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What’s the Easiest Way To and From the Airport?

SmarterTravel

Even after you’ve locked in airfares and hotel rates for your summer trip, you still have to get from the airport to your hotel. And unless you’re being met, you have to decide among several options:

  • A rented car is extremely convenient, but expensive; and you have to worry about extra parking charges at the hotel.
  • A taxi is probably the most convenient, overall, but it’s also expensive.
  • Airport buses usually run on fixed routes so you often have to get a local taxi to your hotel.
  • Public transit also runs on fixed routes—it’s most useful in cities with congested access roads to downtown.
  • A door-to-door airport shuttle.

An airport shuttle is often your best bet. It’s almost as convenient as a taxi and almost as inexpensive as an airport bus. Shuttles serve most major airports and many smaller ones around the world. Here’s how they operate:{{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}

  • On arrival, you claim your baggage and head for a shuttle zone where a 7- to 12-passenger van either waits or stops frequently. Hop in with several other travelers, and the van heads directly to each rider’s destination—hotel, private residence, business, or whatever. Most shuttles recommend you make an advance reservation; some require a reservation, but you can often just get on as long as there’s room. Reserve by phone or online and maybe buy a ticket online.
  • You have to reserve for your return flight—call the shuttle for a pickup wherever you are, and the van delivers you to the departure area of your airline’s terminal.

Fares are generally in the range of $15 to $30 each way for one traveler, depending on airport and distance; additional travelers in the same party generally pay less. In most cases, the fare is less than half of what you’d pay for a taxi. It’s often more than an airport bus, but airport bus routes don’t drop off and pick up right at your hotel, office, or residence.

The greatest convenience of an airport shuttle is, of course, that, as with a taxi, you need get on and off a vehicle only once. But you have to allow extra time required to accommodate other travelers:

  • At your destination airport, you may have to wait for the shuttle to load other travelers before it heads for your destination. I’ve sometimes been frustrated to sit in a shuttle for 10 to 20 minutes waiting for additional passengers. Even worse, the shuttle may leave, only to re-enter the airport for another pickup round before finally heading for town.
  • In your destination city, your shuttle may make several stops before it gets to your destination or the airport. In the worst cases, it may even take you far out of your way. However, in most really large metro areas, larger operators schedule shuttles to/from individual zones. So if you’re heading to Beverly Hills from Los Angeles International, for example, your shuttle won’t detour to Pasadena on the way. To minimize problems, use one of the bigger shuttle companies—and ask in advance whether it schedules separate vans into individual zones.

I recommend reserving in advance, either online or by phone:

  • SuperShuttle (800-258-3826) is the largest single-company shuttle operator in the United States and probably the largest operator at any airport it serves.
  • Go Airport Shuttle (877-544-4646) is a cooperative portal of individual shuttle companies serving more than 100 airports in North America plus Edinburgh, London, and Paris.
  • Airport Shuttles is a portal with links to hundreds of shuttle operators, worldwide.
  • RideFly lists shuttle operators at most big U.S. airports, and even provides customer ratings.
  • Airlines that emphasize ground bundles, such as Allegiant, usually offer ground transport as part of the package.

For couples and especially groups of three or four, a cab may well be no more expensive than a shuttle, and it’s almost always more convenient. But single travelers—and often couples—will find that a shuttle is the best bet.

How do you travel between the airport and your final destination? Share your thoughts and advice by submitting a comment below!

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