Park and Fly Hotel options can increase the value of a very mundane expenditure.
Who among us takes any pleasure in airport parking fees?
Many of the best airfares are for flights that depart early in the morning. For flights like these, a park and fly hotel option might make a lot more sense than long term airport parking for your budget and your comfort.
That's right, comfort. Here is an opportunity to save money and gain convenience at the same time.
Consider the following real-life scenario: The departure airport is a two-hour drive from home, the flight leaves at 6 a.m. and the time away is 10 days.
Long term parking at the departure airport is $12 USD/day. The parking tab upon arrival home, even in long-term, will be $120.
Within two miles of the airport is a hotel with an around-the-clock free airport shuttle. Booking a room the night before the flight with 15-day parking privileges is $79 USD plus another $11 for taxes. At $90, the savings is $30.
Some might say $30 is a rather modest savings, perhaps the cost of a restaurant dinner during the trip.
Look at it another way: you're gaining $30 to stay in a comfortable airport hotel the night before you fly. Would you be happy to pay $30 on Priceline for such a room, less than half the usual cost? All but the strictest budget travelers would answer in the affirmative.
There will be Park and Fly rooms that cost more than the long-term parking tab.
If your room costs $150 a night but the airport parking tab is $120, you've still struck a great deal.
Naturally, the process works in reverse if you have a late-night arrival. Hotels will allow you to drop off the car without spending the night, then check into a room upon your return. Some travelers book a room for the beginning and the end of the trip.
Before you book, some warnings are in order.
If your departure airport borders on a high-crime area, be certain the hotel has solid security measures in place (most will in that situation). Don't leave anything of value in your car. That's good advice for airport parking as well. Many hotels will assign a specific area of the parking lot for Park and Fly customers. Take a look at the area to see if it's well-lighted and within the flow of traffic. If the area is remote and dark, negotiate for a better deal.
In your hotel search for Park and Fly hotel rooms, look for the words "free airport shuttle" among the services offered. If the shuttle costs a few dollars, it might still represent a good deal. But if the hotel is an expensive cab or ride-share fare from the terminal, the deal becomes far less attractive.
Another key warning: Do not announce on check-out that you'd like to leave your car in the parking lot for 10-15 days. Even though the hotel offers the service, it must be arranged when the room is reserved. Those who don't advertise the service might find a way to work out a deal, but it won't come at the last minute. Arrange your Park and Fly arrangement well in advance of departure.
Most will have a Park and Fly room rate that might be a bit higher than their standard price. For that reason, last-minute requests usually meet with disappointment for the customer.
With this in mind, how can a budget traveler identify hotels that offer Park and Fly?
Try a site such as ParkSleepFly.com, which allow a search by airport. These services work with hotels to fill rooms (and in this case, parking spaces). ParkSleepFly, requires a deposit plus a $5 service fee. The deposit is applied to the room rate.
Another choice is Stay123.com, where they'll take a 25-percent deposit at time of booking. You'll pay the remaining bill at the hotel check-in. If the reservation is canceled, the service keeps a $10 penalty fee.
BuyReservations.com secures the reservation and charges your credit card full price at time of reservation.
Cancellations are made through the selected hotel.
Another method is simply to search "Park and Fly" and the name of your departure airport.
Speaking of the hotels, one thing you'll notice during such a search is that each hotel has a separate Park and Fly policy. Some come with a generous 15-day free parking privilege. In other places, it might be five nights free and then a daily fee will start. The hotels usually price this rate at less than the nearby long-term parking fee. But if the room is expensive and your trip will be lengthy, there might be a point at which you reject these options and pull into the airport parking garage.
But at least look at this option if you have an early morning departure or a late-night arrival, because it frequently cuts costs as it increases sleep time.