The Predicament

Since the COVID-19 pandemic finally started to wane earlier this year, vacation travel has skyrocketed. New Jerseyans — heck, people around the world — are hungry to escape the isolation of social distancing and get back to living life to the fullest.

Air travel has been especially impacted by this recent "vacation fever". You have probably seen articles about the incredibly high cost of flying both domestically and internationally. Coupled with staffing shortages, flight schedules are stretched thin and seat availability is at a minimum.

But there is another big problem. One that hits your wallet even before you can fight your way through the TSA line.

Getting to the airport.

Holiday Travel
As you navigate the labyrinth of access roads leading into Newark Airport, watch for pedestrians who just love to play "Frogger". (AP)
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Parking at Newark Liberty International Airport in particular has always been an expensive venture. Do you bite the bullet and park on airport property? Do you give your business to one of the dozens of private off-airport parking lots? Do you take the AirTrain? Or maybe a taxi/Uber? Or do you ask (or bribe) a friend or family member to drop you off and pick you up?

Delays And Cancellations Continue To Plague Airline Industry Heading Into Holiday Weekend
Picking a parking lot involves balancing numerous factors, besides the cost. Traveling with lots of luggage or small children may warrant an upgrade to a closer, more expensive lot. (Getty Images)
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I was recently pricing out an upcoming family vacation. And when I looked at airport parking rates, my eyes almost fell out of my head. It is abundantly clear that parking options are now far more expensive than they were just a few years ago. Those who don't fly often — including myself — are subject to some serious sticker shock.

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Cause #1: The Economy

Inflationary pressure, supply chain difficulties, and employee shortages are rampant these days. Pushing the cost of nearly everything higher.

Delays And Cancellations Continue To Plague Airline Industry Heading Into Holiday Weekend
Gas is also a significant expense for both airplanes and parking lot businesses. (Getty Images)
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I would assume that the latter - lack of adequate staffing - poses the most significant barrier to parking lot operations. You need cashiers, shuttle bus drivers, maintenance techs, reservation agents, etc.

You know the story: As wages rise to accommodate a more demanding workforce, so too do prices.

Cause #2: Increased Fees and Taxes

As you probably know, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey controls most of the airports, tunnels, and bridges throughout the NYC metro area.

The vast empire of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. (PANYNJ.gov)
The vast empire of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. (PANYNJ.gov)
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They also operate the five "official" parking lots at Newark Airport. And they set prices at their whim, based on travel demand and other factors.

So guess what the off-airport lots have to do. They have to respond to any changes to those "official" parking rates, to stay competitive while maximizing potential profit. On top of tacking on upwards of 18.5% in various taxes and fees to operate on airport property.

It's a tough business. And travelers are the ones who quite literally pay the price.

Cause #3: Supply and Demand

It's Economics 101, right? An increase in demand leads to a decrease in supply. Prices must then be increased to balance the supply and demand curves and maintain equilibrium.

(Yes, this broadcast meteorologist actually took Microeconomics in college. And hated every minute of it.)

The wide expanse of Newark Liberty International Airport, with a long stretch of hotels and parking facilities along the western and northern edges of the airport. (Google Maps)
The wide expanse of Newark Liberty International Airport, with a long stretch of hotels and parking facilities along the western and northern edges of the airport. (Google Maps)
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But there is another more sinister factor at work here, pushing prices sky-high. The pandemic downturn forced many small businesses across New Jersey into extinction. Including parking businesses, of course. Some lots that survived were forced to downsize. Or even to relocate to farther and less desirable locations.

The landscape of Newark Airport parking has changed dramatically. Just look at all the empty lots along Route 1/9. And yes, decreased competition leads to higher prices.

Analysis

It wasn't that long ago that parking in Newark could be found for $10-$15 per day. Add in the required taxes, and the total bill for a week's worth of parking would often come to less than $100. (Especially with a "frequent parker" membership or coupon or Groupon or something.)

Out of curiosity, I checked my last few weeklong getaways out of EWR. Each time, I carefully researched my options and picked the cheapest and most convenient lot:
—April 2019 $98.60 (7 days)
—April 2016 $56.56 (5 days)
—May 2014 $44.00 (7 days)
—June 2011 $96.00 (7 days)

Those were the days. It certainly isn't that cheap anymore.

The entrance to the P6 Economy parking lot at the northern edge of Newark Airport. No turning back now. (Google Street View)
The entrance to the P6 Economy parking lot at the northern edge of Newark Airport. No turning back now. (Google Street View)
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To create a comparison of parking rates around Newark Airport (both on-airport and off-airport), let's plan a mock trip. Jersey Week is coming up — a very popular time for family vacations. So let's pretend we're parking at (or near) the airport from Noon on Saturday 11/5 through Noon on Saturday 11/12. Exactly seven days.

The graph below charts the total parking cost for those seven days, including all applicable taxes and fees. I included 13 operating private off-airport lots (in blue, showing the best possible rate), in addition to official airport parking options (in red, including prebooked, onsite payment, and premium space options).

An unscientific analysis of weekly parking rates at several "official" and off-property parking lots in and around Newark, N.J. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
An unscientific analysis of weekly parking rates at several "official" and off-property parking lots in and around Newark, N.J. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
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I should mention this is a simple, nonscientific sampling. You are not guaranteed to get these same rates nor availability. Additionally, none of this analysis should be construed as an endorsement for any specific business.

Here is a full text breakdown of the data in the chart above. Parking rates are rounded to the nearest dollar
$129... Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel
$135... Pink Elephant Long Term Parking
$135... Vista Parking (Standard)
$141... ABC Airport Parking
$142... Park2Go (Outdoor Valet/Self-Park)
$147... Purchase Park 2 Fly
$147... P6 - Economy (Prebook)
$148... SNAP Indoor Parking (Prepay)
$150... Park2Go (Indoor Valet)
$164... E-Z Way Parking
$168... P6 - Economy Premium Space
$172... Value Parking
$198... Jiffy Parking
$203... P6 - Economy (On-site)
$203... P4 - Daily Garage (Prebook)
$214... Newark Airport Long Term Parking
$240... The Parking Spot Haynes (Self-Park, Pay Now)
$287... P4 - Daily Garage Premium Space
$308... Terminal A/B/C Parking (Prebook)
$329... Terminal A/B Premium Space
$350... Terminal C Premium Space
$420... P4 - Daily Garage (On-site)
$490... Terminal A/B/C Parking (On-site)

Yes, if you just pull into one of the terminal parking lots and stay there for a week — without a reservation — it will cost almost 500 bucks.

There are definitely some deals to be had at the off-airport lots. But nothing like the deep discounts there used to be.

Even the P6 Economy lot is a relative bargain — if you prebook online at least 24 hours in advance.

If you are looking to splurge a bit to get closer and more convenient to the terminals, the P4 Daily parking garage is a good option. It's an easy AirTrain (monorail) ride away from all three terminals. And it is less than half the price of the Short-Term Terminal A/B/C lots.

The new Terminal 1 facility at EWR will add 2,700 parking spaces to Newark's arsenal. Do you think parking rates will go down accordingly? (Port Authority of NY & NJ)
The new Terminal 1 facility at EWR will add 2,700 parking spaces to Newark's arsenal. Do you think parking rates will go down accordingly? (Port Authority of NY & NJ)
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The median cost of a week of parking at all of these lots is $172. Yikes. That amounts to about $25/day (including taxes) and $20/day (before taxes). So, bottom line: If you can catch an advertised rate lower than that, you are getting a relative bargain.

Alternatives

Of course, you do not have to drive yourself to Newark to begin your next business or pleasure trip. Here are some alternative travel options, with approximate costs (in descending order):

Helicopter from Manhattan... $195 one-way, per person, $390 round-trip, per person.

NJ Transit from Secaucus... $15.25 one-way train, $30 per day parking, $240.50 total for a week.

NJ Transit from Trenton... $20.50 one-way train, $20 per day parking, $181.00 total for a week.

Uber from New Brunswick... $57.90 (UberX) to $76.75 (UberXL) one-way, plus tip and surge pricing... Round-trip $115.80 to $153.50, plus tip and surge.

NJ Transit from Metropark... $14.50 one-way train, $12 per day parking, $113.00 total for a week.

Fly out of Philadelphia International Airport... Daily rates are $48 (short-term), $20 (garage), $15 (economy)... Weekly totals are $336, $140, and $105, respectively. Numerous offsite parking lots are available with shuttle service too.

Fly out of Atlantic City International Airport... Daily parking rate $20 (short-term), $13 (garage), $10 (economy)... Weekly total $140, $91, and $70 respectively.

Fly out of Trenton-Mercer Regional Airport... $8 per day for parking, $56 total for a week.

Park, Stay, & Fly... Many Newark and Elizabeth hotels offer a week of free or discounted parking if you stay at least one night. Pricing and availability will vary.

Private Car Service... Prices vary wildly depending on distance, time, size of party, and type of vehicle.

Carpool / Beg a Friend / Hitchhike... Potentially free! (Although you really should kick in for gas and tolls.)

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Calls For Increased Airport Security At EWR
This woman must be distraught because 1.) she realized how much parking is going to cost for her trip, or 2.) she realized that she has bright pink luggage. (Getty Images)
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Safe travels, and enjoy your trip!

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.

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