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If you use an airport or cruise port that is a long drive from your home and you plan to leave your car there while you're gone, staying at an airport or cruise port hotel can remove some of the usual travel stress:
- If you have an early-morning departure, staying the previous night means you won't have to worry about car problems on the way or getting up before the crack of dawn.
- If you have a late-afternoon or evening arrival, crashing for the night before you hit the road can offset fatigue and jetlag before you start the fight traffic.
Moreover, a hotel-plus-parking package can cut your costs significantly. Hundreds of airport- and cruise port-area hotels combine accommodations for a night or two with up to 21 days of parking at the hotel at a rate that is less than you'd pay for a comparable hotel and port parking separately. At most places, the qualifying night(s) you buy can be at either the beginning or end of your trip. I know of three online agencies that arrange these parking packages at airport and cruise port hotels:
- Stay 123 seems to cover the most ground these days. It lists about 100 locations in the United States, five in Canada, 20 in the UK, and a few scattered elsewhere around the world.
- Park Sleep Fly, which led the field for many years, currently lists options at 80 large and medium-size airports in the United States plus five in Canada, six in Europe, and a few others.
- BuyReservations lists accommodation/parking packages near 72 U.S. ports.
In addition, many airport- and port-area hotels and motels independently offer similar packages, but if they don't list on one of the big nationwide sites, they're not easy to find.
The typical hotel-park package includes one night (double or single, up to quad), parking for seven to 21 nights, depending on location, plus shuttle transfer to/from the airport for both departure and arrival flights. The one-night package rate is almost always higher than the hotel's lowest available rate, but the difference is usually much less than the cost of parking for a week or two at an airport-area parking lot. Most of the time, I've found that the price difference works out to much less than $5 a day—and almost always less than the airport charges. Most participating hotels allow you to take the hotel night(s) at either the beginning or end of your trip, or one at each end—options you might find useful depending on your specific itinerary.
For the first time this year, I noticed that many hotels now assess a varying charge depending on the number of days they park your car. At most of the places I checked, the daily increment was just $1 or $2, which is much less than the daily charges at most airport parking lots. As part of that trend, more hotels now offer parking up to 21 days rather than the 14 days that used to be about the top.
In recent years, the hotel-parking packaging sites have moved into cruise parking in a big way. Current programs now cover most of the major cruise ports in the United States. But cruise port packages are typically a bit different—and not quite as convenient as airport packages:
- Some participating hotels are downtown or in other central areas adjacent to cruise ports, but many others are more distant. In fact, many hotels that tout their cruise packages are actually the same airport-area hotels that feature airport packages.
- Partly for location reasons, many cruise promotions do not include no-charge two-way transfers to/from the port. In spot checks, I found quite a few deals with no-charge one-way transfers, but none that covered both-ways shuttles. There may be some, however.
Making the Deal
As with just about any travel service you buy, always check prices and never accept a claim of "discount" or "less expensive" without comparing the alternatives. You can check on airport onsite parking rates directly—all airport and most cruise port websites show their own parking rates.