Living in Los Angeles has taught me one thing—parking is a luxury. If you are lucky enough to find street parking anywhere near your desired location, do not pass it up thinking you will get an even closer one. It does not exist. Looking for free parking? Get real. You can't even park at a busted meter in Los Angeles, despite state law saying otherwise.
Now, finding a good parking spot is not just relevant for Los Angeles, but for other large cities and any other crowded areas, be it a shopping center or a sports stadium. When there are massive amounts of people, there is usually an extremely large parking lot or parking structure. And finding a spot to park in, or finding your car afterwards, can be a huge pain in the bumper.
I once lost my car in a parking structure and still haven't lived it down. In my defense, there were 7 identical parking structures and I left my ticket in the car. No matter your reason, your friends will make fun of you, but luckily, there are ways to prevent this from ever happening to you. Let's start with finding a spot.
Your smartphone can be your one and only ally when it comes to finding a parking structure, or simply finding where you need to go. Realizing that parking is one of the most frustrating things about driving, developers have come up with a bunch of apps to help folks find the cheapest, closest, and open parking spots. Here are some of the best ones out there.
The app provides users with information on all of the parking lots and garages in the area, leading you to find the cheapest and most convenient spot possible. It is a great app and is available in most major cities like Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston, as well as over 80 airports. For a full list of supported cities, check out the app's download page.
The Central Parking app makes it easy to find parking by using your location or by custom search. You can find out each location's hours of operation, rates, available discounts, and phone number. The app is for Central Parking locations only, which can be a setback, but it does provide printable coupons that you can bring with you to the parking structure. Nice way to save a few extra bucks.
ParkMe is an iPhone app designed to help you snag the best spot possible. And with real-time parking updates in Santa Monica and downtown L.A., this app is a godsend. Finding a meter in Santa Monica is ridiculously annoying, but with live feeds, you know how many spot are open before you even leave your house.
You can search a location and get traffic information, directions, parking rates and openings all in one glance.
Their search information is powered by Google. This is by far the best parking app I have used.
So, now that you have found a spot, you better make sure you can find it afterwards.
When you enter a parking garage, always make sure to keep the ticket with you. The ticket will usually have the parking structure number on it, and in some cases it may even have the full address displayed somewhere on it. While it may not tell you what level or the exact area you parked in, it at least gets you back to the main structure. If you have a pen, jot down your level and aisle on it, so you don't forget.
Another good thing about keeping that stub on you while you shop? Validation. You don't want to have to pay more than you need to.
If you are prone to forgetting where you parked, taking a picture with your smartphone is a very easy method to help you remember. Most structure or lots have markers designating the area or level where you parked, so once you've got your spot, simply take a picture of the nearest marker to help you trace your way back.
Most map apps have the feature that allows you to drop a pin on your current location. This way, you can trace back to where you are, even if you do not know that exact location. Of course, this will not help with finding the level you're on in a parking garage—you still have to remember that somehow yourself.
If these methods are still too much work for you, well, of course there's an app for that.
Park Me Right: Car Locator is an Android app that helps you locate your parked car. It utilizes augmented reality to make it even easier—just remember to keep your eyes peeled so you don't get run over while staring at your phone.
Check out the video below...although they might want to come up with a better title if you ask me.
Parking Mate for iPhone provides users with a bunch of features, including the locate my car feature. Simply mark your location and the app will be able to guide you back to that spot. You can also share your location with others if you went somewhere in a large group and want to park close together.
The best feature for me is the notification. Living on a street that has "street cleaning" twice a week, it's imperative to have a reminder sent. L.A. County has made enough money off of me, and I don't think the streets are getting any cleaner! You can also set a timer for metered parking spots as well.
For you iPhone users, there's a couple more apps you can try out, if Parking Mate isn't your thing.
These are a few ways to make your parking experience less stressful and a whole lot cheaper. If you have any other parking tips and tricks, let us know in the comments section.