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Consumer Diary: Parking at JFK Airport

The buses that take travelers from one of the distant JFK airport parking lots. Photo credit: Harlan Levy

Consumer columnist and West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has more than 20 years of experience writing stories about everyday experiences that anyone could encounter.

JFK airport parking a month ago. Photo credit: Harlan Levy

By Harlan Levy

This column is for the many readers who book flights from the New York City airports, JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. I assume you want the best rates for long-term parking. Depending on your destination, you may also need a nearby hotel to spend the night before your departure or on your return.

Here’s what can happen when you spontaneously decide to go somewhere soon and try to book everything in a hurry, as my wife and I just did. So be warned, and don’t procrastinate.

We’re flying to Japan from JFK for a 12-day trip – from JFK because there aren’t direct flights to Tokyo from Bradley. We’ll stay at a hotel the night we return late before driving home the next day.

My wife, the consummate last-minute trip planner and money-saver, spent the better part of two days researching all parking possibilities – over two dozen sites at or near hotels close to JFK.

“The one detail of our entire trip that gave me the most trouble wasn’t choosing what to do in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka,” she said. “It was finding parking near the airport that didn’t cost a fortune or have terrible reviews.”

The airport’s own assorted on-site long-term parking lots would cost anywhere from $420 to $650 for our 12 nights away, depending on how far away the lot was. JFK has an Airtrain to take you from the most affordable far reaches of its parking lots – “in another country,” my wife quipped – and it takes a long time to shlep your bags to the terminal. So we ruled that option out.

One alternative was to book a package deal through a website called ParkSleepFly.com. One such deal, including a one-night stay at the nearby Hampton Inn  & Suites JFK, was a 12-day park-and-stay package costing $690, about $58/day. “That was too much,” she decided.

However, other hotels she checked were charging $30 per night for parking, plus another $250 to $300 for a one-night stay, $610-$660 in all.

She found many parking lots for a hell of a lot less. One charged under $100 for 12 nights. Others charged from $117 to $145, she recalled. “The reviews on their websites were stellar,” she said.

Skeptical – and having learned from experience that you really do get what you pay for – she decided to research further by reading customer reviews of these lots on independent websites.

“Every single one had scary reviews,” she said. “The ones on Yelp were especially frightening.”

Many were outright horror stories that prompted a “You’ve got to be kidding!” reaction.

Someone named Tracy B. had entrusted her car to one of these low-ballers for a week in February. “We parked with a full tank. When we returned our minivan’s gas tank was completely empty, and items were moved around,” she wrote. “After emailing the manager, he responded five days later saying he’d look into it. After repeated attempts to reach him we never heard anything.”

Then there was “SMH,” who encountered multiple issues after retrieving her car from the same lot. “Did I mention there were roaches apparently coming from the engine? Disgusting!!! Who knows where our car was parked? Never freaking again!!!”

One important aspect in choosing a lot is the shuttle service to and from the airport. One recent review of another lot said its shuttles didn’t leave every 15 minutes, as advertised, “nor do they come ASAP when you call them, as they claim. Second, don’t expect a clean car when you pick it up. Ours was full of some type of oil residue on the windshields. And the manager said, ‘We’re not cleaning anything, because we’re not responsible.’”

Reviews of other lower-rate lots said that cash had been stolen out of a car, the premises were so filthy and frightening that “all they lacked was a junkyard dog,” and that customers had returned to find their car’s compartments had been rummaged through.

Clearly, it wasn’t worth taking a risk to save a few bucks, we concluded. In the end, my wife booked a parking lot we have used often in the past without any issues, SmartPark JFK, for a total of $310. (Its rate is $27.95 a night, but you get one night free for every seven you park there.) As for our final night stay, she found a room at the nearby Fairfield Inn & Suites for only $215 plus tax, but booked it for free by using Hilton Honors points. Now, that’s a bargain.

So, do your due diligence, and have a nice trip. Sayonara for now!

NOTE: If you have a consumer problem, contact me at [email protected], and, with the power of the press, maybe I can help.

One of JFK airport’s many parking lots … three months ago. Photo credit: Harlan Levy

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1 Comment

  • Harlan’s experience highlights the importance of thorough research when it comes to airport parking. It’s great to hear that SmartPark JFK provided a reliable and cost-effective solution. For those looking to streamline their parking experience further, ParkingAccess offers a user-friendly platform to compare prices, read genuine reviews, and book secure parking spots at JFK and beyond, ensuring peace of mind before you even take off.

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