As with all holidays, destination, accommodation and flights take priority, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holiday preparations and neglect important aspects of the holiday which could end up costing you extra. One of these key areas is airport parking.
There are many options available when selecting airport parking, such as on-site parking, off-site parking or perhaps meet and greet valet parking. Due to the wide choice, and because the main components of your holiday have been booked, it’s easy to just say ‘I’ll deal with it later’. But this decision to delay booking it until nearer the departure date could end up costing you dearly. As the holiday season approaches and airport parking bays are booked, the number of parking spaces available decreases and as the old favourite ‘law of supply and demand’ states: if supply is short the price increases. This law also applies to airport parking: because of increased availability early in the season you may find your parking cheaper than if you were to leave it to the last moment – you should also have more parking options available to you the earlier you book.
It’s no good waiting until just before your holiday to book a bay thinking a company will offload parking bays cheaply just to fill them – it just isn’t going to happen! So it really does make sense to book early, and if nothing else, it’s just one less thing to panic about nearer the day.
So where do you start when booking airport parking when there are so many options available? Firstly, check out what parking options are available at your airport. Generally, there is onsite parking in either short-term or long-term car parks and off-site parking which tends to be a cheaper option.
On-site parking, i.e. on airport, is either operated by the airport authority or an independent contractor; off-site parking is run by independent contractors.
With on-site parking the options are short-stay or long-stay. Short-stay parking is exactly that, short stay, designed for passenger drop-off and pick-up. An hourly-rate is usually charged for the first day of parking and daily rates thereafter. Short-stay parking is suitable for parking up to 4 hours, any longer and it is usually cheaper to pay a daily rate in the long-stay car park. A word of warning: the daily rate in the short-term car park is significantly more expensive than the long-stay. There have been cases where travellers have inadvertently parked in the short-stay car park and faced huge parking bills when they got back, sometimes more than the cost of their flights!
On-site long-term parking is for travellers who require parking for an extended break, car parking fees here as cheaper than the short-stay, but generally more expensive than the off-site car parks. Car parking here is charged on a daily rate so if you are just picking up or dropping off a passenger, and will only be at the airport for a couple of hours, it is advisable to use the short-stay car park where you will be charged by the hour and not the day.
Off-site parking is organised at off-airport sites where travellers drive to the car park, park their car and catch a shuttle bus to the airport terminal. Off-site car parks run shuttle buses to and from the airport, so on your return from holiday you need to catch a shuttle bus back to your off-site car park. Parking fees are generally lower for off-site parking spaces.
If you have large sporting equipment such as a bike, ski equipment, surf or windsurfing board, it is worth checking in advance with your parking operator to ensure they can accommodate your sports equipment on their shuttle bus. Likewise, if you have a large vehicle or trailer check that the car park can accommodate your vehicle – an excess charge will probably be levied for these.
Meet and greet parking, or valet parking as it is sometimes known, is parking where you are not required to park your car, you simply drive right up to the airport terminal where a meet and greet driver is waiting to meet you and take your car to the meet and greet car park. Once your baggage has been unloaded from your car you are free to walk straight into the airport terminal. This type of parking is suitable for travellers with children, travellers with limited mobility, business travellers short on time, or travellers on activity holidays with heavy or over-sized sports equipment.
On return travellers are requested to call the meet and greet operator from baggage reclaim so when they exit the terminal their car should be there waiting for them, warmed up and ready to go! Car valeting is often available with the meet and greet option, so if you fancy coming home to a clean car check the services available with your operator.
With all the above options it really is down to you to decide which to choose, but whatever you do decide it really is better to pre-book your parking to obtain the best possible price. If booking off-site parking make sure you have the directions to it and a contact number when setting out so you avoid wasting valuable time driving around when you should be checking in. If parking on-site, remember where and on which level you parked your car to avoid hassle when you return.