Our car is taking a nicer vacation than us
December 9, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Where is the cheapest long term parking around the San Francisco Intl Airport?

We will be flying out of the SFO airport on a 3 week trip soon, and would like to figure out where the car is going to go on its own budget vacation as right now its tastes are quite expensive.

The airport is about 3.5 hours away from our house in Sacramento, and since both the outbound and return flights are in the middle of work days, we can't really want to ask a friend to drive 7 hours round trip and take off two days of work to give us a ride.

Public transportation seems.. non-continuous, slow, and expensive, for this particular trip, especially since we will have bags for 3 weeks of travel and our first flight is at 11 am which means we have to be at the airport pretty early in the morning. I am open to other opinions though, from those who know Sac and SF public transportation well, as that would be the ideal solution! I miss living in New Jersey where the NJT would just pick me up a quarter mile from my house and barf me out right at the airport.

It looks like the flat rate for most parking lots around the airport are about 18$/day, so I'm looking for your tips and tricks in reducing costs for long term SFO parking and any personal experiences making it cheaper! We are also interested in staying at a hotel by the airport and parking our car there, so any advice on lowering those rates is much appreciated.

I get the feeling that non-standard airport parking may be very difficult around the holidays, but hey, worth a try! Thanks.
posted by cakebatter to Travel & Transportation around California (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wonder if a train to Emeryville, and a limo or shuttle from there to SFO, might be cost effective and low stress?
posted by zippy at 11:10 AM on December 9, 2012

Best answer: The Capitol Corridor Amtrak runs between Sacramento and Oakland. You could take it to Oakland (or Richmond) and transfer to BART there, which would take you all the way to the airport (you might have to transfer to get on the airport line, but it's totally easy peasy.) As an alternative, you might consider renting a car in Sacramento (perhaps from the airport?), driving it to SFO, and returning it there. Do the same thing on the way back. Could be a bit of a hassle, but it would be cheaper than dropping $400-ish on 3 weeks' worth of LT parking, assuming you drive your own car down. Hope this helps!

(Edit: if you decide to take Amtrak, it looks like it's better to transfer to BART at Richmond as both trains use the same station.)
posted by un petit cadeau at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amtrak to Richmond bart, Richmond bart to SFO.
posted by iamabot at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2012

Response by poster: We live about 20 miles away from the Amtrak line, which is just more time in a tight morning.

I love the rental car idea!
posted by cakebatter at 11:26 AM on December 9, 2012

Another possibility is to hire a limo or shuttle for the entire drive. One post I found claims a limo from Sacramento is cheaper than parking when trips are > 2 weeks.
posted by zippy at 11:27 AM on December 9, 2012

One-way car rentals (from airport locations, no less) are expensive, and will add plenty of time/chaos to your day. I think shuttle is definitely your best bet. For instance, the Davis Airporter charges $135 for door-to-door service for two people. If you rent a car, you'll need to pick it up the night before (to avoid any unexpected lines/problems at the rental counter), probably from the Sacramento airport because other locations don't like one-way rentals, and you'll be paying at least $100, plus gas. Also, if you're not familiar with driving around San Francisco, you might run into problems, especially during rush hour.
posted by acidic at 12:35 PM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to work discounts, we were able to book one-way rental cars for less than the shuttles that go out to our area, and wayy less than SFO parking. Didn't even think of that, thanks everyone!

I am interested in the shuttles for trips out of SMF in the future though, so that is great knowledge as well.
posted by cakebatter at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2012

One of my coworkers (I'm also in the Sacramento area) has occasionally stayed at a hotel near the airport the night before the flight. The hotel would then let him keep his car in the hotel parking lot during the trip and the hotel would provide shuttle service to the airport. I'm not sure what specific hotel he used, but it sounded like a somewhat common deal from the way he described it.
posted by ckape at 1:21 PM on December 9, 2012

BART offers long-term parking in its lots for $5/day, and getting from there to the airport is only marginally more difficult than getting from the airport parking garages to the airport.
posted by alexei at 1:33 PM on December 9, 2012

2nd alexei. The stations closest to the airport are $6/day, a little more but still way cheaper than any other lot. We've parked in the Millbrae garage several times with no problems. Book well in advance, though, as the lots do fill up during busy travel days (a hard lesson we learned this Thanksgiving).
posted by zsazsa at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2012

I wouldn't leave my car in a BART lot for 3 weeks. I know Millbrae's "nice," but I don't care.

Also, airport shuttles can be pretty annoying. Last time I took one from SFO, it took 3 hours to Fremont because of all the stops (and the driver was pretty bad). Imagine how long it'd take to Sacramento! It's not like renting a town car/limo. It's also worse than spending 3 hours on a train because you're crammed into a small van with strangers. We spent about 45 minutes talking with a friendly physicist from the Stanford Linear Accelerator, which was cool, but other than that, it was pretty awful. Our flight was already late, and we were murderous by the time we got home.

For the future, there are lots of "park and fly" hotels; look for reviews online to see which have security.
posted by wintersweet at 3:13 PM on December 9, 2012

Book lodging at Marriott, Radisson or any of the other places near SFO that have shuttle service. Take train from Sacramento to Richmond and BART from Richmond to SFO. Get ground transportation, either lodging shuttle or cab to lodging. Spend a night and depart rested via shuttle from lodging back to SFO. Reverse the procedure coming home.
posted by X4ster at 3:54 PM on December 9, 2012

An excellent site for Airport Parking.


They do have an iphone app, if that is neat for you.
posted by Bodrik at 6:06 PM on December 9, 2012

I would check out the park, sleep and fly options--they are usually a flat rate for a room and 7 days parking, then something like $10/day for each additional day. You stay overnight, then take the free hotel shuttle to and from the airport. If you just want a plain parking situation, I use ParkSFO which almost always has a coupon for free days on their website. Their outdoor self-park is about $14/day, and their shuttles take you to the airport. It may also be worth calling a couple places to inquire if they can give you a deal for a longer stay.
posted by gubenuj at 7:11 PM on December 9, 2012

The cheapest simple parking is Burlingame Airport Parking, $60 a week, though the shuttle is relatively infrequent and and shared with the Hilton and Crowne Plaza. Also, they fill up on holidays. Still, the cheapest after two separate investigations.
posted by wnissen at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2012

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