Today I’m going to tell you exactly how to find cheap, convenient parking spots whilst on a road trip or otherwise. Accounting for parking costs is crucial when creating a road trip budget. That’s because reducing parking costs is one of the easiest ways to save money on a road trip.
This article outlines easy, non-technical ways to save money on car parking. Hopefully, it’s useful if you’re trying to plan a road trip.
In fact, these techniques saved me an immeasurable amount of time and money during my 20,000km road trip around Europe. I’ve also previously worked as a car park operations manager, so I know a fair bit about parking!
I’ll be providing 11 quick car parking tips as well as discussing bringing down the cost of hotel, commuter, and airport parking. For more useful advice check out our road trip resources page.
Let’s dive right into this guide to cheap car parking.
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11 Quick Tips to Save Money on Car Parking
Here are my 11 quick-fire car parking tips from years of experience in the parking industry and road-tripping around Europe.
They’re easy to remember and quick to implement. Let us know your favorite way to save money on car parking in the comments!
Save Money on Car Parking
- Pre-booking and season tickets (bought online) offer great discounts
- If you’re on a road trip, filter for accommodation with free parking on Booking.com
- Check price comparison sites such as Parkopedia and Parkme
- Consider parking on someone’s drive (JustPark in the UK)
- Always carry cash and coins for Pay and Display car parks.
- Park further away from your destination then walk, cycle, or use public transport
- Look for cashback offers online.
- Always read the signage and pricing bands carefully.
- Ask locals for free parking locations.
- Check Park and Ride services in your area.
- Look for discounted night rate parking.
Planning ahead really is the key to saving money on car parking. Pre-booking online and using the best price comparison sites is a great way to get the cheapest prices. For added convenience, always carry cash and coins and check the local park and ride schedule.
Parking further away or using someone’s drive (Think JustPark) can be a great option to find parking at budget prices. Use the contents above to navigate the different sections of this article and plan your road trip!
Save Money On Hotel Car Parking
During my trip around Europe, something I noticed early on was the impact of parking expenses on our budget. A cheap hotel often seems great, but it can be offset by high parking fees.
That’s why it’s important to always incorporate parking charges into the cost of accommodation before booking.
Here’s how to keep the costs down and save money on car parking.
Look for Hotels with Free Parking
The first rule on accommodation booking is to ensure that you have planned where you are going to park the car first. Search for accommodation using the free parking filter on popular accommodation booking apps
If you search for accommodation on Hostelworld you can easily add a filter for “free parking” and see the results!
If there is nothing applicable, find a few options without free parking and note the locations. If there are any that you like, then perform a search for just parking using Parkopedia, Parkme, or JustPark (U.K).
Once you have the parking costs and accommodation offerings you can make a decision on where to stay.
Use the Best Tools
I use Parkopedia, Parkme, and JustPark (U.K) to search for parking options near a hotel I am thinking of booking.
Parkopedia – the largest parking services provider on the planet. Search over 70 million spaces for the best price. Use filters and navigation tools.
Parkme – Another parking services search tool I like to use if I can’t find a good option on Parkopedia. Available on the website or app with many similar features to Parkopedia.
JustPark (U.K) – The AirBnB of parking, this site allows people to rent out their empty spaces for parking. This is great for airport parking and also for grabbing a bargain in the U.K.
The great thing with these providers is you can put in your exact date and time of arrival/departure and search options based on these variables.
If you are planning ahead you can also pre-book parking and get a better price (sometimes up to a 15% discount!).
You can do this on the service providers listed above and then present your booking confirmation either in printed form or on your smartphone.
This takes the stress out of it so you can enjoy your trip.
Always Carry Cash and Coins
Sometimes on-street parking is cheap and convenient but it can be pay and display format.
I always carry some cash and coins in case I need to purchase a ticket and it doesn’t accept card payments. This is especially true in less developed parts of the world.
But there’s more…
Cash can be vital during border crossings if you are road-tripping around Europe and there are many areas in the Balkans and Southern Europe where you need cash for local businesses.
Park Further Away
If you only have limited luggage you can consider parking further away to save on parking costs.
You can also consider dropping off one person with the luggage and then parking the car and making your way to the hotel.
Consider the Security of your Car
Although price and proximity to accommodation were often our primary concerns, we also had to be aware of the security of our vehicle
I expect that you feel the same
No one wants to enjoy an evening in a nice hotel only to find their vehicle has been broken into the following morning.
Filter for car park types when searching
Within the apps discussed above, you can filter the parking options to add or remove on-street parking options if you are concerned about leaving your vehicle in a less secure parking lot.
Here’s another Tip.
Take a black bed sheet with you and use it to cover up bags or belongings that are left in the vehicle overnight.
Save Money On Airport Car Parking
At the Road Trip Expert, we aim to bring you the best information we can based on our experience. From time to time when researching potential topics on the internet there is already an excellent resource out there.
This is one of those occasions.
If you are looking for a thorough guide to saving money on airport car parking then take a look at this guide from Money Saving Expert.
Looking to book a flight soon? Check out our article on finding cheap flights.
Save Money On Commuter Parking
When you are looking to save money on car parking following your morning commute parking the primary strategy should be to try and pay in advance to secure a block booking for a space.
You can buy a season ticket for a car park space much like you would for a football team. The ticket gives you a designated space for a set duration of time and can result in big discounts
Car park operators are always looking to maximize their yield and will jump at the opportunity to either pre-book spaces or sell season tickets.
The best ways to get a cheaper price
- Negotiate the price on behalf of a group such as your colleagues or other friends who could use the same car park
- Contact the car park management and ask for a discount via email.
- Consider parking that involves a longer walk to work
- Consider park and ride as an option as this may be cheaper.
- Buy online
- Look for low-occupancy car parks.
Some car parks offer free charging for electric vehicles.
This can greatly improve the cost of your commute if you are able to charge up for free whilst at your place of employment
Find Free Parking
Whenever I find free parking on a road trip it always feels like a big win!
Here are a few quick tips
- Use the tools/apps I suggested above to search for free parking areas
- Ask the hotel if there is any free on-street parking nearby. Often there is free on-street parking at night.
- Use Google Translate to check signage for on-street free parking
- Check Google for “Free parking in X(location)”
Clearly, this is the ultimate way to save money on car parking as it costs nothing at all!
Avoid Unnecessary Charges
Make sure you do not lose your ticket! Many car parks keep a record of the vehicles in their car park and will know how long you have been inside even if you lose your ticket.
They will often have the policy of a high fee for a lost ticket (Sometimes a minimum of the full day rate)
Breaking the rules can also lead to hefty charges. Read the signage carefully for any car park you enter, especially a pay-and-display or on-street parking format.
If you are abroad, Google Translate has an excellent camera function on the app that allows you to aim your smartphone at a sign and it will translate the text!
Be Accurate with Timing
When you enter a car park keep track of the time of entry and the pricing bands.
I always try to avoid inadvertently crossing over into a new pricing bracket with a big increase in cost due to an extra 10 minutes!
This can often be the case if you go over 12 hours and enter the full day rate.
Check Night Rate
If you are entering the car park during the night rate hours the pricing can be significantly different so ensure you read the signage carefully.
For example, some car parks will charge a fixed night from say 18:00- 08:00 but then your tariff will begin charging the day rates from 08:00 until you pick up the car.
This can lead to a big price difference between collecting the car at 08:00 versus say 10:00.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that many people have a certain dislike towards parking enforcement!
Having worked in the industry I can tell you the best way to avoid a charge is to read the signage when entering a car park and follow the rules.
This will often include parking neatly and displaying clearly a valid ticket.
In terms of on-street parking if you are unsure about the road markings as a local before leaving the car.
If you do receive a fine it’s often cheaper to pay it as quickly as possible.
If you are unsure if you have broken the rules you can email the company and ask for photographic evidence of the violation.
Are there any top tips or key points that I should add to this article?
Maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite tips to save money on car parking.
Either way, I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below right now!
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