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Airport parking has evolved over the last couple of years, and if you haven’t traveled for a while, it’s safe to say that it’s definitely not how you remember it!

No longer is there one set option for airport parking, where you rock up at the airport and park your car at the terminal; airports around the world now have a variety of options for you to choose from.

These options depend on the kind of parking you’re after, the extent of your budget, and how close you want to be to the gate. The closer you park to the airport the more expensive it is.

Whether your priority is budget or convenience, read on for the most common options for airport parking at most major airports (always remember to check your options before you fly, as they obviously vary from airport to airport).

 Different Types of Airport Parking

Short Term Parking

Parking car RF

You’ll find short term parking at pretty much all airports around the world; these parking lots are located near the airport, which means they also offer a lot of convenience in being able to walk straight across to the terminal.

Short term parking has nothing to do with the duration of your holiday though – the purpose of these parking lots is essentially to park your car in order to drop or receive someone at the airport.

Because these car parks only expect you’ll be an hour or two, the rates are the most expensive; you can choose to leave your car here overnight, or for a couple of days, but you’re going to have a massive bill at the end of it.

Pro tip: If you can’t find anyone who’s free to drive you to the airport, a great way to use the short term lot is to park your car, and have a family member or friend pick it up a couple of hours later when they’re free; obviously you’ll have to arrange getting them your keys, and reimburse them for the parking fee (make sure you leave the ticket in the car for them).

If a friend or family member is dropping you off, and you’re happy to wave goodbye at the curb, you shouldn’t even need to drive into short term parking.

For pick ups, big airports usually have a free cell phone lot, where the person collecting you can wait for free until you’re ready to be picked up.

Daily Parking Lots

Cuba classic car RF

If you’re only taking a short day trip, daily parking lots can be a great alternative to short term parking. These lots / garages are typically located a short drive from the airport, and will offer a shuttle service to get you to the terminal.

There’s a lot of convenience in this type of parking, because you drop your car and the airport transfer will then drop you directly at the terminal. Though many of these lots are private and not associated with the airport.

Private parking lots aim to stay competitive, so they generally offer lower rates than even the airport’s long term parking. Some will even wash your car for free while you’re traveling!

For this type of parking you typically make your reservation online (which often saves even more money), though if the parking lot is private, there may not always be an arranged shuttle, so just make sure you confirm this.

Long Term Parking

Long term parking lots are often the cheapest form of parking, though usually the least convenient, being located the farthest distance away from the airport of other parking options.

If you’re heading away for a couple of weeks, or more, long term parking is by far the most cost efficient option to take, and there is usually a shuttle to then take you to the airport terminal.

Pro tip: Being that you’re leaving your car in a parking lot for several days to a week, make sure you don’t leave any food in the car, or anything that may smell overtime, or fester in an enclosed space in hot weather. Similarly, if you’re traveling over winter, it’s a good idea to keep an ice scraper with you for when you get back to an ice covered vehicle.

Websites like Parkos that show many different parking options, depending on your needs and budget, so if you’re only heading away for a couple of days, you can compare prices on long term parking vs other options to make a decision.

Meet and Greet Parking

Valet parking RF

Meet and greet parking is similar to a valet service in which someone will come and get your car when you are close to the terminal and have it parked for you.

Such options are suitable when you are on a business trip and the company can bear the expense, or also when you are travelling with children.

Hotel Parking

Airport hotels often have great deals that include parking in the package, and, even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you may be able to book parking in their lots for cheaper than the long term airport parking.

That said, even if you live in the area, do the math; you might find that it’s potentially cheaper to stay at an airport hotel the night before and use their extended parking deals, than it would be to pay for parking at the terminal.

The added benefit of hotels is that they offer free shuttles which drop you directly at the terminal, and usually the parking will be secure, underground, and undercover.

Other Alternatives

Waiting for a taxi cab RF

If none of these options make sense for you, there are many ways of getting to the airport without having to use parking, including taxis, ride hailing services (like Uber), taking public transport, or asking family and friends.

Keep in mind that not all airports around the world allow ride hailing services (for instance, LAX has banned both Uber and Lyft from picking people up at the terminal), and some countries will have their own specific brands (ie Grab is the company most commonly used in SE Asia).

The most important thing is to do your research in advance.

Airport Parking Tips

If you’ve chosen to park at the airport, consider reserving your parking spot online in advance. Not all airports allow this, but some airports offer considerable discounts, so it can be a great way to cut down on costing.

It’s important not to loose your parking ticket, as otherwise you’re likely to have to pay a penalty to exit the parking lot. We recommend leaving your ticket in the car; while this means you’ll probably have to go to the car once you get back, and then walk back to the terminal pay station, it guarantees that you won’t lose it while traveling.

Make sure your car is locked, and don’t leave any valuables in plain sight – make sure anything you do leave in the car is hidden so that you don’t become a target for opportunistic theft. It’s also a good idea to pull your side mirrors in, so they don’t get hit by other cars parking.

Take a photo of your car in the parking spot, both for insurance purposes (this is handy if you have to make a claim for something that happens while you’re away), but also for being able to remember where you parked it (handy if you’re away for a couple of weeks).

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. Note the outrageous practice in UK airports that has crept where they charge to drop people off at the curb.

    • Woah no way! I haven’t encountered this yet, but I’m with you on thinking that charging for curbside drop off is quite outrageous! Hopefully the idea doesn’t take off.

  2. thanks for sharing the useful information about the airport parking.

    • You’re welcome, thanks for reading :)

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