Paying for Airport Parking

I just got back from a weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was faced with the usual travel decision about car parking. From official airport lots to private lots, you can pay a lot or a little to park at the airport.

The Budget Option

For a long time, I always parked in the shuttle lots at Denver International Airport. The shuttle lots are a couple of miles from the main terminal and cost $7 per day. When you park, you walk to a bus stop and wait for the first ride to the terminal. After your flight, you wait, usually quite a while, for a bus back to your lot.

I remember the good old days when this lot was $5 a day, then $6 a day. Now, at $7 a day, it is not that much cheaper than the next option.

If I were going for a long trip, there is no question I would use a shuttle lot. I would not want to pay a higher rate for anything longer than a couple of days. However, it is slow and inconvenient. Waiting for the busses can be frustrating, and waiting for them on a cold winter day can be miserable.

The Middle Option

Lately I started parking with the middle of the road option. For $11 per day, only $4 more than the shuttle lots, I can park within walking distance of the terminal. At the economy lots, you can hop on a shuttle that takes you to the door, which takes about two minutes, or you can walk the three minutes across the lot to the main building.

When you are ready to head back to your car, you never have to wait more than a couple of minutes for the next shuttle, or you can walk.

For my most recent trip, parking in these lots cost me $12 more than parking at the farther lots. I saved something like 20-30 minutes each way parking closer in. My time and the frustration of parking farther away are worth it.

The Luxury Option

If you want to be a big spender, for $21 per day you can park in the attached garage or for $30 per day you can use valet. Not worth it to me.

I can justify an extra $4 per day, but paying another $10 on top of that is ridiculous. The garage might save you 3-5 minutes and can save you from scraping snow off of your car, but I can handle that myself.

I have parked in the garage once when someone else way paying, but it made me feel kind of sick to my stomach wasting their money on it. Not worth it to me.

Private Parking

Around the airport, there are also some private parking companies. They offer a higher level of service than the shuttle lots but at a higher price. For $8 per day for uncovered or $14 per day covered, one local private lot will pick you up at your car and offers faster busses than the public shuttle lots.

To me, this is not really worth it. You end up farther from the terminal and still have to deal with busses. Some people must do it, because there are several private lots in business today, but I would rather go with the option offered by the airport.

Public Transportation

If you live in a city where it is an option, you can always take the train, bus, or pay for a cab. This is either expensive or slow, depending on the situation, and is not really practical here in Denver. However, I have taken the light rail, subway, or a cab to the airport depending on the city I am visiting.

Or Just Get a Ride

If you have awesome friends, you can always try to get a ride. If I am going on a trip more than a few days, I always try to get a ride. I also happily help friends get to/from the airport if it works for my schedule, so it all comes out in the wash.

This is not always an option, but it can save you a lot of money, particularly on a long vacation.

How Do You Handle Airport Parking?

Do you drive yourself or go another route? How much do you spend getting to the airport and back? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Image by jeffwilcox / flickr

14 thoughts on “Paying for Airport Parking”

  1. Depends on the circumstances, but I use coupons, discounts and online searches too. I sometimes use my friend’s son and pay him a fee to take us to the airport.

  2. Luckily I had a friend who lives near ORD. He put our car in his garage and took us to the airport. Saved us a hundred bucks. I must admit though, that when we got back and were extra tired and had to ride back to his house, I wished our car was in the expensive lot.

  3. I’d probably get a ride from my parents or a friend because the airport is close by. I’d do the same for them if they need it. No sense in paying for airport parking unless the fees are less than the gas costs to get back and forth twice.

  4. When I lived in Dallas, we used Park & Fly – which seemed to be a decent priced option compared to parking at the airport (big time expensive). Now I live by a smaller airport and if I can’t get a ride, I pay the $3 a day to park (I know – as cheap as it gets!)

  5. I almost always end up using the economy lots. I was at the airport yesterday and was running super late (my flight was scheduled to leave at 11:56 and I was still en route to the airport at 11:02am). I thought about just sucking it up and heading towards the closest lot, but ended up making a last minute decision and risking having the shuttles in the economy lot delaying me even further. The economy lot at DAY is $6.95/day whereas the long term parking is $12/day and of course valet is a whopping $18/day. I needed to park for 11 days, so the economy lot was the best budget wise. The shuttle picked me up within 3-4 minutes (it wasn’t busy on a Thursday morning), but I should have allotted more time to avoid being stressed. Luckily, I made my flight with 10 minutes to spare.
    The CMH airport is great, only $4 a day for long term parking, but it’s also the airport that is easiest to get to and about 15 minutes from downtown, so getting a ride from a friend is a breeze, whereas DAY is an hour away and at least a $60 cab ride to the nearest city.
    I have parked for over a week at BOS before and opted to park in the oh so economical Logan Express in Braintree. Parking is $7/day and they have a shuttle that leaves every 30 minutes. For Btowners, this is great bc you avoid paying airport tolls and traffic. You end up with a relaxing ride to the airport without having to actually drive yourself into the city and $7/day isn’t bad. The shuttle to the airport is $11 one way, but there are seasonal discounts available sometimes. It’s a 30-45 minute shuttle to the airport, but I would rather someone else drive through traffic. Of course, with this option you need to plan ahead. No running late allowed.

    1. It sounds like you have checked into all of the options. For double the price, I think I would go with economy over the long term lot as well.

  6. I’ve been using a corporate car service lately. Town car pickup from my house. Super easy, no hassle at all. It costs about $80 each way, which, while it might sound high, if you are traveling with multiple people or for an extended period is competitive. But for time and convince it can’t be beat, especially if I am working on the way. And it is the cheapest option if the company is picking up the tab.

    1. I wish my company would drive me to the airport! If you can’t find a ride, that is actually very reasonable for a long trip regardless of where you were thinking about parking.

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