When Trying to Save Money Backfires: My Parking Fail

I like to consider myself a fairly frugal person. While I’ve been known to spend on a few splurgy items and like to have nice things, most of the time, I try to save money when possible or cut out expenses that aren’t a priority for me. Alas, this week, my money-saving ways came back to bite me. More accurately, my rush to pick up what I thought was a good deal did me in.

Let me explain: this week, I’m in Chicago for C2E2, which I’m covering for the Disney fan site I write for. We actually first came to this convention in February of last year — just before the world changed. In any case, having been here before and even stayed at the same hotel, I had a bit of confidence doing it all again. However, I didn’t realize that, beyond the obvious things like masks and vaccination requirements, a few key things had changed.

The first domino fell when I learned that this year’s convention wouldn’t offer shuttles. While understandable, this meant that our decision to book a hotel downtown instead of near McCormick Place was looking foolish. Incidentally, part of the reason we choose this hotel was because we could use our $200 American Express Platinum card hotel credit and assumed we’d be able to catch the shuttle like we did in 2020. Well, the lack of this transportation option meant that we needed to purchase a parking pass for the venue, which set us back $105.

Speaking of parking… that’s not where the trouble ends. One of the downsides we were already familiar with regarding the hotel of our choice was that the parking garage next door costs $55 a night. However, we were able to save a bit on this price the last time by pre-purchasing a pass on Parking.com. Thus, I tried this same strategy again and paid $136 for what is essentially four days of parking. The problem is that, while the Hilton notes in and out privileges with the parking you buy through them, this was not the case with the prepaid option we choose (back when we didn’t know we’d need to be taking the car out to the venue each day).

These elements meant that we essentially paid $138 to park for an hour as, after checking into the hotel, we left the garage to pick up our badges. When we returned, the QR code I had showed that it had already been used, resulting in us taking a ticket. Then, when we left for the convention this morning, we had to pony up that aforementioned $55 fee to get the car out. So to recap — no shuttles means a $105 fee for convention parking plus $55 per day in hotel parking fees on top of the $136 I spent on my botched pass. That’s $461 just on parking! Ouch.

While I’m definitely upset that this shuttle change seemingly happened after we purchased our passes, the blame definitely lies on me as I didn’t pay enough attention to know that my parking pass didn’t include in and out privileges. I did end up sending an email to see if I can get a refund for that part of it… but I’m certainly not holding my breath.

The moral of the story is that, while saving money is great, make sure you know all the facts ahead of time. Just like with discount airlines, sometimes the price you see doesn’t tell the full story. Considering that I just wrote about this very thing, I really should have known better, making my failure all the more painful. So, hopefully if you endure similar mistakes, they won’t be quite as pricey. Hey, at least it’s a business expense!


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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