Parking lot via Wikimedia Commons
Parking lot via Wikimedia Commons

Avoid airport/cruise port parking hassles

By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency

If you live close enough to have someone drive you to your local airport for that holiday trip — or close enough for a taxi, Uber or shuttle — you don’t have to worry about airport parking. But if you plan to drive your own car and leave it at the airport, you could be in for overflowing airport lots, high long-term parking prices, or both. Fortunately, you have two alternatives.

More than 100 large and midsize U.S. and Canadian airports have attracted independent airport-area parking lots, and most offer, at a minimum, reserved parking, plus free and frequent shuttles to/from the airport, usually at a dollar or two a day less than the adjacent airport’s long-term lot. In addition, many offer some combination of indoor, covered and uncovered parking; some also offer valet service with your car rather than a shuttle, and a few offer minor services while your car is parked. Several online parking agencies arrange airport parking:

These agency websites compare rates, services and availability; they link to the reservations websites of independent local lots near an airport, with quite a bit of overlap in the listings. In addition, The Parking Spot, as far as I can tell, operates its own dedicated lots at 22 U.S. airports, mostly in the South and Northeast.

Another option is to book the night before an early morning departure at an airport-area hotel. Hundreds of airport-area hotels offer packages that combine one night’s accommodation with up to 30 days of “free” parking in the hotel’s parking area, with shuttle service to/from the airport. Or, if your return flight arrives very late, most hotels let you take the overnight stay at the end of your trip instead of at the start. Most also provide for parking beyond the nominal limit for an extra daily charge.

I know of three online agencies that specialize in parking packages at airport hotels:

In addition, several of the parking agencies, listed above, also offer hotel/parking packages. These agencies list mainly the same hotels, but the overlap isn’t total. You might as well check all three agencies just in case any one agency doesn’t cover all your options.

Also, many airport-area hotels and motels independently offer similar packages. At least three hotels near my home airport of Medford, Oregon, for example, offer parking packages but do not list with any of the hotel/parking agencies. If you don’t find what you need on one of the nationwide sites, you can Google something like “airport hotel parking packages [city]” to find other choices. Or check the websites of hotels near the airport. Also, your travel agent may have access to deals.

Although the online blurbs typically boast “free” parking, the one-night package room rate is almost always higher than the hotel’s lowest available rate. But the difference in rates is much less than the cost of parking for a week an airport-area parking lot: I’ve usually found the premium for a week or more of parking works out to only a few dollars a day, and much less than you’d pay at most big airports for just the parking.

The hotel/parking specialist agencies and some online airport parking listed also offer similar deals at major cruise ports. But when you dig into the details, you see that many “cruise port” listings are actually for airport-area hotels and lots with shuttles to/from the actual port area. And, in some cases, the “free” port shuttle is one-way only: You pay for the return trip. Only a few hotels or parking lots are actually near the port.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s rail travel website at Rail-Guru.com.)

(c) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.– December 12, 2017

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