Discount coupons for airport parking lots also can be found online, in newspapers and travel magazines, on Groupon-type sites and through membership clubs such as AAA, AARP and Costco.
Many lots will offer discounts for reserving, and in some cases, paying for your parking spot ahead of time. But even if you’re only shopping by cost, be sure the lot you choose is well-lit, secure and offers 24-hour on-call shuttle service to and from the airport because you never know when a scheduled afternoon flight arrival will end up delayed until 2 a.m.
Some off-airport parking lots compete by offering extra services, such as complimentary jump starts and tire change or inflation. Others, such as The Parking Spot, with lots near more than 20 major airports, offer customers free newspapers, bottled water and valet service.
Many off-airport lots also have frequent parker programs that offer everything from preferential spots and fast check-out to free days after a set number of paid ones.
Beyond traditional off-airport lots, many hotels near airports offer stay-n-park deals which can be both economical and convenient for early morning departures. Other options include driveway-sharing apps, such as JustPark and ParkingPanda, and peer-to-peer car-sharing services such as FlightCar and RelayRides, which let you park your car for free near an airport in exchange for making your car available for rent to another driver while you’re out of town. If your car is rented out, these companies will also give you a cut of the fee.
At the airport
Revenue from parking fees plays an important part in airport operating budgets.
Airports reported making approximately $3.1 billion, or 41.2 percent of their non-aeronautical revenue, from parking and ground transportation fees, according to the most recent concessions survey conducted by Airports Council International–North America.
So while the price to park closest to the airline terminal is generally higher than at off-airport lots, many airports offer discount coupons, frequent parker programs and other perks in an effort to stay competitive.
Weekly parking rates in the garage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, for example, are currently $130. But a quick search of the airport’s website brings up a coupon for a full week of parking, including taxes and fees, for just $99.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which earned $78 million from parking fees in 2013, offers early bag check-in for those parking in its East Economy parking facilities and discounts for prepaid parking reservations.
At Nashville International Airport, where parking fees represented 34 percent of the airport’s fiscal 2013 operating revenues, the frequent parker program offers fast access in an out of a reserved section and free parking days for earned points.
Sometimes what you drive or where you’re going can make a difference.
Long Beach Airport, for example, offers free parking for electric vehicles and throws in a free car wash for travelers who pay the $24 daily fee for valet parking.
Travelers rushing to fly out at Germany’s Düsseldorf Airport can now pay a robotic system named Ray to park and retrieve their cars.
After a driver leaves a car in a designated spot, Ray uses sensors to photograph and measure the car, then picks it up and gently transports it to one of 249 close-in parking spots.
On a nearby touch-screen, passengers confirm to Ray that no one is still in the car and share details of their return flight.
Ray then monitors flight schedules to calculate when a car should be retrieved for its owner and spends any off-time rearranging the cars to maximize use of available parking spaces. If a traveler’s itinerary changes, Ray can be contacted via an app.
“Some people think it’s too space age, but we think busy business travelers, especially, are ready for Ray,” said Thomas Nagel, a software engineer with Bavarian-based serva transport systems which is testing the system at Dusseldorf Airport with air transport IT company SITA.
“German people are very proud of their cars, but there’s insurance in case something goes wrong and we haven’t ruined a car yet,” he said.
The new parking robots (there are three “Rays” at work) are entertaining and convenient.
But they are not cheap.
The airport purchased the system for more than a million dollars. (A good introductory price, Nagel said), but PremiumPlus robot parking with Ray adds about $6 per day to the self-parking option in the close-in garage, which already tops $33 a day.
No matter what type of car you drive, if you travel to or from Atlanta, you’ll be pleased to know that on Thursday, February 16, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (finally!) opens its first cell phone lot for drivers waiting to pick up arriving passengers.
The 160-space lot is along South Terminal Parkway at the east end of the Park-Ride Reserve lot and has no flight monitors, portable toilets or other amenities.
Refrigerators at AUS
At the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, six decorated refrigerator doors are on display in the baggage claim area, at carousels two and four. The doors were used as canvases by high school students as a way to promote the importance of recycling and will be on display through the end of February.
Where to go for Presidents Day
And, if you’ve got Presidents Day off you may be trying to figure out where to go to get in touch with a presidential past. Here are some tools and tidbits that may be helpful.
From Friday, February 17 through Monday, February 20, the Presidents Gallery at Madame Tussauds in Washington, D.C. is offering free admission to anyone who shares a birthday with a U.S. president.
The folks at Roadside America, keen collectors of odd travel destinations, have just released a Roadside Presidents app for the iPhone. They’re charging $2.99 for it – but you can bet that it’s full of all manner of oddball Presidential landmarks and museums.
And, from my post on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin, here’s a list of some towns and attractions with special Presidents Day events on tap:
In Washington, D.C., Ford’s Theater, the site of the April 14, 1865, assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, is hosting a Presidents Day open house on Feb. 20. Among the free activities scheduled are storytelling, Civil War-themed ranger talks and a presentation by costumed actors that includes a reconstruction of Lincoln’s assassination.
Every Four Years: Presidential Campaigns and the Press, a new exhibit opening at the Newseum Feb. 17, traces the way the media has covered presidential campaigns from “William McKinley’s 1896 front porch campaign to Barack Obama’s 2008 Internet campaign.” In addition to notable TV campaign ads, the exhibit includes campaign artifacts such as handwritten notes taken by John F. Kennedy during a 1960 presidential debate and the “Florida, Florida, Florida” white board used by NBC’s Tim Russert on election night 2000.
As the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, Virginia proudly calls itself the “The Mother of Presidents” and has dozens of historic sites paying special Presidents Weekend tribute to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson.
There will be free admission on Feb. 20 at George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, where a costumed General Washington will be on hand for activities to include the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Washington’s Tomb, music and military performances and a (shh!) surprise birthday party.
During Presidents Weekend, actors portraying founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison will be visiting Colonial Williamsburg.
Alexandria will be marking the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth with a celebration that includes a Birthnight Banquet & Ball (Feb. 18), a Revolutionary War Reenactment (Feb. 19) and the George Washington Birthday Parade (Feb. 20). Historic sites around Alexandria, such as Gatsby’s Tavern Museum, where early patrons included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, will offer free admission on Presidents Day as well.
In Boston, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is celebrating Presidents Day with discounted admission from Feb. 18-26. An activity-filled Family Festival Day on Feb. 21 includes the opportunity to meet actors playing presidents and first ladies such as Thomas Jefferson and Dolley Madison.
Sleep like a president
Presidents Day weekend activities can include sleeping where a past president got some shut-eye.
“Every president from Eisenhower to George W has stayed at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, a historic hotel that still brings in weekend splurgers,” says Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet.
Another option: the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Every American President since Herbert Hoover has stayed in the suite, which is decorated with the personal desk of General Douglas MacArthur, one of John F. Kennedy’s rocking chairs and other presidential artifacts.
Presidential treatment doesn’t come cheap. A weekend night in a two-bedroom executive suite at the Greenbrier is about $900, while nightly rates for the Waldorf Astoria’s Presidential Suite begin at $10,000 – and include a background check.