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Avoid Singing "The Parking Lot Blues"

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By: Janice Malone

Not only is it that time of year again—holiday season, but it also means the headache of holiday travel and airport parking comes along with it. Although it is estimated there are more than 800 million parking spaces in the United States (that's about three for every automobile), finding one during the busy holiday season is often a challenge. Airports, shopping malls, train stations, and downtown parking facilities seem packed.

The parking industry offers many ways to make parking less stressful and more efficient to ease some of that holiday tension. "Smart meters, new apps for smartphones and mobile devices, sensors, and sophisticated guidance systems that identify available spaces are being used in an increasing number of cities to make it easier to find, reserve, and pay for parking," says Liliana Rambo, CAPP, chair of the International Parking Institute (IPI), the world's largest association of parking professionals. But what about airport parking lot prices? Will those be on the increase during holiday travel 2013? “Every airport is different in terms of how they price parking, but I don’t know of any airport that increases parking fees during the holiday season,” says Ms. Rambo. “Whatever the parking price has been for long term, short term, hourly, or valet will likely be the same. Check the airport website before your trip for all parking options. Some airports today offer advanced reserved parking as a customer service.”

Even though the public is bombarded with the latest technology to help educate and plan our travel, Rambo says there are some passengers who still make the same annual mistakes. She says, “The biggest mistake people make when traveling over the holidays is not planning ahead, looking at the airport website and deciding about parking before they start out. Always leave enough time to deal with a parking lot that is full, or an airport shuttle bus from a parking area to the terminal that is behind schedule. And, remember where you parked! It’s a good idea to snap a photo of your car with signage that tell you what aisle, what floor you parked in -- and put your parking stub in your wallet or a place you know you won’t lose it. Many airports today have pay stations where you can pay before you return to your car at the end of your trip – so having the ticket stub in your car won’t allow you that convenience.”

Whether or not these high-tech solutions are available in your city yet, Rambo and members of IPI offer these tips to make holiday parking easier:

  1. Carpool with family or friends. A shopping outing with friends is a greener alternative that reduces the demand for parking, and it's more fun!
  2. Google it. Check the parking section of your destination's website. Many restaurants, theaters, shopping centers, and airports offer helpful information about local parking options.
  3. Avoid endless circling. Circling and "perching," the practice of waiting and following someone to their car, are inefficient, time-consuming, and fuel-wasting.
  4. Take the distant parking spot. Walking is good exercise and a stress reducer.
  5. Heads up. Whether driving or walking in a parking area, avoid distractions such as texting, rummaging through bags, and talking on the phone. One study cites fourteen percent of vehicle collisions that result in insurance claims happen in parking areas.
  6. Take note. Remember your parking location by level, section, and spot by jotting it down or snapping a photo. At a metered spot, note the expiration time. Some mobile apps will text or call you when your parking time is almost up.
  7. Lock up. Always be sure your car is in park, close the windows, lock your vehicle, and hide valuables and packages from sight. Never leave a child or pet in the car!

Best tip of all? Ms. Rambo advises that planning ahead and allowing extra time to find parking may be the best strategy for finding the right spot - and the right attitude - during the holidays. For more information about the International Parking Institute visit their website at www.parking.org

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