By George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog.com Keep this ground transportation guide handy if you ever think you'll be flying into or out of Seattle's airport.
As every savvy traveler knows, a low airfare is only the beginning. The real work? That starts when you touch down in your destination, where costs can easily run away from you. And it starts right at the airport. If you're not careful, you can easily spend as much getting into town as you did on the flight that brought you there. (Been to New York lately, where JetBlue and others offer $39 fares and your taxi ride to/from JFK will cost you around $65 with tip and tolls?)
That's why we're taking a break from telling you about low fares to talk to you about…ta da… ground transportation. (We can tell – you're totally excited right now.) Seriously, though, you will be, when we show you how cheaply you can get things done. This week, we're analyzing the situation in Seattle, so grab an umbrella and let's get to it.
A dark era of not-so-splendid isolation for Sea-Tac finally came to an end last winter, when Sound Transit finally completed the first line of Seattle's new Link light rail system. This means that you can hop off your flight and on a sleek little train; within a half hour or so, you'll be strolling into your downtown hotel. Total cost? A mere $2.50; buy your tickets from the machine before your board (cash, Visa or MasterCard cheerfully accepted). Downtown, the light rail shares its subterranean stations with many of the city's bus lines, operated by Metro Transit. If your destination is not central, you can often transfer without having to set foot outside, making things super easy. (Speaking of easy, if you didn't already know, bus service within downtown is free between 6am and 7pm.)
This is a big cruise port, so there's frequent express bus service downtown from the airport, operated by Gray Line of Seattle. All of its downtown stops are at popular hotels; the cost is $15 one-way, or $25 round-trip; you can book online in advance. You do not need to be a guest of one of the hotels listed to utilize this service, you just need to know which stop is closest to your destination. To catch the bus, which operates twice-hourly all day long, head to the third level of the terminal-adjacent parking garage. For more scheduled shuttle bus service throughout the region, look here.
The county regulates taxi access to the airport as well as fares, guaranteeing few surprises when you choose to go this route into town, except for maybe the total cost, which will be around $40. Service is provided by STITA Taxi; for trips back to the airport, you can reserve in advance both online or over the phone at (206) 246-9999.
If you're renting a car, it's worth considering whether or not you've got somewhere cheap – or free, better yet – to park it in your destination. Valet parking, often mandatory at downtown hotels, can run you upwards of $30 per night. Beyond downtown, Seattle's not known for its spaciousness, though it is known for its undying devotion to the enforcement of local parking regulations. That said, there are plenty of places in the region where a car is a necessity; at Sea-Tac you have both convenience (major agencies have both their counters and their cars right onsite) and affordability (with a short shuttle ride, you can often save money on your rental.) To find the lowest car rental rates in Seattle, visit our buddies over at Autoslash.
BROWSER (AND FRIENDS) SAY:
We love Seattle; what we don't love is the traffic and the parking hassles. That's why you'll find us riding the light rail into town. From the downtown stops, you can easily walk to hotels that fit any budget. Once situated, you might be surprised to discover just how much of the city you can cover on foot, from Pike Place Market on over to cool, less-touristed areas like First Hill and Belltown. To go further afield, we're big fans of Zipcar (http://www.zipcar.com/). Being satisfied members back home in New York, we already know that Seattle-ites are big on car sharing, and that there are cars located all over the downtown area. With rates starting at just $6.30 an hour, including gas, tolls and tax, we've got mobility, but without the cost. Care to argue that? Didn't think so.