There is no denying that the Irish abroad this summer will be fewer in number as many people try to save money by forgoing the annual summer holiday in foreign climes. Figures released by the CSO last month saw a 9% drop in the number of foreign holidays taken by the Irish in the last quarter of 2008.

That trend is likely to continue, with Fáilte Ireland reporting that the number of people planning short breaks abroad has fallen by 38% with people opting to travel domestically instead.

Still, the attractions of a fortnight somewhere warm where talk of the recession is limited are strong. Those being smart about spending will start counting the pennies long before they hit the beach, even when they park the car.

You may score yourself a sweet last-minute deal at the travel agents but fail to plan ahead when it comes to parking and you could end up adding an extra €133 to the price of that €199 fortnight in Tenerife.

For many years, long-stay parking was a nightmare expense for Irish consumers, many of whom had little choice but to put up with the additional cost.

The Dublin Airport Authority is by far the biggest provider of parking at the airport with 18,000 spaces available in its short and long-term car parks. It faced very little competition until the arrival five years ago of QuickPark and in the last couple of years there has been a marked increase in the number of operators touting for business, particularly since local hotels started getting in on the act.

There are now a huge number of options available to people. Website was set up last year to promote a range of hotels and off-airport car parks and valet services (where a driver meets you at Departures and either parks your car at a long-term car park of your choice or outside your own home). Commercial manager Mark Pegler says that people are being smarter when it comes to airport parking charges.

"We are seeing growth in visitor and booking levels on the site every month even during the downturn and what would traditionally be a quieter time of the year… It has been busy throughout January to now. People are going online looking for deals more than they used to rather than just turning up at the airport and paying whatever the DAA wants to charge them," he says.

Surging competition is now started to really benefit consumers. A recent price war saw prices drop as low as €4.50 per day across a number of sites following on from a DAA promotion. Competition is intense.

Indeed, in its annual report for 2008, released last month, the Dublin Airport Authority identified increased competition for long-term parking business as one of the major challenges facing the company. The DAA's group profit for 2008 fell by 28% to €78m.

"Turnover from car-parking declined during the year as lower consumer confidence caused changes in travel behaviour. The group also faced additional car-parking competition at Dublin Airport from both new and existing operators.

"A number of new car parking promotions were introduced at Dublin during 2008. The most significant was the move to an online booking facility in March, which allowed customers to pre-book long-term and short-term car parking at reduced rates" the DAA states.

Smart parkers book online. While most of the €4.50 spots appear to be gone, the DAA ( and Quick Park ( are offering spots for €5 per day online and it is still possible to book a parking spot for €4.75 through

People using the Flybus service from Tallaght ( can park their cars at the nearby Clarion Hotel for €3 a day though it should be noted that they must have a Flybus ticket – €8 adult single – to qualify. Given that the majority of travellers will have set dates for arrivals and departures and, indeed, times for both, most people should have little difficulty in booking parking in advance.

Bewley's Airport Hotel, now owned by Moran Hotels, is a major player in the long- term parking market with more than 2,000 spaces available since it opened in 2006. Group marketing director Adrian Shelley says that the recent price war may not continue indefinitely.

"It is only really since January that the prices have started to drop dramatically. You can see the prices the DAA are charging. For our part, we have given online specials which have certainly matched that for value. I think it is seasonally driven – those months would traditionally be the lower season and I would have no doubt that those prices are going to increase as the summer season comes in… What will happen is that they will just return to more standardised prices – everyone is holding their standard rate," he says.

Bewley's is also offering spots at €5 per day – €4.50 per day if you park for seven days – online ( but, in addition, has an offer where people travelling from elsewhere in the country can book one night's accommodation and eight night's parking for €99 (€135 for a fortnight).

Of course, it is not always necessary to bring your car to the airport, especially if you are travelling without the kids. Both Dublin Bus and private operator Aircoach have direct routes to the airport at very attractive prices compared to park and ride.

It is an intensely competitive market, especially now that traveller numbers are falling off, so there is very little difference in price. Indeed, two adults and two children travelling will incur the same cost no matter which service they use.

Aircoach will take you from the city centre to Dublin Airport for €12 an adult return and €3 for a child return. Dublin Bus Airlink charges €10 for an adult return and €5 for a child return.

If you really want to save, use the indirect public bus service. Dublin Bus will take you out to Dublin Airport, albeit at a slower pace than Airlink or Aircoach, on the 16A and 41 routes for the princely sum of €2.20.

A taxi from the city centre will cost somewhere in the region of €25 depending on traffic – book with 820 Cabs (01-8202020) which is currently offering a 20% discount on all fares. People travelling to Dublin Airport from other parts of the country should check their local coach operators to see if they run a service from their town.