How To Always Remember Where You Parked

In the anxiety-inducing Seinfeld episode “The Parking Garage,” the gang wanders hopelessly through a parking structure, unable to remember where they left their car. Too bad they lived in the days before keyless entry panic buttons and digital cameras were ubiquitous.

Wired put together a wiki filled with clever tips on how to track down the spot you left your jalopy. Among the highlights:

*Download a smartphone app, such as Parking Mate or Carr Matey, which identify your spot using GPS.

*Snap a photo of your spot with identifying landmarks in the background.

*Tie a bright cloth to your antenna.

The wiki doesn’t include my preferred method: To push the panic button and drift in the direction of the sound in a game of Marco Polo that annoys everyone within a 200-yard radius.

How do you remember where you parked?

Hack Your Parking [Wired]

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  1. apple420 says:

    I hate the panic button. It has unintentionally reminded me where I parked about 100 times more often than it has ever helped. I wish I could remove it, or make it harder to press.

    • davere says:

      I hate it too. I sometimes press it by mistake while grabbing the keys in the morning and I wake the neighborhood up at 6 am.

    • Wayne W says:

      That’s why I placed several layers of black plastic tape over the panic button. Don’t use electrical tape, instead choose a good quality plastic tape which is much less likely to expose the sticky stuff for your touch.

    • aloria says:

      I hate cars with alarms in general. They go off so frequently that nobody freaks out about theft when they hear one, so it’s basically just a public nuisance.

    • minjche says:

      On two separate occasions I’ve tried to be quiet and instead hit my panic button.

      Both times, I was parked next to people playing sports (a tennis court and a driving range), within 30 feet of the people playing. Both times, I decided to use my key to unlock my door instead of my keyless entry fob (which would make a beeping noise). Both times, my grip on my key led me to accidentally hit the panic button. Both times, I looked like an ass.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      Duct.
      Tape.

      …required by a parent whose 3-year-old’s sticky fingers always find the red button.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      It’s great for a gag, though. As you’re following someone at sort of a distance in a parking lot, hit the panic button as they pass your car. It’s hilarious. I also use it to train the stray cats in our neighborhood to stay off my car.

  2. minjche says:

    The panic button method failed me in a recent trip to Epcot.

    We hit the panic button alright, but so did about 500 other people.

    • frugalmom says:

      Panic button failed me about a month ago when my husband forgot which level of the parking garage he’d parked on. (He’d parked 8 hours beforehand, in a hurry, running late for childbirth class.) We wandered about 20 minutes and could hear the panic button going off, but couldn’t isolate what level the car was on. He thought it was on 3. Turns out it was on 1.

      • jenl1625 says:

        My mom did that to me once – we commute in to work together, and if she has a morning appointment, she drops me off and then later tells me where she parked. She told me that she was on the usual floor of the parking garage. Not so much. I kept wandering around, and sometimes I could hear the car and sometimes not. It took about 5 minutes to figure out she was on the floor below me…

  3. Chmeeee says:

    Call me crazy, but I just, ya know, remember where I parked. I don’t even have a good memory for most things, but I’ve never forgotten.

    • grucifer says:

      Usually I “forget” at places like work, where generally I park in the same spot everyday. So, if there’s a day I have to park in a different area of the lot, I walk outside and have to think pretty hard to try and remember where my car is haha.

      Otherwise I’m with ya in that I usally, most-times, never forget.

    • apple420 says:

      I wish I could say that….I lost my car in a city for a whole week once. Lots of driving around looking.

    • mrbofus says:

      Same here, usually. But I went to an air show last weekend where the parking was in a gigantic field with rows and rows and rows of cars parked with no identifying markers. Took us about 10 minutes of walking around before we found our car. And the field was too big for the panic button to work too, which sucked.

  4. apd09 says:

    Do most cars even have an antenna anymore? I guess cars built prior to 2005 or something have them, but for a lot of cars the antenna thing won’t work.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Maybe people can tie hankerchiefs to the side mirror? Careful about what colors you choose though.

    • justagigilo85 says:

      Newer cars don’t have pointy antennae. They’re disc shaped objects placed on the outside of cars. They used to be a sign that a car had satellite radio but now can pick up AM/FM frequencies.

    • aka Cat says:

      My 2010 Mini has an antenna, but that may just be because it’s going for the retro look.

    • fokensheatman says:

      we have a 2000 honda accord that originally had the antenna built into the back window. i remember i use to look at it and wonder why it looked weird.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I don’t hit the panic button, I hit the “lock” button and then play Marco Polo with my car.

  6. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Carr Matey blows.
    First of all, it doesn’t help you if you’re in a parking garage – because you usually won’t get a signal in order to use the app – plus it only marks the general area of your car.
    I’ve used it three times in unfamiliar cities, and each time using the map to get back to my car sent me on an extra .5 walk in the opposite direction.

    • TheSurlyOne says:

      There’s an odd trick that works quite well in parking garage situations where the remote signal would otherwise be out of range- use your head to amplify the signal! As in your actual head (skull)…just point the end of the remote upward under your chin, then start pressing the button….somehow, it actually works! I’ve tested it a few times and will probably have some sort of tumors or brain damage as a result, but at least I found my car!

  7. balthisar says:

    I guess I’m strange… I just kind of know where my car is. No tricks. I just go to where the car is.

    My problem is that sometimes I don’t remember what my car is (I rent a lot). Sometimes I’ll recognize it as I get close (oh, yeah, they gave me a POS Hyundai this time). Or if they give me a good car that lots of people have in the parking lot, and it has an out of state plate, then I’ll just usually assume that it’s mine. Otherwise, that’s what the panic button is for. In all cases, though I always land close to the car without needing navigational tricks.

    • RandomHookup says:

      I’ve had that happen. I jump into a rental car at the airport and end up having to valet park at an event. They then ask me what kind of car I have…I don’t know and they have the keys. I waited about 45 minutes once for the parking lot to clear out enough for us to find the right car.

    • Rachacha says:

      I think my worst experience with this was I was attending a convention many years ago in Houston and I was helping to man a tradeshow booth. Because we had to haul several boxes we decided to get a mini van (White Dodge Caravan)…and apparently so did everyone who was attending the same convention. I parked my car near a physical landmark (tree or light pole) early in the morning and made a mental note where I parked. No other cars were around me at the time. When I went to the car in the afternoon I was surprised to see 30 White Dodge Caravans parked all around me. It was pouring with rain and I was not given a key fob to remotely unlock the doors, so I had to physically look at every White Dodge Caravan in the area, trying and failing many times to unlock it with the key. Took a good 15 minutes to find the car, and by that time I was soaked.

  8. RandomHookup says:

    Years ago, I ended up being parked at the airport for a month on a work trip and I had no earthly idea where my car was parked. When they asked me for my license plate number so they could check their records, I couldn’t remember that either.

    • searonson says:

      When you park at the airport, they will usually give you a ticket when you enter that you swipe to pay and get out. I just write the lot # and row # on the ticket, put it in my wallet, and I have the info I need to find my car when I get back.

      • RandomHookup says:

        That’s how I do it now…back then I wasn’t expecting to be gone a month and I think I left the ticket in the car.

    • GameHen says:

      Heh…my state has started a new program where we’re required to get new plates every 5 years. My plate number is a 7 digit number with no discernable pattern. Memorizing my plate number isn’t high on my priority list especially since it’ll just change again in a few years.

      This makes finding my relatively common vehicle especially fun. A few times I’ve actually opened the doors of other people’s (unlocked!?!) cars who were parked near me before realizing it wasn’t mine.

  9. hoi-polloi says:

    I’m pretty good at remembering, but I almost always jot down the lot information when I’m flying. Who knows what I’ll remember days later when I’m tired from travel. With nearly every phone having a camera these days, a quick shot makes good sense.

    A while back my wife and I arrived at an event separately. (I had a work thing, and was meeting her partway through.) I told her my car was parked right outside at a meter, and that she should just take it home. She gave me a rough idea of where our other car was in the garage, and I walked around pushing my unlock button for at least a solid 10 – 15 minutes. Good times.

  10. HazyCloud says:

    “*Download a smartphone app, such as Parking Mate or Carr Matey, which identify your spot using GPS.”

    Totally not needed. If you have Google Maps on your smartphone, you are able to drop a pin anytime you want. Drop the pin where you parked and bingo!

  11. KCDebi says:

    The biggest part of finding your car is paying attention while you’re parking. First, I try to always park in the same area to places I frequent. Second, I make a mental image of where I am, what’s around, any landmarks, which direction. I rarely have any problem finding my car. (knock on wood)

  12. Rachacha says:

    I put a Jack In The Box Antenna ball on my antenna (the nearest JitB is 800 miles away so it sticks out like a sore thumb), and I also use the voice recorder application on my phone. This allows me if I am in a rush to grab my bag (at the airport), and start walking away from the car while speaking into the recorder “Orange Lot, Level 4, Section C8″

  13. jason in boston says:

    I drive a jeep. The worst case I’ve ever had of forgetting where I parked in a garage – I asked the security guard if he has seen a jeep without doors. He took me right to it.

    It helps of you drive a POS that not everyone drives.

    • Saltpork says:

      +1
      Ain’t it the truth.
      My current truck has a black right front fender instead of white and red.
      I can’t miss it.

      • jason in boston says:

        Indeed. My girlfriend drives a blue honda civic. Just like 50% of the population (it seems). The only difference is that she works for MIT and has DOD stickers. At night, we can always find her car just by looking for the stupid reflection that the stickers put off.

        A trick I use to always remember (doesn’t work in garages though) is to find the row closest to the exit of the store and park on that row. It takes the guesswork out of thinking where I parked. And I always back in. I have a big fear of running into a kid when backing out of a spot.

  14. aloria says:

    I remember where I parked by having a fairly uncommon car for most areas*. When a parking lot is filled with same-looking silver, blue, and white sedans, it’s pretty easy to spot the one Cooper S.

    Of course, this tactic is thwarted if the lot fills up with SUVs, so then I just have to check the empty-looking spots. :P

    *Now that I live in Hudson County, NJ, there are a lot more MINIs, but most parking is street parking, so if you can’t remember what street you parked on, you have bigger problems.

  15. aloria says:

    I remember where I parked by having a fairly uncommon car for most areas*. When a parking lot is filled with same-looking silver, blue, and white sedans, it’s pretty easy to spot the one Cooper S.

    Of course, this tactic is thwarted if the lot fills up with SUVs, so then I just have to check the empty-looking spots. :P

    *Now that I live in Hudson County, NJ, there are a lot more MINIs, but most parking is street parking, so if you can’t remember what street you parked on, you have bigger problems.

    • aloria says:

      Sorry for the double– Got an error the first time I submitted, so thought it didn’t go through.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      yeah. our Scion helps with that. But since they’re boxy, sometimes it doesn’t stick out enough to see. It ends up hidden between the 12 million SUVs and minivans around this area.

  16. Kevin says:

    For a long time I didn’t have to remember where I parked because I had a truck with 4″ of lift, 35″ tires and a big light bar on top. In my area, it was typically the tallest thing in the parking lot aside from conversion vans, making it easy to spot. Now I usually drive smaller vehicles and what I try to do is always park in the same place every time I go there as my short term memory is crap.

  17. Pansy P says:

    I send myself a text if I’m going to be gone for a while and think I might forget. Otherwise, I just remember.

    • anonyname says:

      I text myself as well. It only takes a moment, and I’m much less likely to lose my cell than a parking lot stub.

  18. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I have a horrible memory and lose things a lot.
    Including my car after I’ve parked. I just learned to make sure to look around when I get out of my car. Like, say i parked at Target – I look at which door I’m closest to. Parking garages are always a disaster for me, though.

    One time I was at a friend’s apartment for a party and I lost my car. I stood there with a couple of friends trying to remember where I parked. Then my car drove by with someone in it.
    They found it two days later – torched to the ground.
    :[ I miss my car.

    • jenl1625 says:

      Well, there’s losing your car and then there’s “it was lost”… I feel your missing the car, though – I had one that was totaled (I was at a dead stop waiting to turn, woman came up behind me doing 55 mph or more while reading a map – she never saw me, much less tried to brake). That was two years ago, and I still miss that car.

  19. Hank Scorpio says:

    A little off-topic trivia on that Seinfeld episode:

    At the end, when they find the car and get in, it doesn’t start. It’s a great punchline to the episode, but it wasn’t planned – the car just wouldn’t start.

    If you look carefully, you can see them start laughing inside the car.

  20. redskull says:

    Like many here, I just remember where I parked. It is a CAR after all; kind of a large object to misplace.

    I used to work with a woman who would sit in the lunch room for half an hour or 45 minutes after work ended, waiting for the parking lot to clear out. She said that way there were less cars for her to look through in order to find hers.

  21. Pinget says:

    I realize this is not a big city solution but everywhere I routinely go, I park in approximately the same place every time. Simple.

  22. jenl1625 says:

    Apparently, I’m just incredibly analog… I look for signs in parking lots. Or if I’m somewhere like an airshow that doesn’t mark off areas of a parking lot, I look for landmarks around the parking lot that I can use to triangulate where my car is.

    As far as I can tell, the best trick for remembering where you parked your car is to *think* about it when you get out of your car. It’s when you get out and start walking without going “okay, now where in the parking lot is my car” that you come back out and have NO CLUE where your car is.

  23. drburk says:

    In high school I kept a red ribbon / bracelet (from Drug free week) tied to my antenna. My friend tied it there to declare my car drug free. My dad thought this was a good way to find his white Honda in a sea of what Honda’s, except he used an actual red ribbon which got caught in his door tore his antenna off.

  24. Scoobatz says:

    Easy. I make my kids sit on the top of my car while I shop or go to work.

    • craptastico says:

      i always lock a baby in my car and then look for the police and horrified crowd and bingo, there’s my car. in reality i find cameraphone pictures to be very helpful both in parking, and remembering hotel rooms

  25. Holybalheadedchrist! says:

    My daughter (3) has a game some of you may have heard of called “MEMORY” which I find incredibly helpful at practicing this lost art. Seems like it may help car owners in this situation.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It doesn’t really help when you’re in a giant, flat parking lot and every light pole and cart station looks alike. Or when you go to the mall and have to drive in circles just to find a spot in the parking garage, walk to the stairs, go down two flights, then walk across the bridge to get to the mall.

  26. conformco says:

    I use public transportation. Problem solved.

  27. Benny Gesserit says:

    If it’s a place I’ve been before, I tend to park in the same spot (more or less) out of habit (ie the mall: near the sign as you drive in from the high-way).

    Remembering something new involves that old idea: You have to be originally aware of it. Even if you’re rushed, stop and think (or better say out loud) “OK, I’m at the first cart corral down from the ‘Open until 11PM’ sign.”

    If that fails, and your car supports it, the LOCK button may be less annoying than PANIC. Often the horn will make a short beep when you lock (sometimes on the second click). People don’t tend to break out the ‘laser eye’ for a beep or two. (Sorry that may be in the wiki but I’m at work and trying to clear my RSS feed over lunch)

  28. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    The local mall here is “The Great Mall” and as you guessed it’s huge. It’s a mile in circumference and makes a figure 8. I’ve joked about painting my car plaid to make it easier to spot. The first few times we did lose our car. Now they have numbers at the entrances and around the parking lot which makes things much easier. I was intimidated and avoided this place and sure other people were too.

  29. Dilbitz says:

    I make my own parking at home.

  30. eightfifteen says:

    I send myself a text with all the relevant info. GPS doesn’t help if you are on the 12th level of a parking garage in section Orange-L

  31. Smitch56 says:

    The parking ramps usually have codes on them and I make a story to remind me. I just parked in Green 2D recently. That was easy. 2 dimensions instead of 3, sort of like Tron’s green screens.

  32. Puddy Tat says:

    What an @$$…. I would love to see some teenybopper ram her SUV into the front of this Hummer and I would clap as she drove off.

  33. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I try to park on the street or in a lot instead of a garage, and make a note of something like a lamppost or cart corral (at a store) near my car, in relation to the building. Like at Walmart, I’ll think “I’m parked two posts down from the Market door.” That helps.

    In a parking garage, the problem I’ve had the most isn’t finding your car, but finding the way out. At the Jacksonville airport, my bf and I drove in circles for five minutes trying to find the exit!

  34. mbz32190 says:

    Never had a problem spotting out my bright-metallic green (factory paint) 200sx in the lot. I don’t know what I would do if I had to get a new silver/blue/other common car color.

  35. BK31 says:

    buy a yellow, or other ‘loud’ colored car.

  36. TheGreySpectre says:

    If its in a parking lot and I am only going to one building I don’t worry aobut it. If I am parking downtown and think I might forget then I mark the garage entrance on google maps with a pin

  37. Oddfool says:

    Working for a parking company, and my first location was a parking structure for a mall in downtown San Diego (very confusing pattern not unlike Seinfield with fruits and vegetable named sections) I would see people remember where they parked (level 5 tomato) but not HOW they got into the mall (down the ramp to the last entry they saw.)

    When they would return to the car, they remember level 5 and walk back up the ramp to the wrong spot (they walked down from 5 and entered mall on level 4, when they returned they started a mall entrance on 5 and walked up to 6)

  38. 451.6 says:

    I usually just remember. If I’m in a place like a parking garage or an amusement park, I take a picture of the nearest parking lot sign. Later, I look at my phone and know I’m by G3 or on the 4th floor.

    My car also makes a beeping sound if you press the lock icon 3 times. It was really useful at the Ren Faire parking lot last week since it had no signage. Marco!

  39. tape says:

    my trick: I’ve got an orange car. sticks out very well in a sea of black, silver, and muted red/green/blue cars.

  40. Trireme32 says:

    This is related to consumerism how?

  41. kagroves says:

    I have to go to UVA Hospital In Charlottesville, VA often. I almost always have to park in the parking garage on Lee St. They have really cool signs that tell you not only what level you are on, but what column you are parked at. All I do is text myself, and I have a note as to where to go. Then when I leave after a 1 hour appointment becomes an all-day affair, I can just check my text messages and VOILA!