5 Ways to Save Money on Airport Parking and Transit


Travel costs can fly high - even on the very first day of your long-awaited vacation.

The one thing that’s often overlooked?

It’s the cost of going between house, airport and hotel.

Paying for parking at the airport adds up after a few days. And yes - it can be expensive. But then again…

I live on the opposite end of the city from the airport so a cab ride is heavy on the wallet as well. When I travel, this is one of the aspects of a trip that requires me to plan ahead.

One strategy I use is to try to stay at hotels that offer a complimentary airport shuttle when we arrive in our destination. But this solution may not be for everyone.

So what are other alternatives?

Consider these 5 ideas...

1) Car Rentals

Because cab fares in most cities are outright expensive. And it may be cheaper to rent a vehicle to get to/from the airport. A one-way rental sometimes carries an additional charge but they can still be cheaper than taking a cab.

The benefits of renting a vehicle is that you can leave when it is convenient for you and you don’t have to worry about a cab not showing up when travelling to the airport.

Also, since you are returning the vehicle to the airport rental location this means you don’t have to pay for airport parking which tends to be expensive in most major airports.

The downsides of renting a vehicle are that you’d have to make sure you return the vehicle with a full gas tank (otherwise you’ll be charged for one). Also when travelling from the airport to home you’d have to go through the rental process (waiting in line, paying and inspecting the vehicle for damages).

I mentioned that I live on the opposite end of the city from the airport so a cab ride to and from the airport is quite expensive. In the past I have scheduled two separate car rentals to get to/from the airport, and have saved about $60 each way.

2) Hotel Airport Shuttles

Another alternative of getting to/from your destination is making use of hotel airport shuttles.

Some hotels offer complimentary transportation to/from the nearest airport, which means you don’t have to pay extra for cab fare.

Travel to the Airport

Hotel shuttles are handy for extended stays because most hotels allow you to park your vehicle at the hotel (for free) and use the airport shuttle service if you stay there for a single night. They’re also handy for people who are driving to a major airport from a smaller town who will need to stay at a hotel one night because of their travel schedule.

I know several people who travel to the southern United States during the winter months and will stay at a hotel for one night, use the complimentary shuttle to get to the airport and park their vehicle at the hotel for several weeks. Once they land back in Canada they’ll call the hotel beforehand to arrange a complimentary shuttle back to the hotel, where they pick up their vehicle. The cost of a one night stay are generally cheaper than paying for several weeks’ worth of parking at the airport.

Travel from the Airport

Hotel shuttles can also be used once you arrive at your destination. If your destination hotel offers an airport shuttle you’ll want to check their booking policies before landing, as some hotels offer a set schedule while others require an advance booking.

Related: 10 Best Travel Credit Cards in Canada for 2016

3) Using Uber

If you live in a city where Uber currently operates, you can easily book a trip using the Uber app to get to and from the airport.

When you arrive at your destination you can also arrange to have an Uber ride pick you up within minutes. Since the Uber app uses cell phone data when travelling to a foreign country you’ll want to make sure you turn your roaming off on your phone and use the airport wifi (if available) when you arrive.

Using Uber offers many of the conveniences of using a taxi - but the costs can be significantly lower.

Depending on the length of your trip it may be cheaper than renting a car. You can quickly confirm this by getting a trip estimate on the Uber website to make sure you are using the cheapest transportation method.

When using Uber you’ll want to make sure you avoid travelling during peak times like New Year's Eve (if possible) as ‘surge pricing’ can take effect – with rates going significantly higher than normal, non-peak rates.

The Uber app should notify you of when surge pricing is in effect.

4) Airport Parking

There are usually opportunities to save money even if you prefer airport parking.

Most major airports offer different tiers of parking - the economy lots are almost always the cheapest. The drawback is that they are usually the farthest away and are uncovered which can be problematic in colder temperatures.

Park and ride options are available at most airports from third party companies. For example, at the Calgary airport there are several parking options in addition to parking onsite: Park to Go and Park & Jet.

When using a third party parking provider you can sometimes find deals by searching online for coupon codes and using any affiliated memberships such as CAA to get the cost even lower.

5) Group Tours

Some tourist destinations offer group tours – day trips to popular tourist destinations.

Since tour companies realize that many tourists don’t have access to a vehicle while on vacation, some of them include airport transportation as part of the total price.

If you require transportation from the airport to your hotel you may be able to book a tour with an airport pickup and hotel drop-off.

Depending on the tour company, you may be able to book a tour near the end of your trip as well and request the tour company drop you off at the airport instead of your hotel at the end of the day. If you are booking a tour anyway, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Your Savings Per Trip

When we think about it - there are 4 legs between the airport and our accommodations during any trip that involves air travel.

If you are taking a cab, that often means cabfare of $50 or more for each leg giving you a total cost of $200 or more. Even if you can only cut that number in half, you are still saving $100 every time you travel…

I think it’s worth the effort to try - what do you think?

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KP's picture

My suggestion. Look for a good hotel deal that offers free parking for up to 14 days. Book a room for the day before you travel and the day you arrive home and get a good night rest and 28 days of free parking. Most hotels offer a free shuttle to the airport and often a free continental breakfast. It works especially well for people coming from out of town.

November 01, 2016 @ 12:06 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, exactly - I've done it before too but was reminded by this article from Dan that I should be doing this more often.

November 01, 2016 @ 12:29 pm
MB's picture

Isn't that free parking for guests who stay for the duration of the allotted 14 days? I can't see that they would let you park there if you're not actually staying in the hotel. Please clarify this for me.

Thank you.

June 22, 2017 @ 2:56 pm

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