This is an easy question to answer if you have a dear friend, family member or loved one who is happy and willing to drive you to the airport for nothing. But what if your friend, family member or loved one says 'nocando' or you simply don't have any of the aforementioned available?
How much are you willing to pay for convenience and how much time have you got?
I've tested all of the following options apart from the limousine service, basically because I'm a cheapskate and I've still got the first dollar I earnt. They all have their upsides and downsides so your choice will come down to your own personal circumstances.
Option 1. Limousine Services
Nothing beats the luxury and convenience of being picked up from your front door and delivered to the departure lounge in comfort. Nothing beats the cost either. A chauffeur driven 'limousine' ( really just a BMW or a Holden Statesman) is certainly the most expensive way to get to the airport. Sydney Airport Limousine offer a chauffeur driven stretch limousine for $165.00 from the city to the domestic terminal while a chauffeur driven 'luxury' vehicle with Limousine Australia will cost you around $70.00 for the same journey.
A taxi maybe your next least expensive option depending on the length of your journey and how many passengers are sharing. A taxi is still reasonable value for two or more people considering the convenience it offers. The dangers of catching a taxi though include being stuck in traffic gridlock, your taxi driver's GPS not working and added road toll costs and credit card fees. A trip from the city will cost around $45.00.
Option 3. Shuttle Bus Services.
There are a multitude of suburban and regional shuttle bus services that will pick you up at home or your hotel and shuttle you to the airport. These are especially good value if you are travelling in a group from the outer suburbs or from a regional location. A shuttle service from the city centre can be as low as $11.00 per person with Airbus Airport Shuttle while Hoang Do offer excellent rates for western Sydney travellers.
Sydney's reputation for being one of the world's most expensive airports is well justified. One hour of short term parking will cost you $16.00. Sydney Airport's long term airport park and ride will cost a minimum of $26.00 for a day and up to $97.00 for five days. Free shuttle buses then ferry you to the terminals every 15 minutes or so.
Option 5. Drive/Valet Parking
Independent valet parking services like Mascot Parking Services can offer very cheap daily rates to park your car (from $15.00) and even cheaper weekly rates ($55.00). Compare this with the $70.00 that Qantas currently charges for one day's parking.
For the single traveller, the train may be your best bet option despite cries that the train journey is a rip-off due to Airport Link's gate pass fee to enter the terminals of $12.00. The train can be convenient and quick if you are staying or live near a railway station. If you don't, it's a drag if you have a lot of luggage and it adds to the time and cost of getting to the airport. A trip from the city to the domestic terminal is $15.40 one way.
Option 7. Hotel Shuttle Services.
If you have an early morning flight then staying at one the airport hotels like the Ibis, Mercure or Formule 1 could be a reasonable option but you'll still have to fork out another $6.00 per person to get to one of the departure terminals.
With a bit more time on your hands, State Transit bus 400 is probably the cheapest and best value way of being dropped off at the front door of both the domestic and international terminal. The bus runs every 20 to 30 minutes between Burwood and Bondi Junction with limited stops including railway stations at Bexley North and Rockdale. Travelling light is an advantage as there is no place for your luggage on some buses. The fare will depend on your departure point, but pensioner/concession card holders pay only $2.50.
You should definately get off the train at Wolli Creek or Mascot to avoid the Airport Link surcharge. This is an interesting analysis of the cost associated with catching the train all the way to the airport. For the 1km distance is more than double the fare.