The Frugal Traveler: How To Save Money On Parking Fees

Incidental vacation expenses can seriously sink a travel budget. One of the biggest culprits? Parking fees. Steer clear of excessive prices with these helpful tips.

Planning: Rates can range widely, so it pays to research the parking situation in advance. is an online decision-making engine that lists fee prices for parking facilities in major cities and airports in the United States and Canada. The site also comes with a variety of smart phone apps. By selecting the city or airport in question, travelers are able to determine in real time when driving that extra couple of blocks will make parking financially feasible.

Booking your reservations online and in advance can often result in discounts as well. However, for the best deal possible, consider the time of day you will need to park. In many cases, meter fees are not charged after a certain hour of day. This strategy proved useful during a cocktail-hour business meeting with colleagues in Orlando. By arriving after fee hours, I was able to save enough on parking costs to cover the cost of my bar tab. Score!

Validate: Many restaurants, theaters, and even urban shopping venues will validate parking fees for patrons. In downtown areas where costs can reach as much as $30 per hour, this strategy c an shave serious dollars off the total cost of dinner and a show.

Distance: Depending on the quality of public transportation in your destination city, it can often be far less expensive to park outside of town and take the train into the middle of the tourist action. This strategy has worked well for me when traveling to both New York City and Washington, D.C.

Alternatives: Sometimes a hybrid approach will save you the most money. When visiting high-traffic tourist attractions in cities, consider leaving your rental car at the hotel for no charge and taking advantage of the free shuttle services many of them offer. A generous tip to the driver will still sink you less than either parking or a cab. In certain circumstances, you can even ski p the parking situation altogether. For example, on a month-long trip to South America, my husband and I skipped long-term parking at the airport altogether and spent our monies instead on an airpo rt transfer service. A private car and driver allowed us to leave our vehicle at home in the garage, and save more than $300 in fees.