Suppose you and three friends are jetting off together on a trip. Or it is time for a family vacation. Taking a home to airport shuttle van now costs about $ 50 for four people and that's just one way. A cab may be even worse unless you live fairly close to the airport. You could find a long term car parking lot but they are charging anywhere from $ 10- $ 12 per day here in San Francisco. Here is a 10 day trip will set you back about the same as the shuttle and in addition you have to wrestle with the bags and kids, all at 6 am. But what's the alternative?
Think about staying overnight at an airport hotel, leaving your car during your trip, enjoying a nice continental breakfast and leaving on a shuttle bus that pulls right up front. You can find 10-14 day Park and Ride (aka Stay, Park and Fly, Park and Jet, etc) packages from $ 79 to $ 149, depending upon the quality of the hotel. You can also find 7 to 31 days packages as well if need be, so shop around for what suits you best.
The advantages to your psyche are numerous - you can sleep in later, you get something hot in your stomach before leaving (depending upon when you leave), you get a restful night of sleep, you travel leisurely in your car to the hotel and back home after returning to the hotel. You can even just leave your car at the beginning of the trip and stay on the return (a reverse Park and Ride), a great alternative for when you arrive back late in the evening. If you live 150 miles or more away from the airport, park and stay packages are nothing short of a godsend.
There are a few pieces of advice I can offer you, all learned from years of experience handling park and flies. I GUARANTEE that you will not have thought of most of them.
Do not bring a car whose battery has been worn recently. Sitting for 7-14 days tend to drain batteries, not charge them. We get at least one party per month who have to call Triple A (or any tow company) upon their return due to a dead battery. Besides any out of pocket expense, no one likes to return home from hassling with flying and shuttles only to cool their heels in the hotel lobby for 45-60 minutes waiting for help.
Do not set your car alarm where a cough can set it off. People may bump the car or wind and rain may blow and if your alarm goes off unabated, the hotel will make every attempt to disconnect it and may charge you for the nuisance it caused other guests. If they can not disconnect it, the battery will always drain and it's hello tow company again!
Always bring more than one set of car / house keys. We recently had a family of seven people with two cars that discovered one party had LOST their keys in Mexico and the spouse had decided not to bring their souls along. They had to get two rooms that night AND one had to drive the other 250 miles home the next day to get the extra set. This cost them over $ 250 PLUS gas, not to mention the inconvenience.
When you make reservations at the hotel, remember to give the hotel the correct day of arrival, which is one day before you fly. We have at least one party a month that made a reservation for the day that they were flying because they were so focused on the trip dates and not the overnight stay dates. In busy times, the hotel may well be sold out by the time you arrive and find out the room was booked for the next day.
Lastly, think fairly about super cheap rates from some hotels. Anything much under $ 100 might be in a hotel that is not only run down, but the odds of something bad happening to your car increases because of the clientèle these hotels tend to attract. If it is TOO near the airport, it will also have planes roaring overhead all night, so check out the location before booking by reading reviews on the property.
Follow these pieces of advice and you will find staying overnight near the airport to be a pleasant alternative to hurrying out the door at 3 am for a draining two hour or more jaunt to the local airport parking lot.