With the rapid fall in the price of flights thanks to budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir, you'll now often find yourself paying as much to park at the airport as you did for your plane tickets. If you look at the business model of airports it's not surprising - as they compete to get business from the airlines, they instead move towards making their money from selling extras such as parking and shopping to their passengers. As anyone who has taken the Heathrow Express knows, public transport options can be equally pricey. But there's still ways of getting to the airport cheaply if you've got a few tricks up your sleeve.
Everyone knows that the best time to get a good deal with a traditional airline is to book last minute, and with a budget airline is to book well in advance. What most people don't realise is that airport parking companies adjust their pricing based on how far you book in advance too. The earlier you book, the cheapest the parking will be. But even if you leave things to the very last minute, it's still cheaper to book online prior to arriving at the car park.
Many airport parking companies have opened up in recent years offering large discounts over the official car parks. They're often miles from the airport, but provide a drop off at the terminal for you and your luggage. Be careful if you have to walk - as an example, this one is 20 minutes from the terminal on foot. But with so many operating at each airport it can be a real chore to compare prices of them individually. Instead use a price comparison screen scraper which does the hard work for you and brings back the quotes. These sites have also negotiated special deal with some parking companies, meaning it's often cheaper to use them than to go direct.
Airport hotels often offer car parking for your entire trip including in the cost of a room for the night. The advantage of these over the airport parking companies is that they're often much closer to the airport itself. If you need to stay overnight at the airport anyway, choosing this option is a no-brainer. Make sure you check if the airport transfer is included in the cost however as not all hotels provide this service free of charge.
If you don't mind parking in someone's driveway then you can often find a super cheap deal by cutting out the big companies with big overheads. Many people living near airports have realised their parking spaces are valuable and rent them out online. Many of them offer to drop you and your bags off at the airport and pick you up afterwards, giving you all the convenience of parking directly at the airport for a fraction of the cost. The downside is that driveways lack the security that official airport parking provides, and you won't find any disabled facilities like at the official airport carpark.
Of course leaving your car at home is always a good way of cutting out the costs of parking, but often transportation costs to the airport mean you won't be saving a penny. If you're prepared to be clever about how you get to the airport though you can pay only a fraction of the cost you would on official services. Many normal train services stop at airports and charge far less than the official services such as the Heathrow Express. They're also the option of going by coach, which almost always is cheaper than rail. With so many coach companies competing for your business prices are often super low, but you can still undercut them by using local buses that aren't designed for airport passengers (but remember these won't have the luggage space of dedicated coaches).
Remember if you leave your car at home on on street parking you're potentially running the risk of receiving parking fines from the council if they suddenly suspend on street parking. It's best to check pre-planned parking suspensions on the council's website before leaving and leave a set of keys with an insured neighbour just in case there's a last minute suspension.
This post was contributed by Jenny Cooper. Jenny works for Monkey.co.uk - check them out for travel insurance before you take your next trip. You can connect with Jenny on Twitter.