Low-Cost Airport Transportation Options

zipcar car sharing service

 Getty Images News/Scott Barbour/Staff

A one-way car rental won't work in every location or with every car rental company, but it's worth checking into if you live some distance from a major airport. When you find a rental company that doesn't charge the drop off fee, consider joining its loyalty program. That way, you can lock in any corporate discounts for which you might be eligible.

Also, Zipcar is a car-sharing service that rents cars by the hour, and one-way car sharing from airports in several states nationwide, such as New York, California, Colorado, and Texas. 

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Public Transportation

The train station at Denver International Airport
Getty Images/Blaine Harrington III

If you'll be traveling to a major city, never forget to check the public transportation arrangements from the airport to the downtown area. It's frequently far cheaper to take a train or a bus than a taxi.

Some people complain that they have to go to a specific address that is far from a rail station or bus stop. This strategy still saves money though, because chances are good that you can take public transportation to one point and then perhaps a cab the remainder of the way. Your cab fare can be significantly lower by supplementing with cheap public transportation when practical.

Travelers who don't use sound packing strategies are likely to balk at this suggestion because it's not easy to climb in and out of trains or buses with a host of heavy bags in tow. But if you can practice one-bag travel, this is a wonderful strategy.

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Airport Shuttle

Shared ride airport shuttles are not the most popular choices among travelers. Budget travelers tolerate them to a point because there is money to be saved. But you'll find that the shuttles stop at a host of hotels before heading to or from the airport. It can be frustrating if you're already running late. And sometimes, the shuttle prices are still quite expensive. With all of that said, a well-timed shuttle pickup can be a money-saver.

Go Airlink Shuttle offers deals to airports in the New York area that sometimes start as low as $16 for a shared ride van. Naturally, the prices go up a great deal for private rides, which allow you to arrive in a swifter, more comfortable fashion.

It's best to compare airport shuttle rates against the standard cab fares. To find these prices, use a website such as TaxiFareFinder.com. In the New York example, it shows a cab fare (including tip) of about $38 between LGA and Penn Station. A shared ride airport shuttle that's just a few dollars less might not be worth the price.

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Pay Someone to Drive You

Man using taxi app
Getty Images/Tim Robberts

Sounds a bit awkward, right? Most of us would be uncomfortable asking someone to drive us to the airport, especially if there is a long distance involved. But if you offer to cover expenses (gasoline, tolls, etc.) and propose a reasonable fee based on the driver's time investment, you might be surprised by how many people will accept the offer. It goes without saying that this should be someone you know fairly well, with references from people you trust. The driver's record and insurance considerations are also important.

Many markets offer ride-sharing applications such as Uber or Lyft, which links up people who need rides with willing drivers. Costs are generally less than taxi fares. However, these ride-sharing apps are under fire by national, state and local governments because they do not collect taxes or pay the same fees that cab drivers must manage. If you use a ride-sharing app, stick with well-known ones with a good track record such as the two mentioned above.

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Park and Fly Hotels

Park and fly hotels are practical when you cannot find a workable solution with a one-way car rental, public transportation, an airport shuttle or a hired driver. You'll have to drive your own car, and leave it at the airport.

If that airport parking is needed for more than a few days, you'll be paying quite a bit for the privilege of having a car near the terminal. In some cities, the charges start at $18/day.

Park and fly hotels allow you to park in specially designated sections of their lots for free with an overnight stay. These arrangements are pre-arranged, not simply assumed by overnight guests. On a longer trip, when you'll have a parking bill of $100 or more, why not get a room for the night thrown in with the parking cost?