dealing with two cars at sacramento airport
August 29, 2012 3:59 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to drive from San Francisco to Sacramento airport, with luggage of my own, meet a couple who are flying in, drop my car off at long-term parking, and pick up the rental car we'll share?

I live in San Francisco. A couple I know is flying into Sacramento airport in a few weeks. In a few weeks, we're going on a road trip (departing from Sacramento) in a rental car. My car is small and underpowered for driving in the mountains, hence the rental car.

Getting the right sequence of events is a challenge. I need to move myself and my luggage to Sacramento, meet the two people flying in, then we need to pick up the rental car (all three of us will be driving), and drop my car off at long-term parking.

I've reviewed the parking and rental car info at the Sacramento Airport website. So, I understand the parking options, and the fact that the rental car companies have shuttles servicing the airport.

Here are the options I've thought of so far:

- When I get to the airport, take the car to long-term parking and leave my luggage in the trunk. Meet the flyers, get the rental car, then return to the long-term parking to get my luggage.
- Park my car in short-term parking. Meet the flyers, get the rental car, transfer luggage to the rental car, then move my car to long-term parking.
- Drive to the arrivals area, pick up the flyers and their luggage, drive to the car rental location (not sure if there would be a place to park there; I see the rental companies use shuttles from the airport), transfer luggage, then drop my car at long-term parking.
- Have the flyers pick up the rental car and meet me somewhere near the airport for lunch, transfer luggage, return my car to long-term parking.
- Find some other magical way to transport myself between San Francisco and Sacramento at the desired times for a reasonable amount of money, so I don't have to pay someone to take my car away from me for several days.
- Fly from San Francisco to Sacramento (not seriously considering this).

What would work best? Are there any details about the Sacramento airport that could influence this process?
posted by germdisco to Travel & Transportation around Sacramento, CA (14 answers total)
Best answer: How much luggage are you going to have? My instinct would be to:
(1) Drop car off at long-term parking,
(2) Bring luggage (perhaps with help of luggage cart),
(3) Meet friends at terminal,
(4) Take shuttle to rental place,
(5) Get rental car.
posted by muddgirl at 4:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there a reason, after you drop your car off at long-term parking, you can't just take your luggage into the airport, meet them, and then all take the rental car shuttle to pick up the rental car?
posted by eschatfische at 4:16 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's not flying, but you could take the train (map of stations, link to tickets) from San Francisco to Sacramento, and have your friends pick you up at the train station after they get the rental car -- it's about $30 each way, looks like.
posted by brainmouse at 4:24 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few notes:
From the aerial photos on google maps, it looks like there are about a dozen parking spots at the car rental area.

You'd probably want the economy parking instead of the long-term parking. It's cheaper, although you can't really get in or out on foot, you have to take the shuttle.

Quick in/out visits to the parking areas is no longer free, so I suggest against anything that requires you to go back to your car after you park it.

I would suggest the train as option #1, muddgirl's directions as option #2 (with the possibly adjustment that only one of you needs to get on the shuttle to pick up the car, the rest can wait in the terminal). If for some reason you have an awful lot of luggage and can't do those, here's option #3:

(1) Drive in to the airport, park in the cell phone lot
(2) Once your friends have their luggage, have them call you
(3) Pick up your friends at the terminal
(4) Drive over to the rental place
(5) Transfer luggage to rental car
(6) Park in economy lot
(7) Take shuttle to terminal
(8) Have friends pick you up at the terminal
posted by ckape at 4:49 PM on August 29, 2012

Best answer: Can you call the rental car company and ask them if you can park there? Perhaps for FREE?
posted by bensherman at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've flown through Sacramento (SMF) a few times.

- There isn't anywhere for lunch anywhere near SMF. It's thoroughly in the middle of nowhere.
- There are shuttles to the outlying parking lots and to the rental car "terminal" (a small building - the map has a big yellow area for the rental car area; the big area is rental car parking, and the rounded oblong on the right side is the actual building. You go into the building, wait in line and sign paperwork, then walk out to your car. There's a few parking spots outside the rental car place, but they are obviously short term only. The shuttles run every 15-20 minutes; not superfrequent, but not terrible.
- The economy (long-term) lot is immediately east across the road from the rental car terminal. I don't know exactly how the parking lot rules work, but if you can park whereever, you could potentially park maybe 600 feet (2 blocks) from the rental car terminal. If you're unlucky and the lot is full, you may be parking a mile away. The website says there's a shuttle to the terminal. I don't know how the economy lot works, but there very well may be a cost to enter.

If you don't have a lot of luggage and the schedule sort-of works, I would take the train to Sacramento; if you're coming from the City proper, take BART to Richmond and it's a short walk to the train. The train is a pleasant trip and it's probably cheaper than parking at the airport; certainly better for the environment. There is a bus that goes from the Amtrak stations in Sac and Davis to the airport, but it's infrequent.

If you have a moderate amount of luggage, plan B is muddgirl's.

Oh, and on preview, ckape's plan C is what I would have suggested for my plan C, with the note that it's probably faster to walk to the main loop road after you park in the economy lot, and have your friends pick you up there, as opposed to taking the shuttle.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:09 PM on August 29, 2012

Can you call the rental car company and ask them if you can park there? Perhaps for FREE?

I do this all the time for work because it is cheaper for them to rent a car than pay me mileage. My car is left in a locked, fenced parking area. If you did this you might even be able to find a less expensive option away from the airport, especially once you figure in the cost of parking. You could even rent the car in SF and have someone drop you off and pick you up.
posted by tamitang at 5:49 PM on August 29, 2012

Best answer: Renting a car in SF is only viable if you can get them to authorize two additional drivers without them physically being present. Normally rental places don't like doing that, but maybe if you can get them to fax enough paperwork over it could be okay. I'd call around and see if any rental places can do that.
posted by aubilenon at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2012

You can probably rent the car in SF so long as the company also has a Sacramento location. Pick up your friends, take them to the office and have them added to the rental agreement upon showing their credentials. I've done this, but you may want to confirm first, especially with the companies that include some franchise outlets.
posted by carmicha at 6:39 PM on August 29, 2012

Oh and if you can rent the car in SF from a non airport location, you'll probably save a ton of special taxes and fees.
posted by carmicha at 6:40 PM on August 29, 2012

Best answer: SMF has good places for lunch now in the new terminal. Expensive, but good.

Airside Concourse Locations

Jack’s Urban Eats (local brand)
Dos Coyotes (local brand)
Cafeteria 15L (local brand)
Peet's Coffee
Esquire Grill (local brand)
Burgers and Brew (local brand)
Famous Famiglia Italian
Vino Volo - wine bar
posted by couchdive at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: I will likely have three pieces of luggage, unfortunately. That would've been smart to mention. I might sacrifice the cooler and its contents to simplify my tasks. I can try using a luggage cart, but in my experience, they don't work well with the luggage I currently have.

The train is an interesting suggestion I hadn't thought of before. $30 one way is totally reasonable. Luggage quantity would be an issue there as well; it would be a two-leg trip from San Francisco to Sacramento.

I can ask the rental company for parking. That didn't occur to me either.

Having all three drivers present at rental car pickup is the goal. We talked about renting at other locations, but the cost was reasonable and we're optimizing for time.

Thanks for the lunch suggestions at SMF!
posted by germdisco at 7:17 PM on August 29, 2012

Best answer: The Davis Airporter can transport you from SF to SMF and back again, and drop you off at the terminal where your friends will be arriving. Super Shuttle will as well, but I prefer the former.

Most airlines arriving at SMF drop passengers off at the new terminal. While you can't get to the food without a ticket, your friends could pick up food on the way out.

From the terminal, you would all take a shuttle (~5 minute bus ride) to the rental car place.

Do not take Amtrak, or any other train. Way too big of a hassle. (Actually, having said that, you COULD take Amtrak to Davis, and then Davis Airporter to SMF, but taking the Davis Airporter alone would probably be cheaper.)

I'm intimately familiar with SMF (and the mountains). MeMail me if you want more info.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:40 PM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: I checked the Super Shuttle website a day or two ago, and was told that there was no service from San Francisco to SMF. But I can try calling them or Davis Airporter. This would be great for me; essentially door-to-door and less juggling of vehicles.
posted by germdisco at 12:31 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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