Airport Parking Made Easy

Airport parking can be one of the worst parts of your trip, or it can be just another leg of your journey. And with the options available today, there's no reason the trip to the terminal has to be the most memorable part of your experience.

Here are some are some things to think about the next time you fly.

On-Site Parking

It goes without saying, but be early. The on-site lots usually fill up first, and they're always first-come first-serve. So with individual lots opening and closing without warning as spots are filled and vacated, you can be left circling endlessly.

Find out if your airport has an online status page. It could help you decide which lots are available, which lots to avoid, and how early you need to arrive. It might even prompt you to start thinking about other options.

Remember where you parked. Write it down. Better yet, take a picture of the nearest landmark. It's surprising how different things will look on your return.

And consider the easy-pay or Pay&Go options. You pay for your parking at the terminal then take the fast lane out of the lot. At the very least, use the credit card-only lane at the tollbooth.

Off-Site Parking

On-site lots fill up first, especially on Mondays and during the holidays. So instead of circling the airport, waiting for a spot to open, try some off-site options. Many times they'll be cheaper, safer and more convenient.

Off-site lots are usually close enough to the airport to run shuttles, so no more long walks to the terminal. And many will pick you up on your return. You'll just have to let them know when you arrive.

In addition, many lots now have their own websites where you can reserve parking. Some are even valet-parked, so you don't even have to find your spot. Just drive in, and they do the rest -- including loading your luggage and taking you to the terminal.

And off-site lots are usually more secure than ordinary long-term parking, since airport security is generally more focused on the terminal area.

Park and Stay

Hotels in the airport area often have so-called Park & Stay deals. Just stay at the hotel the night before you leave and take advantage of their free parking.

Even with the cost of the room, the free parking can sometimes average out to be less than either on-site or off-site prices.

You can usually score free parking for a week or more, and they almost always come with shuttle service. Some don't though, so you have to check. If a taxi is involved, you'll have to figure that into your time and cost as well.

So check out the deals around the airport first. With the price of on-site parking, you'll probably save money, and you'll make the first and last legs of your trip less memorable.