By this time, you probably have your tickets for any holiday trips you may be considering. But just getting the flights may not solve all of your travel problems. You have to consider several other factors.
AIRPORT PARKING. If you plan to drive your car to your departure airport and leave it there until you return, you have to think about parking. Daily rates — even in long-term lots — can vary from just a few dollars to $20 or more, and regardless of price, busy airport lots often fill up during really busy seasons. So you might want to pre-arrange parking, and the best way to guarantee a spot, as well as potentially to shave a few bucks off the cost, is to arrange parking at a private off-airport lot. More than 100 large and midsize U.S. and Canadian airports have attracted independent airport-area parking lots, and most offer, at a minimum, reserved parking plus frequent free shuttles to/from the airport. Also, they usually charge a dollar or two a day less than the adjacent airport’s long-term lot. If you want, many offer some combination of indoor, covered and uncovered parking; valet service with your car rather than shuttle, and even car servicing. Several online agencies arrange airport parking:
— Airport Parking Reservations (airportparkingreservations.com).
— Long Term Parking (longtermparking.com)
— Park ‘N Fly (pnf.com/)
— Park Ride Fly USA (parkrideflyusa.com)
— Parking Access (parkingaccess.com)
These agency websites compare rates, services and availability; they link to the reservations websites of independent local lots near an airport, with quite a bit of overlap in the listings. In addition, The Parking Spot (theparkingspot.com), as far as I can tell, operates its own dedicated lots at 22 U.S. airports, mostly in the South and Northeast.
STAY AND PARK. Another approach is to arrange to stay and leave your car at an airport-area hotel/motel the night before departure — especially before a very early departure. Hundreds of accommodations offer stay-park packages that can include up to two week’s “free” parking. I put free in quotes, because the parking-inclusive rate is almost always higher than the lowest available rate. But, overall, a stay-park package is often cheaper than parking alone at a big airport. Several outfits specialize in these packages:
— Park Sleep Fly (parksleepfly.com)
— Stay 123 (stay123.com)
— Hotel N Parking (hotelnparking.com)
— BuyReservations (buyreservations.com)
In addition, several of the parking agencies listed above also arrange hotel/parking packages. These agencies list mainly the same hotels, but the overlap isn’t total. You might as well check several just in case any one agency doesn’t cover all your options.
Some agencies also offer long-term parking at major cruise ports, where parking is often more of a problem than at airports. In many cases, however, they arrange parking at the same lots as they use for airports, sometimes with a port shuttle, sometimes without.
ARRIVAL SCHEDULING. If you’re visiting family, chances are your days are already planned out, and you have little flexibility. But if your flight is very long or a red-eye, such as flights to Europe, Asia, or the Pacific, I strongly recommend three possible schedule strategies:
If the long flight delivers you to your destination, plan on staying at a hotel near the airport — even better, a hotel right at the airport — the first night. You’ll likely be exhausted; don’t mess with schlepping downtown.
If you face a connecting flight or train trip after arrival, on the other hand, take it right away rather than staying overnight at the arrival airport then re-schlep the next day. You’ll be shot, anyway, so take all the grief in a single day rather than ruining two days with schlepping.
Once you get to your real destination, plan to stay at your arrival hotel at least two nights, even if you plan to explore the region in a rented car or by train. Leave that first day after arrival completely empty, so you can relax and shake off the worst elements of the trip ordeal.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at [email protected] Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)
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