Is this spot taken? Check out our guide to long-term lots.
On a recent trip to North Carolina, an IndependentTraveler.com staffer found herself circling LaGuardia Airport -- but she wasn't on a plane. Instead, she was driving her car with growing irritation from one airport parking lot to another, searching for an empty space to leave her vehicle while she was gone. With no prior reservation, she came up short at both LaGuardia's long-term lot and several off-airport locations. Finally, desperate and in danger of missing her plane, she found an attendant willing to accept a hefty bribe and landed a space at an off-airport lot.
Anyone who's had a similar experience knows that the hassle of flying can start well before you arrive at the terminal. If you know you'll need long-term parking -- especially at busy travel times like holiday weekends and Monday mornings -- then it's best to plan ahead. How can you ensure your spot in a crowded lot? Read on for our tips.
At the Airport
Atlanta (ATL): $9/day
Boston (BOS): $30/day (plus up to six hours extra), $40/day (plus up to 24 hours extra), $20 for each additional day up to six days (plus $10 for up to an extra six hours on sixth day) or $120/week (seven days + $20/each additional day)
Chicago (ORD): $9/day
Los Angeles (LAX): $12/day
Miami (MIA): $17/day
Newark (EWR): $18/day for first day, $6 for each eight-hour period thereafter
New York (JFK): $18/day for first day, $6 for each eight-hour period thereafter
New York (LGA): $39/day for first 48 hours, $6 for each eight-hour period thereafter
Philadelphia (PHL): $11/day
Portland, OR (PDX): $10/day
San Francisco (SFO): $18/day
Seattle-Tacoma (SEA): $28/day or $130/week (five to seven days)
And these are "economy" lots! Shorter-term parking at the airport can cost you well over $30 to $50 a day and are a rather exorbitant option for trips longer than a couple of days.
Unfortunately, in high travel seasons the economy lots fill up quickly, and most airports won't let you reserve a space there ahead of time. Some airport websites do let you check the current status of their parking lots before you leave for your flight -- so if the lot you want is nearly full, you'll have time to consider public transportation or call a few off-site lots.
Private lots may be farther from the airport, but they often offer a more pleasant experience than lugging your bags across an enormous economy lot and crowding into a shuttle bus to get to your terminal. Frequent flier Andrew Bartels, who regularly travels out of Newark for business, has used both the airport's economy lot and private off-site parking -- and got far better service at the latter on his last trip. "The experience was great," said Bartels. "You pull in, leave your keys in the ignition, someone grabs your bags out of the car and puts them on a small shuttle. They give you a ticket and off you go to the airport, normally within five minutes. When you come back home, you call an 800 number and they send a shuttle for you. When you arrive, your car is running with the heat on. You pay via credit card and you are on your way."
You can find lots near your airport with a simple Internet search or a flip through your local phone book. One useful site is LongTermParking.com, which offers coupons from its affiliate parking lots around the country. Typical offers include free nights and discounted rates. In a test of several airport locations, the coupons provided by this site yielded lower total prices than those at the airport's own lots.
We also like AboutAirportParking.com, which offers user reviews and ratings for hundreds of independent airport parking lots. Airparks.co.uk is a good source for parking in the U.K. and Ireland.
Airport Hotel Parking Packages
We tested a few different cities on the most popular site for hotel parking packages, ParkSleepFly.com. In Chicago, the lowest hotel rate we found near O'Hare was $89.00 a night at the Quality Inn O'Hare with up to seven days of parking. Say we spent one night at the hotel and then traveled for a week; since seven days of parking at the airport alone would cost $63, combining the two meant we were essentially paying only $26 (plus tax) for that hotel room -- not a bad deal.
We did even better in Seattle, where a one-night stay at the Knights Inn Sea Tac Airport started at $99.99 plus taxes (total $123.88) with up to seven days of parking. The weekly parking rate at Seattle is $130, so staying in a hotel the night before would actually save you about $6.
--written by Sarah Schlichter