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, convenience, and comfort. If you have a flight that departs very early in the morning or arrives late at night, a park and fly hotel is especially appealing, made more so if your home is a long drive from the airport.
How It Works
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 a day. The parking tab upon arrival home, even in the 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 plus another $11 for taxes. At $90, the savings is $30 over parking in a long-term lot.
Some might say $30 is a rather modest saving, 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 and have a quick shuttle ride to the airport early in the morning rather than a long drive before the sun comes up to make your plane.
Of course, there can 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 considering all the convenience you've bought.
Naturally, the process works in reverse if you have a late-night arrival for a late plane departure. 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.
Things to Consider
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 assign a specific area of its parking lot for the 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 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.
Do not announce at check-out that you'd like to leave your car in the parking lot for 10 to 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. Set up your park and fly arrangement well in advance of departure.
Most hotels will charge a park and fly room rate that might be a bit higher than their standard price.
How to Find Park and Fly Hotels
ParkSleepFly lets you search by the airport. These services work with hotels to fill rooms (and in this case, parking spaces) ParkSleepFly requires a deposit plus a service fee. The deposit is applied to the room rate. Another choice is Stay123.com, which takes a 25 percent deposit at the time of booking. You'll pay the remaining bill at hotel check-in. If the reservation is canceled, the service keeps a penalty fee. BuyReservations.com secures the reservation and charges your credit card the full price when you book. 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.