With all the talk about ways to save money on airfare, I thought I would write an article that explains how to save money before you get on the airplane. Try these ideas on for size.
Save on airport parking
Parking at the airport can be a real headache -- driving up and down mile-long lines of already parked vehicles in the economy section. Using off-site parking and taking advantage of free shuttles to the terminal can be a much better idea. But with so many off-site parking lots competing for your business, how do you know which one offers the best deal? Sites like BestParking.com and LongTermParking.com have a solution.
BestParking.com is a free parking search engine that steers drivers toward the cheapest and most convenient parking facilities in 105 cities and 115 airports. Addresses, phone numbers, photos, rates and other attributes are provided for all facilities, and some of the nation's largest parking operators also offer exclusive discounts and reservations through the service.
Using BestParking is a cinch. Simple select your desired airport and your arrival and departure dates/times. BestParking will crunch the numbers and pop up the dollar amounts of all available parking vendors on a Google map. Saving money can be that simple! And save you can, especially when you consider that in midtown Manhattan, motorists can spend anywhere between $12 and $87 for a full day of parking, or that a week's stay at Los Angeles International Airport can range from $53 to $210.
BestParking also offers a free app for iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 users.
Of course, the default option is to a simple web search for "airport parking coupons + (the name of the airport or city)" or something similar. For example, I had to leave a car in Jacksonville, Florida for three weeks and couldn't find any parking that was less than $4.99 each day. When I did a Bing search for "Jacksonsville airport parking discount," I found a deal for $2.75 each day! It's like a treasure hunt just looking around for things.
Avoid baggage fees by not checking a bag
Only one discount airline -- Southwest -- still allows you to check up to 2 bags without paying a fee. JetBlue used to make your first bag free no matter the fare you bought, but they recently complicated things by putting in a fee structure for baggage on the cheapest fares.
Nobody knows if Southwest will continue with their liberal "no baggage fees" policy. But it certainly has made for some strong imaging for them. You can see their "no baggage fees" commercials on constant rotation during heavily watched sports events.
Of course, not everyone lives in a market served by Southwest. So there's still one other way to avoid baggage fees no matter which carrier you're flying: Don't check a bag! I travel only with what an airline permits free as a single carry-on -- usually a 22x14x8 piece of luggage. Another plus is I never worry about the airline losing my baggage.
Sometimes getting everything you need into a carry-on can be an extreme test. When you fly Ryanair, the European discounter, your suitcase must be less than 22 pounds -- or you'll pay a nearly $50 fee to check it in at the airport ($20 online).
So my favorite Ryanair story involves the time I had to wear multiple layers of clothing in Dublin, Ireland to make sure I avoided that hefty $50 fee! I had to wear three layers of clothing so that my bag would be less than 22 pounds. That meant three pairs of pants, two shirts and a sweatshirt on top of that while flying. My wife even has the pictures to prove it!
For more money-saving tips, visit ClarkHoward.com. Money in Your Pocket. Advice You Can Trust.