Airport parking charges can bump up the price of your trip. But planning ahead will help keep costs down.
You might have bagged a bargain break but holiday extras can soon add up, making a cheap getaway far more expensive.
Airport parking is one of these easily forgotten extras and in some cases holidaymakers can end up paying hundreds of pounds to park their car nearby.
But being savvy can save money. We explain how to avoid a car parking nightmare.
When it comes to airport parking there are a wide array of options. They range from parking at the airport terminal to off-site carparks, from parking yourself to handing over your keys and having your car parked for you.
Meet and Greet services involve having your car picked up at the terminal and then delivered back to you there on arrival, meaning you don't have to wait for shuttle buses.
Always plan ahead
The best way to research your parking options is to go online.
Lots of airport and private operators will be competing for your business but it's important to choose an established company rather than just go for the cheapest quote.
Sites such as Airport Parking Shop are a good starting point and allow you to select criteria, such as an approved car park, which are important to you.
For a booking at London Heathrow between August 20 – 26 2011, prices ranged from £39.49 for an unapproved car park, to £132.80 for valet parking. The average charge was in the region of £50 - £60.
Sites such as Sky Park Secure offer a similar airport parking price comparison service.
Anthony Clarke-Cowell of holidayextras.com advises booking ahead to cut costs.
He says: “That’s our number one tip - always book in advance. Don't ever turn up and pay on-the-day prices as that can be extremely expensive.”
Safety and Security
“The best way to ensure your car is safe and secure in your absence by choosing a car with the ‘Park Mark’ status which will have been vetted by the police,” says James Harrison, spokesperson for the British Parking Association.
He also recommends British Airport Association (BAA) approved car parks as havinghigh standards.
Some parking arrangements involve leaving your keys with the parking company, which will then have your car parked by one of their staff.
Some people prefer this arrangement, as there isn't a risk of losing your keys on holiday. Others worry that their cars will be damaged by negligent staff or even used as a runaround in their absence. Established companies such APH or Purple Parking come highly recommended.
Read the small print
Some deals allow for cancellations and amendments while others don't. And some companies charge booking fees so watch out for these.
Check out transfer times to the airport and the frequency of buses. Also, look at the insurance provision the company offer to protect against any damage to, or loss of, your car when it's in the car park.
It’s also important to allow for delays. Add a couple of extra hours or more when booking your parking slot so you don't get stung for extra charges if your flight comes in late.
Why not stay overnight?
It's also possible to arrange parking packages that include a hotel. This might sound more expensive but the cost includes leaving your car at the hotel whileyou're away and it often works out to be far cheaper than standalone car parking – especially for longer holidays. It’s also particularly useful if you've got an early flight.
You could also make arrangements to park on someone's private driveway or garage via a company such as parkatmyhouse.co.uk. However, you will then have to allow for the cost of transport to the airport terminal.