Big cities are dense, and in all of that density, it can be impossible to find a place to park your car. When you want to explore, you’re going to find yourself spending a lot of money bouncing from one expensive parking spot to another.
Parking shouldn’t count towards your entertainment budget – you don’t want to forego buying dessert for your friends because it costs so much to keep your car in one place. A little planning can help you save more money for experiences.
LOOK FOR ‘FREE UNTIL’ SPOTS
A lot of big cities offer free parking at community lots during specific timeframes. It’s usually free on the weekdays and free early in the day on the weekends. It might be slightly out of your way to find one of these community spots that offer “free until” parking, but if walking for ten minutes can save you ten dollars, that’s a dollar per minute of your time. You’ll only need to pay for parking if you’re going to be there after the cutoff time. Just return to the lot and pay if you’re going to be there for a while.
BE WILLING TO WALK
The free spots and cheap spots are often a while away from the places most people want to go. Walking a longer distance in order to secure cheap parking might sound like an inconvenience, but it’s probably a good thing. Not only are you saving a few bucks, you’re getting some exercise. Obviously, exercise is good for you. If you’re on a trip, you probably want to indulge on the local delicacies. Eat a little more that you probably should every once in a while – it’s okay if you’re moving around.
RESERVE PARKING IN ADVANCE
Great parking spots go fast. If you know where you’re going to be and what time you’re going to be there, call ahead to local lots and reserve a place. If you need the spot for a day or two (perhaps it’s close to your accomodations), you’ll likely get a steep discount by making the reservation so far in advance. It never hurts to ask.
USE COMMUNITY PARKING
Find local people who have more parking space than they have cars. Pay them to let you use their extra space. It’s cheap, and it’s easy. It’s also slightly safer than leaving your car in an unattended lot – keeping your car in someone else’s garage protects it. You can use sites like Parkhound to find community parking.
FIND PARKING ON AN APP
Technology makes everything easier. There are a significant number of parking apps in the Google Play store and the App Store that will help you find nearby parking wherever you’re at. These apps often list the price for parking, allowing you to choose the best value between distance and price.
GET SOMETHING SMALLER TO PARK
It might be hard to find cheap parking for a car, but it’s a lot easier to find cheap parking for a bicycle. Many cities around the world encourage bicycle tourism in an effort to reduce traffic congestion. If you want to save money and experience more of the sights and sounds of a place, leave your car behind (or don’t opt for a rental vehicle) and travel by bicycle rental.
PARK SLIGHTLY OUTSIDE OF THE CITY
If you’re going to be spending the whole day in one large city, don’t park in the city. Use a cab or an app based ride service to get dropped off in the city. When you get there, you can travel by public transport. Opting for an all day pass to use the trains, subways, or busses in a city will be cheaper than having to pay for long term parking.
Spend less time worrying about parking and more time having fun. Sometimes, a long detour, the need to walk, or the budget conscious move of leaving the car behind will only increase the amount of fun you’ll have on your adventure.
Sarah Kearns is a hard working mother of three daughters. She is a Senior Communications Manager for BizDb, an online resource with information about businesses in the UK. She loves cooking, reading history books and writing about green living.