Speed & Cost: A Comparison of On-Site vs. Off-Site Airport Parking

I’ll admit it – I’m a snob about airport parking. When Joe and I are going out of town somewhere, my #1 favorite place to park is in the airport terminal parking garage. I know, I know…snobbish. But hey, if I’m going out of town, I want to get to where I’m going ASAP and if I’m coming home, I want to get back to my car ASAP.

However, the cost of parking at the airport has gone up astronomically, so in recent years I’ve agreed to park at in the “economy” lots if we’re going to be gone for more than 1 or 2 nights. Still on airport property, but you have to take a shuttle to get to and from. So our costs went from about $17 per day to about $10 per day. That was still doable for several years but our local airport is now in the midst of some huge growth, to the point where the parking garages are usually not an option because they’re almost always 100% full, and the “economy” lots have expanded into the outlying grass…and besides the shuttle buses running slower because they have to make more stops, there’s poor makeshift signage, and dragging your rolling suitcase over wet grass and dirt is not fun at all. So Joe finally talked me into (duh, duh, DUH!) offsite parking.

We live in a decent-sized city and our airport, Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the 14th largest in the country, so we’re lucky in that there are lots of off-site parking options to choose from. We decided to go with Fast Park & Relax, because we had gotten a credit for a free day after we parked at FastParkPlacesMIA for a week when we went to Cuba last year.

The Fast Park Airport Parking family includes Fast Park & Relax, Fast Park 2, Airport Fast Park and Park Place Airport Parking. Fast Park & Relax currently serves 14 cities:

  • Albuquerque (ABQ)
  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Austin (AUS)
  • Baltimore (BWI) (2 facilities)
  • Cincinnati (CVG)
  • Cleveland (CLE) (2 facilities)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Houston (HOU)
  • Indianapolis (IND)
  • Memphis (MEM)
  • Milwaukee (MKE)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Raleigh (RDU)
  • Tuscon (TUS)

They’re also opening one at Chicago (MDW) during the 4th quarter of 2018.

As per their website, here’s how it works:

PARK
“Our friendly cashiers will welcome you with a smile and a weekday morning newspaper. After directing you to an available space, our professional shuttle drivers will assist you with your luggage and get you airport-bound right away.”

RELAX
“Settle in to our comfortable, climate controlled shuttle – but not for long! Our drivers quickly get you to the terminal, unload your luggage and send you off for the journey ahead.” (they also offer free newspapers, bottled water and kids’ coloring packs for the asking)

REWARDS
“With Fast Park, it’s easy to get rewarded. Through our mobile-friendly technology you can earn points and redeem them for Free Days and Free Weeks – all from your phone.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 12.10.06 AMThe company’s goal is to be as “green” as possible, so their shuttle fleet has 25% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, they offer complementary FastCharge EV Charging Stations for their energy-conscious customers, they offer covered parking (which keeps their customers’ car cooler and protects them from inclement weather, but also reduces the heat island effect by lowering area temperatures), they conserve energy whenever possible, and they’re working on a company wide solar panel program.

OUR EXPERIENCE
Our experience with Fast Park was AWESOMESAUCE! (Yes, I really do still say awesomesauce. Don’t judge). I’ll explain what happened with Fast Park and, in parentheses, compare it to our experience with MCO’s economy lot parking when we had gone out of town 2 weeks previously.

When we were leaving town:
8/9, 2:30pm: Arrived at Fast Park facility, checked in and were told where to park. They use a letter and number system. We were D16 or some such – they gave us a paper with that info so we wouldn’t forget.
2:35pm: Shuttle bus picked us up at our car, which was in a covered spot (with economy parking at the airport, it was raining, no covering was offered for our car, and since the regular lot was full, we were parking in “overflow parking” and had to pull our luggage through the mud to get to Waiting Area C (which was covered). It took about 10 minutes for a shuttle bus to arrive).
2:42pm: Arrived at our terminal (I hadn’t kept track 2 weeks previously, but Economy parking probably would have beat this by a few minutes, since they’re on site).

When we got home:
8/13, 6:43pm: Arrived at bus stop – Fast Park’s bus stops are #35 & 36 on the first floor of the terminal. The shuttle bus was already there, waiting to load people. Had it not been, it was scheduled to arrive every 5 minutes until midnight, and then we were to call upon arrival (2 weeks previously, we waited 20 minutes for an MCO shuttle to arrive at bus stop #16. They’re supposed to come every 10 minutes).
6:45pm: The bus left for the Fast Park parking lot
6:53pm: We and our luggage were dropped off at our car – we were the 3rd group to be let out (2 weeks previously, we told the driver we were parked in the grass in the “overflow parking,” so he graciously dropped us off in that area. Unfortunately, since that area is not really made for parking, I had to pull my luggage an extra 100 feet in the grass and around the logs they have set up as erstwhile parking curbs, and then backtrack the 100 feet to get to our car because I was not in the position to lift my 49# suitcase over the logs).

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 12.10.51 AM
PRICING
Fast Park’s prices vary by location, but in Orlando it’s $8.87 per 24 hours. You can reserve a parking spot online so you’re guaranteed a spot (they do fill up sometimes) for $4.95. They offer a 15% AAA discount and if you use their Relax for Rewards loyalty program (available online and via their app), you can earn free days (1 paid day = 1 point. 8 points = 1 free day, 20 points = 3 consecutive free days, 40 points = 1 free week (up to 7 consecutive days).

In comparison, MCO’s Economy Parking is $10 per day and although you can use your SunPass for convenience, there are no incentives or discounts offered.

So what else can I say? Fast Park totally rocks – it’s cheaper and faster and greener and I don’t have to park in the dirt, so yeah, I’m a total convert. Sorry, MCO…if your lower your prices and increase your parking capacity, I might come back. Emphasis on “might.” But for now, Fast Park has won this parking snob’s heart.

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3 thoughts on “Speed & Cost: A Comparison of On-Site vs. Off-Site Airport Parking”

  1. Has the addition of Parking Garage C at MCO caused you to reevaluate? Or is FastPark still your preferred parking option?

    1. The new parking garage will alleviate some of the capacity issues of the Terminal garage space. However it’s still $15 a day. With the price difference, we’re still using FastPark (who have also recently almost doubled their parking capacity by acquiring the neighboring lot.

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