The Best Way to Park Your Car at the Washington Airport

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The Best Way to Park Your Car at the Washington Airport

Washington Dulles International Airport. The bustling gateway to the capital, serving over 60,000 passengers daily from over 125 destinations and some 15 million total passengers in 2021, it can be a daunting task to navigate this airport – doubly so if you’re operating on a tight schedule and are unfamiliar with this airport. ( or both ! ) Thankfully, we’ve got you covered – read our guide to learn the best way to park your car at the Washington Dulles International Airport. 

If you should park

While this sounds a strange question, those first time flyers or those new to this airport should consider before anything, if they even need to park at all. If your purpose is solely to pick up or drop off with no need to accompany your passenger(s) inside the airport, unloading, hugs and goodbyes / greetings might be best done at the designated drop off / pick up curbside areas. This is not only to save everyone time, ( allowing for greater flexibility with traffic conditions, or just some extra sleep ) but also money, as the fees for parking can cost a bit, not to mention the added effort of even finding a parking space. If you’ll be travelling from inside Washington or even a number of nearby locations around the capital region, it might serve you better in time and money to actually get to the airport via the WMATA metro system. 

When you are parking

It’s good to consider when you are wanting to park – as it will help you plan and prepare accordingly. Those arriving very early for a red-eye flight will encounter the least busiest times in the garages, lots and roads leading to the airport, whereas those arriving towards the middle of the day should prepare to spend a bit longer in traffic and looking for a parking spot. If you’re coming on a peak day and especially at a peak hour of a peak day such as around 3 p. m. on a Friday, it might be best to consider other options to help streamline arrival to the gate or parking. One of these is the following, reservation ! 


For those travellers who prefer to plan far in advance or for those who are flying in peak flying season such as during Thanksgiving or Christmas, you may want to consider reserving a parking spot directly with the airport ! This not only guarantees you a parking spot and the payment process, but also eliminates the stress of being uncertain if there is still a spot available for your vehicle, as well as the nasty surprise of a full garage showing up the day of. Washington Dulles International Airport takes extra care to make sure that they do not overbook, but that does not mean parking during the busiest times of year isn’t extremely competitive. Get ahead of the curve and do a favour for future you on the day of departure and look into reserving a parking spot at any of Washington Dulles International Airport’s parking facilities. 

When to approach

Again, you may also want to reconsider your arrival time / time you leave the house depending on the situation. This is another very important skill in making sure you get to the airport with enough time to 1 ) pay for parking, 2 ) locate a parking space successfully,  3 ) unload and walk from your parking spot to the interior of the airport. Checking the live traffic data and also using the reservation website to gauge how full the garages are currently, these are two good steps to take before you’re even in your car to figure out how early you should start heading to the airport. Generally, for those flights near rush hour we recommend adding anywhere from 1.5 to even 2 hours ahead of the time you arrive at security. This is because traffic in the area can become quite intense. 

Where to approach 

Knowing the layout of the airport and the garage is also a very important step before parking. While the airport does provide on-site signage for which airlines are on which sides of the airport, it is better to know ahead of time the general direction you are headed instead of digesting and navigating with new information in real time. This is especially important for when the airport is at its busiest, where it might be difficult to safely / easily change lanes if you find yourself headed to the wrong part of the airport – you might find yourself at the mercy of dozens of other flyers who are also in a rush ! Specifically, those flyers with Delta, Allegiant, Southwest, Aer Lingus, Air India and British Airways would prefer parking in Garage 2 if possible, due to the proximity to their ticket counters. 

How to note your parking location 

Finally, a very important step in parking at Washington Dulles International Airport – remembering where you’ve parked ! This is especially pertinent for those who will be away on longer trips – as we’ve all had this familiar situation : You’re finally home after a very long and tiring plane ride, and you just want to get into your car, drive home, and take a shower. And upon arriving at the garage… you cannot remember where your car is. Some travellers prefer to take a picture, but depending on your location in the garage, a picture of your parking location may not be so useful depending on what is in frame. Especially so if your photo has no distinguishing characteristics that are not the cars – since those are subject to change before you return. For a faster solution, we recommend either using your phone to take a panoramic photo, a 360 – degree photo or to simply record a video of the area around your car very briefly to get a better idea of where your parking space is. This way, you’ll have a much easier way locating your vehicle even if you’re completely spent after a long flight home. 

Other services to consider 

However, if you are left with a want for some more options, here are some others to consider alongside parking at the airport’s garages directly. Applications and websites such as SpotHero, and On Air Parking can be great resources to consider as alternatives to simply using the airport website. These third party options come with a variety of different advantages. SpotHero has a big name presence over the internet for those wanting to check with other sources throughout their parking and booking process, while offers a great variety of integration with mobile devices for those travellers who prefer to travel paperless.

Onairparking stands out due to their varied collection of works on destinations domestic and worldwide. Using these websites to book at another location may provide more security, cheaper rates, specific language support beyond the capabilities of the airport, or even a more advantageous parking lot location relative to your residence in the capital region. Taking the stress out of navigating airport traffic and getting dropped off at one of the platforms for bus and shuttles directly in front of the airport may be a preferable start to your journey – allowing you more freedom to relax, enjoy your coffee or triple check your bags for everything on the way to the airport.