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Practical Pointers: Do this now to make your holiday airport experience easier

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We’re getting closer to the holidays, and hopefully, those who plan on traveling have already booked flights. If you haven’t, you should do so as soon as possible.

After crowds filled airports throughout the spring and summer, we’ve seen little relief as autumn has set in. Last Friday, for instance, U.S. airports saw nearly as many passengers as the busiest holiday travel days this past summer. That would seem to be a pretty good indicator of what we can expect leading into Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

So would this:

Airports took to social media last weekend to let passengers know that parking lots were close to filling up. New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) put out the alert last Saturday, as it does on many weekends.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) did the same, going as far as to encourage travelers to have a backup plan in case no parking was available at all.

This occurred on an average weekend without a major holiday typically associated with increased travel. TPG has reported this year on how airport parking has been a major challenge as travel has resurged.

Imagine what it will be like when the biggest crowds of the year hit terminals for the end-of-year holidays.

For that reason, once you’ve booked your flights, there’s another step you should take to make your holiday air travel experience go as smoothly as possible.

miami airport
Thanksgiving crowd at Miami International Airport (MIA) in 2021. JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

Tip: Book your airport holiday parking now

If you’re planning on driving to the airport for your holiday travels, there’s a good chance you may have trouble finding a parking space.

All year, airports have been quite vocal in urging passengers to book their parking spaces in advance. However, it’s something we, as travelers, tend to do a day or two before our trips — if we do it all.

Many airports allow you to make your parking reservations much further in advance, though. So, why wait? Whether you’ve already booked your holiday flights or you’re planning to do it soon, book your parking now.

packed parking lot
A packed parking lot in July 2022 at Raleigh/Durham International Airport (RDU). SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY

Take Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). On the airport’s website, you can go to the parking reservations page, input the day or time you’ll be arriving at the airport and indicate when you plan to leave. You can also select which terminal you’ll be using.

I plugged in Dec. 23 for the date of arrival and Dec. 26 for the departure date.

lax parking

Then, I arrived at this page, which gave me a whole range of parking options, from economy to valet to other parking near each terminal.


After I entered my payment information, I could rest assured that I’d have a parking space even on a busy holiday weekend.

Booking in advance can save you money, too

Another thing to keep in mind is that by booking your parking and paying in advance, you can often tap into some savings. Generally, you’ll be able to save the most by booking and paying for the highest-end parking options ahead of time.

Check out the potential savings at LaGuardia. If I was arriving at the airport on Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving and returning on the Sunday after the holiday, I could get covered parking near Terminal B for $195; this is drastically less than the airport’s advertised $325 “drive-up” rate.

lga parking

That’s a savings of $130 or 40%. (Economy parking is, of course, cheaper).

You can also save when paying for parking in advance at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

park dfw

Before you pre-pay, you will want to check the specific terms of your airport and particular parking reservation to see if you can make changes in the event of a flight delay or cancellation. Many airports allow you quite a bit of flexibility to make changes.

Bottom line

When hustling to make a flight during the busy holiday travel season, the last thing you want to do is have to drive in circles for 20 minutes searching for an airport parking space, wondering if you’ll find one at all.

Since airports offer reservations for parking spaces, if you know now that you’ll be flying — and driving to the airport — go ahead and lock in your space now. This way, you don’t have to think about it until you’re pulling up to the terminal. You may even be able to save some money if you pay now.

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