A simple look at airport parking options.
The Agony of Choice
Airport Parking wouldn’t necessarily strike you as the best example of consumer choice but as with most services in the modern world it’s become a developed market place with lots of different companies competing for your hard earned cash.
Considering that parking your car is often one of the last things you get around to doing when planning a holiday it’s not surprising that many people consider it to be something of a grudge purchase – therefore it’s a good idea to have an idea of exactly what you need before spending hours trawling through the options with time running out before you fly!
There are effectively 3 different types of parking you can choose: Onsite, Park & Ride or Meet & Greet. In turns out that they are all pretty self-explanatory…
Safe but expensive – Onsite Parking
With this option you park your car at the airport itself.
Most airports have short stay, mid stay and long stay car parks. The most obvious difference between short stay, mid-stay and long stay is that they are incrementally closer to the airport, and also (not surprisingly) incrementally more expensive. Staying in a short stay car park is going to set you back a considerable sum, but if you are loaded it can be very convenient for short trips.
Due to the sheer scale of some airports mid-stay and long stay car parks often require a shuttle service to take you to your terminal, even though they are still on the airport premises. This means they are effectively Park & Ride options (see below for more info) which is a little inconvenient if a walk to the airport terminal was what you had in mind.
All onsite car parks appears to have the Park Mark Award which provides guarantees on the security of your vehicle.
Cheap and not nasty – Park & Ride
You park your car away from the Airport and a bus is provided to take you to the airport
For those of you on a budget Park and Ride offers the best value for money of all the options. I noticed that these car parks could be up to 50% cheaper than other options at the same airport.
The downside to this is that your space can be as far as 15 miles from the airport. It can be a little exasperating when travelling with lots of luggage or small children to have to wait for a shuttle bus to complete your journey to the airport.
Depending on which airport you are travelling to, you could be asked to leave your keys with the car park so if you are unsure about handing over the keys to your vehicle then it would do good to check with the company before you book.
The frequency of the shuttle bus from to the airport is also something to think about when choosing this particular type of parking. Most are on demand but some Park and Rides have shuttles running anywhere up to every thirty minutes apart.
Airparks appears to be the most established Park and Ride company on offer and boasts the park mark certification at all its car parks.
Where exactly do you park my car – Meet & Greet
You drive to the terminal and your car is collected by an operative for your chosen provider. The car is then parked on your behalf and delivered to you on your return.
Meet and Greet services can be a fantastic help when travelling with small children, infants or the elderly as it offers a means to arrive at your terminal without waiting around for shuttle buses. A fully insured chauffeur (or at least that’s the claim) takes your vehicle to a secure compound up to five miles away.
You usually call around 20 to 30 minutes before you arrive at the airport so it gives your chauffeur time to arrive at the terminal and find your car. This service does of course require that you leave your vehicle in the hands of a stranger which is a new concept to a lot of people.
Meet & Greet parking has picked up a little bit of a bad name in recent years not least because of BBC Watch Dog investigations into rogue operators. Getting assurances on where your car is going to be when you are away is a must, the last thing anyone wants to be doing is worrying about your vehicle when you are travelling. Clearly selecting a reputable company with an established customer service centre would at least go some way to eradicating any fears in this respect. Stress Free Airport Parking appears to be the most established Meet & Greet company.
The advice would be to select any meet and greet product carefully – many appear to have Park Mark certification but many do not (these are usually cheaper it must be said).
To create this article I used price comparison website Looking4Parking.com to compare all the different options. There are plenty of other websites which perform the same service and as far as I can make out they all appear to sell pretty much the same products at pretty much the same price.
With this in mind I would recommend using the website that you feel offers the best customer service and quality of service guarantees – and it’s always worth looking out for discount codes in a sector as competitive as this.