-informed decisions when planning their next trip.

1. Short-Term Parking

Short-term parking is ideal for brief airport visits such as dropping off or picking up passengers. It is located closest to airport terminals for maximum convenience. Short-term parking spots often cost more per hour compared to long-term options but the premium pricing reflects the prime location. 

Short-term parking is usually recommended for stays of less than one day. The maximum duration allowed can vary by airport but is typically 1-3 days. It provides easy access to catch flights with minimal transfers. This makes short-term parking a popular choice for business travelers headed to quick meetings.

The main benefits of short-term parking include close proximity to terminals and fast access in and out of the airport. Drawbacks are the higher hourly rates compared to other parking types and lack of covered spaces in some locations.

2. Long-Term Parking

Long-term parking is designed for travelers going on trips lasting several days or weeks. It is situated farther from terminals than short-term but offers more affordable rates for extended stays. Long-term parking facilities are served by free shuttle buses that transport travelers to and from the airport.

Travelers planning getaways over 3 days should consider using long-term instead of short-term parking. The lower daily charges offset the slightly longer transfer time to reach terminals. Long-term parking is also a smart option for airport staff working on-site.

Key benefits include cost savings for longer stays and frequent shuttles. The main drawbacks are longer transfer distances and uncovered spaces vulnerable to weather. 

3. Economy Parking

Economy parking provides a budget-friendly option for both short and long stays. It is typically located the farthest from terminals but has shuttle access. Economy parking rates can be up to 50% cheaper than short-term parking. 

Economy parking offers value for leisure travelers, airport staff, and others seeking to minimize parking costs. It works for trips of any duration though the transfers take a bit longer. Many economy parking facilities also offer extras like car washes and oil changes.

The low prices provide savings for travelers willing to use shuttles. The trade-offs are distance from terminals and uncovered outdoor spaces.

4. Valet Parking

Valet parking provides ultimate convenience through full-service assistance. Travelers drive to the terminal entrance and valet staff park and retrieve the car. Valet parking ensures guaranteed covered spaces steps from the airport entrance.

Valet parking is recommended for travelers short on time or those with mobility challenges. Airport meet-and-greet services that greet you at the curb also fall under valet-style offerings. It does come at a premium cost but some find the benefits worthwhile for short trips. 

The main advantages of valet parking are personalized service and doorstep terminal access. The high price tag is the primary drawback.

5. Off-Site Airport Parking

Off-site airport parking is located outside airport grounds, operated by third-parties. These off-airport lots provide shuttle services and are typically cheaper than on-site options. Many offer extras like car washes, oil changes, or even pet boarding.

Off-site airport parking works for all travel durations. The remote locations bring cost savings passed along through lower rates. Pre-booking is recommended since off-site facilities are farther away. Travelers can research area options online to compare prices and amenities.

Benefits include lower rates and additional services at certain off-site lots. The main disadvantages are farther locations and reliance on shuttle transfers.

6. Cell Phone Lots

Cell phone lots provide free short-term parking targeted at drivers waiting to pick up arriving passengers. These designated pickup zones allow drivers to pull in and wait for a call that the passengers have their luggage and are ready for pickup. 

Cell phone parking is located near airport exits to make finding travelers convenient. Most airports prohibit parking elsewhere for passenger pickup, so these cell phone lots provide the designated waiting area. Stays are capped at 1 hour to maintain turnover. 

The main advantage of cell phone parking is free short-term access right when meeting flights. The downsides are the 1-hour limit and lack of amenities beyond basic parking.

7. Premium Reserved Parking

Premium parking offers assigned covered spaces in prime spots near terminals. Travelers reserve a specific spot in advance and pay a premium rate for the guaranteed convenience. This type of VIP parking ensures easy access without hunting for a space.

Premium reserved parking makes most sense for frequent travelers willing to pay more to skip battling other vehicles for the best spots. It provides assigned parking right near the entrance for those seeking maximum comfort. 

The major benefit is an assured space in a preferred location. The obvious drawback is the higher cost.

8. Disabled or Handicap Parking

Disabled parking consists of designated spaces near terminal entrances for travelers with disabilities. Vehicles must display proper handicap placards or license plates to legally use these spots. This guarantees convenient access for those with mobility impairments.

Disabled parking should only be utilized by travelers who legitimately need the accommodation. Illegally using handicap spaces can result in hefty fines. Travelers with qualifying disabilities should check airport websites for details on handicap parking access and required documentation.

The main advantage is easy terminal access for disabled travelers. There are no drawbacks when used properly by those requiring handicap accessibility.

9. Motorcycle Parking

Motorcycle parking is dedicated spaces for motorcycles located closer to terminals. This allows riders easy airport access without having to hunt for standard vehicle spots. Motorcycle parking may be uncovered surface lots or covered garage areas.

Motorcycle parking provides a quick way for riders to get to terminals. Airports recognize motorcycles require less space, so provide these special spots. Riders should look for designated motorcycle parking zones near entrances.

Benefits include prime parking areas for bikes and potential covered spots. No major drawbacks exist beyond checking for locations.

10. Oversized Vehicle Parking

Oversized vehicle parking caters to large vehicles that don’t fit in standard spaces. It’s designated areas for oversize vehicles including RVs, trucks, buses, limos, and others needing extra space. These special oversize spaces are usually placed at the outer edges of parking facilities. 

Anyone driving an RV, bus, truck, or other large vehicle should head straight to oversize vehicle lots. Regular spaces won’t provide enough room to maneuver these big rigs. Oversize vehicle parking offers the spacious slots necessary.

The main advantage is parking slots accommodating extra large vehicles. The only drawback is these spaces are limited in number and often farther out.

What is Airport Parking?

Airport parking refers to designated parking facilities at or near airports that provide travelers a secure place to leave their vehicle while traveling. It’s an essential service for passenger access and convenience. Parking areas are located on the airport grounds itself or nearby off-site lots with shuttle access.

Why is Airport Parking Important?

  • Security – Provides a safe location to leave vehicles unattended for extended periods
  • Convenience – Allows smooth transfers to catch flights or retrieve vehicles upon return 
  • Options – Different parking types suit diverse trip durations, budgets, and traveler needs
  • Revenue – Parking fees make up a major airport revenue stream

How to Choose the Right Type of Airport Parking

Selecting the optimal airport parking type depends on factors like:

  • Trip duration – Short-term for brief stays vs long-term for extended trips
  • Budget – Economy parking to save money or premium for luxury 
  • Terminal proximity – Valet or short-term parking for closest terminal access
  • Extra services – Off-site lots with car washes, oil changes or other amenities
  • Vehicle size – Oversized lots for RVs, buses and large vehicles
  • Accessibility – Disabled parking for travelers with mobility needs

Compare location, pricing, and amenities when booking to identify the ideal match. Advance reservations are recommended for best rates and availability.

Cost of Airport Parking

Airport parking rates vary significantly depending on the specific facility, parking type, and duration. As a general estimate, economy parking may range from $10-$25 per day, while short-term parking runs $20-$40 per day. Valet parking is most expensive at $40-$80 daily. Off-site lots are typically 20-60% less than on-airport prices.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Airport Parking Types

Short-term parking offers proximity to terminals as the major benefit, with higher hourly rates as the main drawback. 

Long-term parking provides value for money on extended stays, with farther transfer distances as the compromise.

Economy parking is very budget friendly but located farthest out. 

Valet parking grants maximum convenience for a premium price.

In summary, travelers can weigh location, cost, amenities, and other factors to select the ideal match. Advanced reservations allow comparison shopping across different options.

Booking Airport Parking

Popular ways to book airport parking include:

  • Online – Most airports allow pre-booking parking on their website
  • Apps – Third-party apps like Parking Panda compare options at specific airports
  • Phone – Call the airport or chosen parking facility directly to reserve
  • Third-Party Websites – Allow comparison of on-site and off-site parking rates
  • In-Person – Some smaller airports only offer first-come parking on arrival 

Travelers should book in advance when possible for best rates and guaranteed availability. Those with flexible travel plans can occasionally score deals on day-of parking. 


Choosing the right airport parking type requires factoring in trip details, budget, preferences, and vehicle needs. Familiarizing yourself with the options can help travelers select ideal parking with ease. Advance planning and reservation minimizes hassle and helps avoid sold-out facilities. With proper preparation, airport parking can be simple, stress-free, and perfectly suited to your specific travel requirements.