Gone are the days of staying in an airport hotel and leaving your car in questionable parking lots. Our Rural TravelingMom explains the benefits of using a Park and Fly hotel. Want to arrive at your flight rested, with your car parked in a safe lot and your kids already making memories? Then read on to see why Park and Fly may just be the way to go.
Park, Stay, and Go – Why Park and Fly Hotels are Best
It’s a production just to get my family to the airport. For many of us that enjoy the rural comforts of very little light pollution, quietude, and the morning commute traffic jam occurring when the farmer takes his tractor down the highway, the trade off is that nearly everything becomes a road trip, including getting to international or even sometimes regional airports.
Park and Fly options changed our outlook on flying for good. Let me share the reasons you should look into this stress-saving option if you aren’t a metropolitan resident.
So Far Away
We are rural. We’re not even suburban – we’re more than a short cab ride from the nearest airport. There are no family members or friends available to drive us around and drop us off on flight day.
Some people do not need to figure in hotel stays for air travel. Sometimes though, a cab to the airport is not an option. Paying for crowded, sometimes insecure feeling airport parking is an option, but not necessarily not a good one. But I’ve found a better option, at least in my opinion.
I love park and fly hotels. They offer secure parking, a hotel room, and shuttle service for one-stop shopping. Hotels that offer park and fly (or any number of clever wording to mean the same: Park, Stay, Go or Park N Fly, etc.) often have great deals to save money. If you’re planning to leave your vehicle at the airport this trip, try searching for “park and fly hotels near your jetport.” You’ll probably find at least a handful and will be glad you tried this service.
Park and Fly Dominates Logistics
We live 4-8 hours drive time from our three closest major jetports: Minneapolis-St. Paul, O’Hare/Midway, and Kansas City. Yep. The Midwest spreads it out. Sure, we can make a quick one hour drive and be at a smaller tarmac pretty easily. However those smaller airports often have a much bigger price tag. For cost savings, we almost always need to spend the night at a bigger jetport and leave our car.
We can usually drive to the large international airports within a eight-hour radius and arrive long before the flights would have us landing from the smaller satellite areas with layovers, adding time to our travel day. We’ve been lucky, with no major meltdowns in airports, or worse, on flights, with the kids in tow. But long waits, boredom and messing with routines can mean starting your vacation off in a poor mood.
The Key to Pre-trip Travel
What does this mean for typical the rural traveling family? We always plan at least a half day and up to a full day of pre-trip travel. Call it staging or pre-positioning if you’d like; no matter what it is called, it adds about two days to our trip. For a long time we were booking the cheapest hotels around (thinking we were saving) and then still waking up extra early to park at the airport (while paying for that service while away). Ultimately, we gained little from the arrangement. These were not destination hotels, few ever had pools, and the kids will likely have no memory of the properties when they look back fondly on the vacation.
Park, Stay and Go options like what is offered at the Crowne Plaza Aire in Bloomington, MN have us wondering why we didn’t try this hotel service sooner. In finding this hotel, we feel like we’ve found a key to cracking the logistics nightmare code that unravels when planning our pre-travel positioning. When you can catch some extra sleep (and maybe even play in the pool) before boarding your plane the next day, the Park and Fly hotel you chose will pay for itself as it relieves stress! It’s also nice to come home after a week with Mickey or after cruising and know you’ll be taken from the busy airport (without searching for your car, which if you’re like us, would likely be covered in a few inches of snow) to the hotel in a free shuttle.
Parking With Ease
As we began a trek to Walt Disney World, my parents saw us off with the following words: “Remember where you park the car!” One of my memories for a childhood trip to WDW is wandering around looking for our rental car. They have those colored flags and cute animal mascots for each section, but who remembers THAT when they are so close to the gates of the Happiest Place on Earth?!
This same situation exists in the airport park and ride or park and fly lots – a myriad of vehicles parked in what amounts to a giant field. Though there IS airport grounds security and generally a fence around the lot, somehow a sea of hundreds of cars is more challenging to the tired traveler than a private lot adjacent to the hotel with a few dozen. We left our van knowing we’d come back and find it, just where we left it, safe and sound and under hotel surveillance while we were away.
The beauty of a park and fly hotel is the private hotel lot. It’s like parking at the hotel. So easy! Looking out of our hotel window, we could see the jets taking off and our vehicle, securely in the lot with 12 others. We could also see one of the airport lots — it looked like a vehicle wasteland–so many cars in so many rows!
We slid the parking permit we received at check-in at the front desk of the hotel over our rear view mirror and easily transported our luggage to the hotel. From there, we’d get an airport shuttle the next day. I booked the hotel with park and fly options that was closest to the airport, to minimize the ride in the wee hours for the kids. The Crowne Plaza Aire truly had SUCH fast and friendly shuttle service! It was a pleasure riding with them. Another logistical item was taken care of with the simple decision to park and fly!
Rest and Relax when You Park, Stay, Go!
As I mentioned, we sort of have a pre- and sometimes post- flight ritual of getting a hotel to maximize rest and to start our vacation off right. Instead of staying at bargain basement motels and regretting it, we’ve switched gears. We now make a little pre-flight fun part of our vacation, thanks to our choice in accommodations.
For our family, the pre-flight fun looked like this: we ordered pizza. We also sought out the pool a saline oasis with an observation mezzanine above. Yes, we rested and enjoyed our short but sweet stay. There was plenty of time to unpack and repack our carry-ons. We tucked in and got extra sleep. This proved to be a HUGE advantage the next day, even as we woke for our flights and roused the kids at 3:45 a.m. We’re weren’t getting out of the car after a long drive to check in that early. This time, we were comparatively well-rested and fresh for our flight!
The 24 hour shuttle brought us right to curbside, so we had zero fuss for check-in. Schlepping suitcases across the concourses was not high on my to-do list that or any day that I enter the airport with kids!
Additionally, by choosing a nice, reputable hotel instead of a budget option, we were able to use the fantastically stocked business center for printing boarding passes and checking in early. It really must be stocked by a middle school teacher or a Girl Scout. Everything we needed was available!
One of my favorite memories of my children during that vacation is watching them silhouetted against the window of our upper-level room as they gazed upon jet after jet taking off and landing at the airport, literally across the street. This was a great introduction to flying for the toddler! He was excited about planes before ever boarding!
As I gazed upon the sea of vehicles parked and left behind in the airport lot, I was happy that ours would not be lost among them.
From now on, the night before the flight will be counted as part of our trip, not just the lead up. We made memories and were able to start our vacation with much less stress by simplifying our pre-flight logistics. It took an extra day of vacation from work, sure, but it helped us relax before and during our trip.
It might be hard to understand this, if you’re a big city kid. This country mouse once got lost trying to leave Denver International. I find the traffic, pace, signage and general commotion so stressful! Parking off-site and having someone deliver me to curbside check-in is absolutely worth every penny! The moment we leave the house when venturing to a stress-free hotel such as the Crowne Plaza Aire that features a Park, Stay, Go option, we’re officially on vacation as we roll out of the driveway.