Review: Safeway Parking at Tampa International Airport
Parking rates at Tampa International Airport keep going up. You can save a few bucks if you book in advance online for Economy Parking, but even that rate is up to $14 a day now. Normally if I’m leaving for a long trip I’ll just take an Uber to the airport. From where I live on the Pinellas side, that costs about $30. But the kicker is Uber FROM the airport can get CRAZY expensive. Rates skyrocket at night and when all the passengers arriving all call for a ride at the same time.
My game plan for the 5 day trip I took for this past weekend was to try one of the off-site airport parking lots. Uber would have cost me around $70-80 roundtrip. Parking at Tampa International would have come out to about $80. Since it was just a 5 day trip, I tried an off-airport parking lot to save some money.
Read the Reviews
Google reviews on the off-site airport parking lots around TPA were all mixed but jaw-dropping rate of $4 a day that Safeway Parking Enterprises offered definitely was appealing. They had decent but not glowing reviews online. Reviewers mentioned that the lot is actually just a floor at one of the parking garages at Westshore Mall. The one thing that was a little concerning to me is that the parking area isn’t really staffed. There are security cameras in place, but there’s no booth with an attendant keeping an eye on things.
The Real Price
That $4 a day rate was enticing. But it kept going up as I went through the reservation process. A $2.99 processing fee was added. Then there was an 8.5% airport tax – even though I wouldn’t be parking at the airport. Then there was ANOTHER 7.5% tax (sales tax). By the time all the junk fees and taxes were tacked on, the total for 5 days came out to $26.19. That’s still less than half the price of the other airport parking options so I booked. The price would go up again.
How They Can Offer That Rate – The Catch
So how are their rates so low? First as I mentioned, there are no human beings keeping an eye on things in that area (although hopefully someone’s watching those security cameras). There’s no gate to check in. You just park on the 2nd floor near the movie theater at Westshore Plaza on the second floor of the garage. They give you a reservation number to stick on your dashboard so they know you paid. That’s not the only way they cut costs though.
The BIG difference between Safeway Enterprises and other airport parking lots that are off site… there’s no shuttle service to the airport. You’re on your own bucko. Fortunately I noticed this ahead of time. There are a few bus routes that will get you to and from the airport that pick you up right across the street from Westshore Plaza. A bus is only $2 each way. Tampa is not known for its public transportation so when I arrived at 6AM, instead of waiting for a bus that might not come, I pulled up my ridesharing apps. Uber was $15! Instead I used Lyft, which was still $10. So the new total now… just under $40 when you add $10 for the Lyft and $2 for the bus ride when I got back to Tampa.
Was using Safeway Enterprises Worth It?
The final cost of using Safeway Parking was about $8 a day after you add in the junk fees, various taxes and providing your own transport over to the airport. Even though that’s twice the “$4 a day” rate that drew me in, it’s still about half what I would have paid had I taken an Uber or used Tampa International Airport’s Economy Garage. The airport garage would have charged me for 6 days since I arrived later in the day as I arrived early in the morning on the day I departed. As best as I can tell, Safeway Parking just checks your reservation number overnight at the mall. So if you arrive at 7am and you get back at night from your return flight, you don’t pay the extra day like you would at Tampa International.
In the end, I saved about $40 using Safeway Parking instead of the Tampa International Airport’s garage. Was it worth it? Sort of. I feel safer leaving my car in the airport garage, but my car was fine when I got back to Westshore Plaza. Riding a public bus instead of an airport shuttle van wasn’t that big of a hassle. For longer trips, I’ll still leave my car at home and use Uber or Lyft. But for short trips, Safeway Parking might be my move from now on.