If you regularly park at the airport you may have wondered questions like how much cheaper is the park-and-ride parking versus the airport terminal garage or is it worth it to reserve or pre-pay for your parking?
In this article, we took a look at the 35 busiest airports in the US to see what type of prepaid parking options they offer and whether or not those options would be worth it.
Below, we will break down some of the savings (and non-savings) that you may encounter when going the pre-paid route.
Table of Contents
Prepaid parking at the airport worth it?
Prepaid parking at the airport can be worth it if the airport offers a discount or if finding an open spot can be challenging during busy times. In fact, looking at the 35 busiest airports in the US we found that discounted reservations for airport terminal parking garages could save you about 29%.
However, you need to be aware that some airports increase the price for reservations, slap on reservation fees, and have cancellation cut-offs 24 hours outside of your arrival time.
Keep reading below for more details!
Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!
What you need to know about prepaid airport parking
Some large airports don’t offer reservations
You would think that in the year 2023, all large airports would offer the ability to reserve parking spots.
Maybe it’s because parking is just not an issue for a lot of airports but after analyzing 35 of the busiest airports, we found that 34% of them did not offer reserved parking.
Personally, I’ve never struggled to find an open parking spot somewhere within the vicinity of a large airport, so reservations have never really been needed (we usually go for pretty early flights).
However, that may not always be the case at some airports and it might help you sleep at night knowing that you have a reserved spot at some of the busier airports.
About 40% of the 35 busiest airports advertise a discount for reserving or pre-paying for your parking in advance. Below are some examples of the savings that you can capture if you pre-pay for terminal parking.
|Airport||Terminal Daily Rate||Pre-paid Rate|
|Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)||$60||$35|
|Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)||$27||$9.50|
|John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)||$60||$36|
|Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)||$40||$29|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)||$30||$26|
|George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)||$24||$21|
|Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)||$30||$28|
|LaGuardia Airport (LGA)||$55||$39|
|San Diego International Airport (SAN)||$32||$21|
|Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)||$29||$26|
|Tampa International Airport (TPA)||$20||$18|
|Oakland International Airport (OAK)||$24||$19|
As you can see, sometimes these can offer you some really good savings like at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
At some of those airports, you could be saving close to 50% just by booking ahead!
At other airports, your terminal parking savings are probably going to just be a few bucks but can still add up especially on a longer trip.
The savings for park-and-ride reservations were not as common or dramatic as the savings for terminal parking. This was especially true for airports that charge you a reservation fee because the savings were already so slim.
Still, some of the rates dropped significantly like at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) where are the daily max rate dropped from $35 to $14 or at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) where it dropped from $12 to $4.50.
So don’t sleep on the savings for park-and-ride reservations!
One thing to look out for when doing prepaid parking at an airport is a potential reservation fee. Sometimes these can be pretty insignificant but other times they can really eat into the savings.
At Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), going through the reservation process showed an $8 reservation fee.
Sometimes these reservation fees can be a lot smaller but still cut into the savings on a short trip.
For example, consider the uncovered economy parking at PHX that requires a tram to get you to the terminal. This goes for $14 per day but if you book online you can get a 14% discount but they force you to pay a $2 booking fee.
So if you were flying out for one night for a quick business trip, your total parking cost would be the same whether you reserved or were a drive up.
Another airport with a reservation fee is Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
Price goes up?
Believe it or not sometimes the price actually goes up whenever you pre-pay online.
For Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), the parking reservation fee is $10 per space, per day. So not only would you be paying more but significantly more if you chose to reserve your parking.
This was the same situation at O’Hare International Airport (ORD), so there is something about those Chicago airports….
I suppose it could be worth it to pay more if these airport parking garages often fill up but most airports do not charge extra for reservations.
Notice and Refunds
If you want to reserve your parking, chances are you will have to make your booking a certain amount of time in advance.
The different time windows we encountered were 24 hours, 12 hours, two hours, and one hour but each airport may have their own booking window.
The notice time frame does not always coincide closely with the cut-off for making a change or cancellation.
For example, JFK requires you to reserve 24 hours in advance but the cancellation policy states:
You may cancel your Booking at any time up to 1 hour before the beginning of the Booking Period (your Booking arrival time) and receive a full refund. There will be no refunds for changes made less than 1 hour before the beginning of the Booking Period (your Booking arrival time).
It seems that the cancellation deadline for your reservation may often be one to two hours prior to your scheduled arrival time but always check the terms and conditions of your booking to verify. Some may require you to make your changes 24 hours out.
Lots of airports have promo codes that you can enter to save. So it probably is worth doing a quick search to see if you can find any recent and currently valid promo codes.
Some airports offer some very good savings when pre-paying for your parking. As long as you are mindful of the deadlines for canceling or making changes those savings can definitely be worth it.
But don’t ever assume that just because you are reserving or pre-paying that you will actually be saving money as reservation fees and price increases can sometimes force you to pay more for your parking.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.