Airport transfers are pre-arranged transportation for travelers between an airport and their final destination, whether it be a hotel, cruise port, or another local point of interest. They are often prebooked and prepaid through a booking service, a travel agent, or a tour operator, or they can be free services like hotel shuttles. Airport transfers do not include taxis, rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or public transportation options. You can also book transfers when you're heading back to the airport at the end of your trip.
Private Airport Transfers
Private airport transfers are when you and your travel companions take pre-booked transportation to your destination. Typically you are met at the airport by a driver (drivers are the people you see holding signs with names on them outside of the baggage claim in the arrivals hall). As an individual traveling for business or leisure, you can book private cars, limos, or even vans for bigger groups. Most tour operators and cruise lines organize transfers themselves to bring guests directly from the airport to the tour meeting point or the port.
The benefit to choosing this kind of service is convenience—it eliminates the stress of trying to hail a taxi or lug a heavy suitcase onto public transportation. Many travelers enjoy having all their transportation taken care of (including payment) before they arrive at their destination airport, especially if they're coming off a long-haul flight. Plus, many drivers will monitor their passengers' flights, so they can adjust pick-up times if there are delays. The only major downside is the price. Private transfers can be very costly, though if you're splitting the price with travel companions, it could be cost-effective when compared to taking a normal taxi.
To book your own private airport transfer, look up local taxi or car services at your destination, or ask your hotel for assistance.
Shared Airport Transfers
Some airports in major cities offer shared transfer services, such as shuttle buses or vans that can be booked by multiple parties. Unlike private transfers, which can be scheduled at any time of day, shared transfers often operate on a regular schedule. Some shared airport transfers will offer door-to-door services and can drop you off at your hotel, while others will only bring you to a central hub in the destination, like a train station.
Some tour operators and cruise lines book shared transfers for guests arriving at the airport around the same time. This will usually still be door-to-door service, though.
Shared airport transfers are usually significantly cheaper than private airport transfers, so they're a great option for travelers who want to take a more convenient transportation option than taxis or mass transit, but don't want to pay an exorbitant fee. The only downside is it may not be door-to-door service, and you might have to wait for other guests to arrive before your transfer departs.
Another type of airport transfer is a hotel shuttle. Many hotels located near airports offer free shuttles between the airport and their properties. Like shared airport transfers, they often operate on a regular schedule (ranging from every fifteen minutes to every hour—or longer intervals). Sometimes they don't operate 24 hours a day. Contact your hotel to see if they offer a free shuttle for guests, and make sure to ask about the schedule. Some hotels ask guests to call ahead to reserve space on a shuttle, so keep that in mind, too.