smart spending

Park and fly to catch bargain airfares

"If it was totally my decision, I would do it every time I had to fly out of an airport more than two hours away," she says. "Sometimes we can save $100 or more if we fly out of Philly or Pittsburgh rather than out of State College."

Multiply that $100 by the number of travelers, and it starts to look enticing.

... Keep in mind that hotels sometimes offer better deals on long-term parking than the airport.

Avoid traffic disasters
There are other goodies to consider. If you've ever bitten your nails in traffic on the way to an airport, you know there's another benefit to sleeping at a motel.

When you sleep over, you can avoid the possible snarls of traffic. Long drives can mean long delays, as Poremba found out.

"Allentown is normally a three-hour drive for us," says Poremba. "We figured we would leave home around 1 p.m., get to Allentown before evening rush hour, get settled in the hotel and then go out to dinner before getting a good night's sleep.

"Turns out, it was a seven-hour trip because of three different accidents and lots of detours and sitting in traffic," she says.

Fortunately, the flight was the next day.

"I can't even imagine how stressful that trip would have been if we were supposed to catch a plane that evening," she says.

Questions to ask
Sure, there are plenty of potential pluses. But not all park and fly deals are created equal.

Ask about
Hotel shuttle
Parking regulations
Extra parking fees

Before you book, call to ask for details about the hotel shuttle.

"If you're using a hotel shuttle, make sure it's a round-the-clock one," says Hilary Nagle, of Waldoboro, Maine, who was stuck using a cab from Boston's Logan Airport.

"Nothing worse than getting delayed, calling for a shuttle and finding out you have to take a cab. That can eat a big chunk out of the savings."

Another inquiry to make is about parking regulations. Some motels let you park free for a night or two, others for a week and others are unlimited. And these policies change frequently, so even if you've stayed there before, call again.

Some motels tack on extra parking fees, which are still usually lower than the airport. It's worth clarifying before you sign on.

Even if you don't plan to sleep over, keep in mind that motels and hotels sometimes offer better deals on long-term parking than the airport itself.

"At the Manchester, N.H., airport, long-term parking and the park and fly option, the Highlander Inn, which is a hotel as well, are the same price -- $8," says Leah Williams, a college instructor.


"But I had AAA -- $1 cheaper at Highlander -- and thought it would be easier not to have to hunt for my car. The previous time I forgot where I parked my car in long-term. What can I say? It was 3 a.m. when I parked, and three weeks later, where I had put it was a little fuzzy."

-- Updated: Dec. 26, 2007

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