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Your car will be on a holiday too, so make sure you get the best deal for airport parking

PARKING at the airport to go on holidays used to be a ferociously expensive thing -- the DAA controlled all the places where you could leave your car and pretty much charged what they liked.

But the burgeoning business operating in privately owned car parks has brought prices down considerably. Nevertheless, it's still a significant cost and it's definitely worth shopping around for the best deal.

The DAA still operates two car parks, Red and Blue, and operates a very efficient shuttle to and from the airport. Between them, they have 12,400 spaces.

Other operators are based at varying distances from Dublin Airport, and prices generally reflect proximity. It's worth building in plenty of extra time in your journey if you're going to have to take a shuttle from any car park.

Always check how often the bus runs. Our research showed it can be anything from five to 30 minutes -- worth knowing if you're chasing a flight.

In addition, if you're flying at 'ridiculous o'clock', make sure the shuttle is a 24-hour service.

Most are, but some don't operate in the wee small hours, and could leave you stranded for an early check-in or if you are delayed on the way home.

Book online, if you can. There are considerable cost savings to be made rather than just driving up to the car park on the day. Also, in the busy summer period, it guarantees you a space. There's a price saving of €42 for a fortnight's booking in the Red car park just by booking online in advance.

Now there are two terminals at Dublin Airport, your arrival and departure may not be in the same place.

This column's favourite car park -- Quick Park -- is the only allowed drop-off at T2, but you can not collect returning passengers from there, meaning a very irritating and tiring walk from T1 to T2 to the coach parking bay, schlepping your bags with you.

It's also worth checking out some of the hotels that service the airport for parking -- even if you're not staying there.

Bewleys, Carlton, Travelodge and Premier Inn all offer services, and there's a couple of good trawler websites -- parksmart.ie and parkandflydublin.ie -- to check them out. They'll compare what's on offer and give you the best deal.

Some hotels offer better value for longer stays.

Of course, most savvy travellers will weigh up the option of park and fly versus the Aircoach or a taxi, depending on where they live.

Aircoach fares are about €15 return for an adult, €6 per child from South Dublin pick up points. Your family size and length of holiday will determine what's better value for you.

So, the key message is, while you're planning your dream trip, don't forget to plan your car's little holiday too.