Why Do Hotels Charge For Parking? And How Can You Get Around Having To Pay For It?

Your trip is all planned – your hotel deposit is paid for, and you know how much your taxes and hotel fees are going to be. You drive to your destination and then you’re reminded about something you forgot to take into consideration – overnight parking charges.

Crap.

Why DO hotels charge you for parking, anyway? And how can you avoid paying for it? Well…

Why???

Not all hotels charge for parking but lots do and unfortunately, more and more are starting to charge for parking every day. Even Walt Disney World, who didn’t charge for parking at their resort hotels for over 45 years, now does, based on a sliding scale (the more expensive the Disney Resort Hotel, the higher the parking rate).

Hotel parking fees across the United States vary from a relatively affordable $10 to $15 per night to big cities where you might see prices hover around $75 or more (I’m looking at you, certain places in San Francisco and NYC) for every night you park a car. And at some places, you *have* to valet park, which means you have to include a tip on top of the parking fee.

Unless you work in certain departments of a hotel, you never REALLY know why a hotel decides to make you pay for overnight parking. After all, hotels never say WHY they charge for parking, just that they do. But there are several hypotheses as to the reasoning:

  • Parking lots and garages take up valuable property space – charging for parking is similar to charging for your room, but on a smaller scale. Take up space in their lot/garage, and you have to pay for it.
  • Some parking lots and (especially) garages are run by third-party purveyors – in these cases, the hotels actually have very little to do with overnight parking charges.
  • Many cities have multiple taxes for hotel rooms. In NYC, for example, about 15% of the final charge of what you pay the hotel is a tax that goes to the city and state coffers. Hotel taxes aren’t charged on parking spots though (or resort fees, for that matter), so it’s a way for hotels to earn more money without having to turn around and pay it to the local government in the form of taxes.
  • It makes the room rate appear lower. If you’re paying $199 per night for a hotel room, that seems a whole lot better than $224 per night ($199 + $25 per night for overnight parking). And those who don’t have a car to park can feel like they’re getting a bargain!
  • Because they can. Frankly, I think this is the top reason. A hotel decides they want to make more money, so they start charging for parking. Or maybe they have their grand opening with parking charges already built-in. After all, “everyone else is doing it!” If their occupancy rate goes down significantly, they can always stop or lower the parking charges. But if it doesn’t seem to make a difference in how many people are coming to their hotel, that’s however much per car, per night, out of your pockets and into theirs. Just because they can.

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How To Avoid Hotel Parking Fees

  • Don’t use a car. I suppose it’s the most obvious fix and yes, I realize that’s sometimes easier said than done. You generally can usually get away without a car in big cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Washington DC. It’s easy to stay on WDW property without a car, and just use their transportation system (but be careful – some on-site guests have been charged for overnight parking at WDW, even if they don’t have a car). But even if that’s not where you are, is ride-sharing feasible? Public transportation? Shuttles? Are you at a convention and is there anyone you can carpool with?
  • Is public parking available? Depending on where you’re staying, a nearby public garage or parking lot might cost less per night than your hotel. Locate your hotel on Google maps and then search nearby for parking garages or parking lots. Heads up that you’ll probably have to call them to find out what they charge.
  • Use parking apps. Park Whiz, Parking Panda, Smooth Parking, etc. may be able to help you find cheaper nearby parking.
  • Shop around. “Hotel A” may charge $199 for the room and $25 for parking but “Hotel B” next door or on the next block away may cost $205 but only $15 for parking. Or maybe Motel C, that’s a few blocks away, doesn’t charge for parking at all. Take that into consideration before booking your hotel.
  • Is a package deal available? Some plans that include things besides hotel may throw parking in for free or at a reduced rate, as a “perk.”
  • Can your Elite status help? Hotels always want to keep their Elite members happy. It doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst they can do is say no, right?
  • And if all else fails, when you check-in (or out, depending) ask if they’ll waive the parking fee during your stay. You never know when they might say yes! (thanks to Mark J., a member of our Facebook group, for this idea. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that one!)

Good luck!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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