As I do a fair amount of air travel, I sometimes convince family members to drop me at the airport, sometimes I use a car service, and sometimes I drive my own car and park it at the airport. For me, the latter is the most convenient, but depending upon the length of the trip, it can also be the most expensive. So, for a recent trip I took to Philadelphia, I decided to try off-airport parking at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA-TAC) for the first time ever.
I struggled to decide which airport parking provider I wanted to use. Most of the ones I found were surface lots, and I prefer being in a garage. Most had both positive and negative online reviews, but it’s always hard to trust sites with anonymous reviews anyway.
Eventually, I stumbled across a thread on a sports car-related forum I frequent mentioning WallyPark‘s new Premier Garage. The thread included a post from Mary Cornell, WallyPark’s director of sales, inviting forum members to try out their new service and assuring us that our fancy cars would love it there. 🙂 Mary even offered a coupon for a 30% discount, so I decided to give it a go. I had already visited the WallyPark website and printed out a coupon for one free day with a minimum 3-day stay, but since I was only planning on staying from Friday morning through Sunday evening, I figured I wouldn’t quite make the 3-day minimum and so the 30% discount would be better.
First, the WallyPark Premier Garage was very easy to find. WallyPark has a number of different parking locations near the Seattle Airport, but their Premier Garage is located at 18613 International Blvd, on the same side of the road as the airport, between Denny’s and Roasters restaurants, and across the street from the DoubleTree Hotel. I had entered their address into the Maserati’s nav system, which located it easily. I pulled in, punched a button on the entrance gate, received a ticket showing the time I entered (7:19 AM), and drove in. The first floor of the garage is reserved for their Premier Valet service ($16.95/day), but I continued up to the second floor where I found plenty of spots available, classified as Covered Self Park ($14.95/day). Self-parking on the rooftop (on floor 5) is even cheaper by $2/day, but I wanted to park under cover.
The garage was clean and extremely well lit. The parking spots were comfortably wide and had fabric dividers suspended between each of them, which I believe serve a double purpose: they prevent jerks from parking over the lines and making it hard for anyone to park next to them (I hate it when people do that), and the fabric dividers looked like they could help prevent door dings. I parked in spot 2106, grabbed my luggage, locked the car, and walked to the elevator.
Upon exiting the elevator on the ground floor, I was greeted by a cheerful Latino gentleman who took my large suitcase and placed it on the front shuttle bus (there were three parked in a row) and offered me a free bottle of water. I always like to take an Airborne tablet before flying, so I gladly accepted, put an Airborne tablet in my water bottle, and boarded the shuttle. Like the garage, it was clean, well-lit, and very new. I looked at my watch: it was 7:26 AM on Friday morning. Because was nobody else on the shuttle, so I started to wonder how long I’d have to sit there. But at 7:29 AM, the driver (who had put my suitcase on the shuttle minutes earlier) climbed into the driver’s seat and we headed to the airport. I was the only person on the bus, so I struck up a conversation with him. He proudly told me that he’d worked for WallyPark for 10 years, and that he was the driver with the most seniority. When I asked him if it was a good place to work, he replied with a resounding “Yes.” I’ll admit his enthusiastic response somehow made me feel a little better about leaving one of my Italian babies parked there for the weekend. 🙂
The drive to the airport took 10 minutes, because the shuttle has to turn right onto International Blvd, make a U-turn at the stoplight, and then head back to the main terminal entrance. But the driver informed me that once the new airport terminal is completed, the drive will be much shorter. He handed me a laminated card with a spot where I could write down my parking spot number (I’d already texted it to myself) and the phone number to call after my return flight. He also told me that there was a computer in the lobby back at the garage if I wanted to print out a coupon when I got back that I could use on this stay, and also suggested that I ask the cashier for a WallyClub card (which is their frequent customer program) so that I could earn free parking. He was insanely helpful without being the least bit pushy.
Once at the airport, we stopped at Courtesy Van Island #3, where he took my bag off the shuttle, placed it on the sidewalk, pulled up the handle for me, told me to come back to Island #3 to catch the return shuttle when I flew home, thanked me, then pointed the way to the escalator up to the terminal. I thanked him, tipped him a few dollars for his excellent work, and headed over to the escalator. I’m kicking myself now for not remembering his name, but hopefully someone from WallyPark will read this and know who I’m taking about. Smart move for WallyPark to have an employee like this servicing customers whom they are targeting as “premium.”
Fast forward to Sunday night.
My plane from Philadelphia landed in Seattle on time at 9:00 PM. I had slept for a few hours on the plane, but that was the first sleep I had enjoyed in almost 42 hours because I’d been attending a 24 hour non-stop karate training event near Philly. I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I was really hoping that my trip back to the premier garage would be just as quick and easy as my trip to the airport.
I grabbed my luggage and called the toll-free number on the WallyPark card. A girl’s voice told me that a shuttle was on the way, and to look for it at Island #3. I walked across the sky-bridge, down the escalator, and waited where I’d been dropped off two days earlier. I looked at my watch, which read 9:23 PM. At 9:29 PM, exactly 6 minutes later, the black Premier Garage shuttle appeared. Yes! My biggest concern had been that I’d have to wait a long time for the return shuttle, but 6 minutes is great. I waved to the driver to signal him, and he pulled over and opened the bus doors. I had been hoping it would be the same driver as before, but this driver was a tall, thin, white dude, probably in his 30s, wearing black weight-lifting gloves. Again, I should have remembered his name, but I was so tired that I barely remembered mine at that point. I was a little surprised, however, when the driver didn’t get off the shuttle. He didn’t say a word – no “Hello,” no “Welcome back,” no “I’m so glad to see you because if you and other customers like you weren’t here I probably wouldn’t have this job in an economy with 9+% unemployment.” He just stood there, next to the driver’s seat, crouching downward with his arm outstretched, silently implying that I should hand him my bag. I lowered the handle on my bag and lifted it up through the door – which is a somewhat physically awkward thing to do. If I’m going to lift a bag at all, it’s easier to lift it a few inches and carry it while I walk up the stairs, rather than lift it two feet and transfer it to another person. Regardless, my bag was now on the shuttle, so I walked up the stairs and sat down. There were 5 other people on the shuttle this time.
The return trip to the WallyPark Premier Garage was only 5 minutes (the return trip path is shorter because there are no U-turns, backtracking, or waiting for stoplights). When we arrived, the driver opened the doors, stood up, and grabbed the first bag on the rack, which belonged the the couple sitting across from me. A WallyPark employee outside of the shuttle reached in, and the driver handed the bag to him. Then the driver grabbed my bag. Because the other employee was still busy with the first bag, there was nobody on the ground to hand it to. So he just stood there for a second or two, holding my bag, and looking at me with an expression that told me he was trying to figure out if I’d be willing to take my bag from him and carry it down the stairs of the shuttle. My blank stare in return must have correctly conveyed my silent thought of “You’re $&%*ing kidding me, right?” and he grudgingly carried my bag down the stairs. I followed him out of the shuttle and grabbed by bag. Thinking back, I realize now that in my exhausted daze, I must have been too tired to tip this gentleman. Drat. It’s really a shame he wasn’t more like my first driver. Courtesy and helpfulness have a way of making me feel a lot less tired…
Still, my return driver was the only negative blip to an otherwise excellent overall experience. My Maserati was still sitting safely in spot 2106. I loaded my luggage in the trunk, drove to the exit, and handed the cashier my check-in ticket and 30% off coupon. I had entered the garage at 7:19 AM on Friday and exited at 9:39 PM on Sunday, for a total of 2 days 14 hours and 19 minutes. The total bill was $44.95 (3 days @ 14.95/day), plus $2.98 in sales tax, plus $2.30 in port fees, plus $3.00 in city tax, for a grand total of $53.13. My 30% discount coupon took $13.46 off the parking portion of the bill, so I ended up paying $39.67. For comparison, that same stay at the airport parking would have been $84. Yes, I realized after-the-fact that since my stay was rounded up to 3 days that I would have saved an additional $1.49 by using the “one day free” coupon instead, but I’ll save that coupon for next time… because there will be a next time. A suggestion for anyone from WallyPark reading this: I couldn’t find anywhere on your website that explained how many hours constituted one day – that would be useful thing to add to your “Rates” page.
After paying with my credit card (yes – they take American Express), I headed home. On my drive along International Blvd, I saw a WallyPark billboard advertising their WallyClub program, and realized I’d forgotten to ask the cashier for a card. I’ll be sure to get one next time!
My overall review of the WallyPark Premier Garage is extremely positive. It was fast, convenient, well-priced, and the garage is well lit and secure. If you’re going to park there for exactly three days, use the one day free coupon on their website. For longer stays, feel free to use the same 30% discount coupon I did.
If you have experiences with WallyPark or any of the other Seattle airport parking providers, feel free to share them in the comments.