Airport parking? Is there a more boring topic known to the human race? Not only is it boring, like say, someone else's dental history, but also like tooth extractions you actually have to pay for this torture to take place. In fact, airport parking is horrible AND downright expensive.
Can you imagine being stuck in a plane next to someone who goes one about their airport parking schemes for the whole flight? Airport parking is so vile that people really should keep them to themselves…. But, here I am, weirdly, writing about this agonising topic. It could be my most suicidal blog to date.
Yet, buying the bloody thing is one of those hassles that have to be tackled whenever I go on travel trips. Public transport is rubbish where I live so I have to drive to Heathrow, Gatwick or wherever I’m being carted off from. Sometimes I get expenses , I which case I can just turn up and use the handiest car park and not worry. But usually I’m paying, so I usually do a cursory internet search and book some parking at one of the biggest, best-known and cheapest sites. I try to sort it as quickly as possible. Just trying to focus my mind on the topic is painful I have to confess that the life of a travel writer is so bizarre that on occasion I have turned down luxurious free trips because I couldn't face paying for the airport parking. Another free journey to, say Miami or Naples, feels mostly just like work for me - and who would pay airport parking rates just to go to work? Sometimes it cost more than I get paid for the story.
Using a top online parking broker is probably a better tactic. There may be several good ones but I found Parking4less.com This lot are based at Gatwick but cover 29 UK airports, plus the ports of Dover and Southampton. They’re big enough to negotiate discount rates with parking providers (they guarantee you won’t find cheaper) and it’s all pretty quick and simple. It means that you don’t have to queue and pay when you return to the airport after your trip. They cover all the usual options from basic on- and off-site parking to meet-and-greet systems and airport hotel packages that include parking. When you select your parking times, Parking4less show you the various options along with a customer rating for each option and a transfer time. (I don't get paid for you clicking on those links, don't worry!)
There are, however, even more cost-effective strategies available to the obsessively canny traveller. I have tried a website that finds you empty spaces on people’s drives near airports. Have a quick look at this site, at www.parkatmyhouse.com. You pay them for the right to park in front of their home. It's a bit strange and you can even see a photo of their suburban front garden to note the space that your car would occupy. I felt a bit weird about that - like I was intruding into their family life - so couldn't bring myself to try it.
Instead, I have also used Google satellite images to find the nearest pub with a car park to an airport. Then I called the pub (a clue: it was near Southampton airport) and persuaded them to let me park there for a few days… as long as I went in for a drink and meal on the way back. Okay, it took a long time to sort out… and it was quite a walk from the terminal carrying a heavy bag. And then it started raining.