The Psychology of Holiday Parking

Parking Professionals Offer Tips for Best Strategies to Avoid Stress

Finding the perfect parking spot during the busy holiday shopping season is like hitting a hole-in- one.  But according to those who study the psychology of parking, shoppers who circle parking areas on the hunt for that ideal space often ratchet up their stress levels and inevitably spend more time getting to the store.  Studies conducted on parking behavior indicate that when distant spots are still available, the most effective strategy is to pick a row and then pull into the closest space in that row. 'Perching,' the practice of waiting and following someone to their car, is only your best option when there are no spots left.

The International Parking Institute, the leading association of parking professionals, offers the following tips to keep shoppers stress-free and safe during November and December, the most challenging parking month of the year: 

  • Check your parking options before leaving the house.  Many retailers and restaurants list parking facilities on their websites.
  • Be aware that shopping centers often change parking and traffic patterns for the holidays
  • Choose the distant parking spot.  The area may be less congested with traffic and the walk to the store or restaurant is good exercise that will burn calories from all those holiday treats!
  • If you park at a metered spot, note the expiration time and plan to return a few minutes early. New parking technology in many cities now allows you to pay for parking via your phone.
  • Always lock your vehicle, close the windows, and hide valuables and packages in the trunk.
  • Avoid parking next to vans, pickups and large vehicles.  They make it more difficult to see pedestrians and other vehicles when you back out of the space.
  • Slow down in parking lots to avoid collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.
  • Smartphone users may want to consider downloading the many free mobile apps designed to help identify where you parked or take a picture of the signage showing where you parked your car.
  • Once parked, go through a mental checklist:  Is the car in park? Ignition off? Do you have your keys in a convenient place? Parking stub handy? It's easy to get forget these things in the rush of the season.
  • Be cautious walking through the parking facility. Walk with your head up making yourself aware of your surroundings.

"Increasingly, architects, city planners, merchants and restaurateurs are paying more attention to parking and transportation flow," explains Shawn Conrad, executive director of the International Parking Institute, "but even in the best of circumstances, parking requires a little extra patience this time of year."

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