If you’ve traveled at all, it doesn’t take long to notice how expensive things are at the airport. It seems like the price of everything is over the top. You’re thirsty, and the next thing you know you’re forking out $6 for a bottle of water. Really? Water?
Often, we carefully look for deals on airline tickets and lodging while forgetting there may be expenses along the way. If you’re like us, you want to save your precious vacation dollars for the fun stuff. Here are nine ways to save money at the airport on your next adventure.
1. Be Your Own Snack Vendor
Avoid high priced airport food by packing your own snacks. Packing a bit of protein-rich food will help you feel full longer (and eating a satisfying meal before you get to the airport) and keep more money in your wallet. Veggies, fruit, granola bars and trail mix are great options to throw in your bag for a quick snack. Check out our guidelines for taking food on a plane before your next flight.
It’s important to stay hydrated while traveling. Avoid the high mark-up of bottled water at the airport by carrying an empty water bottle. You’ll breeze through airport security and be able to fill up on the other side. As an added bonus, you’ll have it with you to save more money throughout your trip.
2. Avoid the Temptation of Airport Gift Shops
Let’s be honest, if you have hours to kill at the airport, shopping seems like a fun way to escape boredom. Having a plan is the best way to avoid all the tempting trinkets, sparkly souvenirs and other high priced goodies you’ll have to walk by. Bring some distractions with you to keep busy while waiting to board.
Dodge the temptation of checking out duty-free shops as well. Duty-free shops aren’t always necessarily a great deal. Certain things like whiskey or cigarettes can offer savings, but often minimally and not in every case.
3. Pack Light
Skip checking in your luggage unless it’s essential. The majority of airlines are now charging hefty fees for checked bags, so know what your airline charges and plan accordingly. If you must check a bag, make sure your luggage is less than the maximum weight (usually around 50 pounds). Overweight bags can cause a major dent in your wallet.
To avoid fees altogether, opt to pack light and only take a carry-on. With a little practice (and some restraint), learning how to pack efficiently with less is pretty simple. With one piece of carry-on luggage and one small bag you can keep at your seat, you’ll have more money to play with at your destination.
4. Pack Mini Necessities
End up with a headache at the airport? Allergies kick up while in the TSA line? Save money by purchasing a few mini versions of products you may need at your local drug store. If you plan ahead, you can also order travel sized products online through companies like Minimus and PackSimply (who will send them to your home or destination). Pop them in your carry-on and you’ll avoid paying top dollar later. A few items to consider:
- Pain reliever
- Band-Aids, first aid supplies
- Eye drops
- Lip care, hand moisturizer
5. Be Flexible
Is the plane overbooked? If you’re flexible, volunteer to give away your seat. You can earn free airline tickets and even cash in your pocket.
6. Follow the Rules
It just hurts when security has to throw away your luxury shampoo or expensive perfume. Save money by following the 3-1-1 rules and you won’t have to worry about it.
7. Be Smart with Wi-Fi
Some airports charge for Wi-Fi access while others don’t. Look up your airport in advance to see if they offer it for free, often for 30 or 60 minute periods. Consider using your phone as a mobile hotspot, especially if you have unlimited data. If you are a frequent traveler, it may be worth looking into internet subscriptions with the airports you use the most.
If you can face downtime without social media, eliminate the need for Wi-Fi altogether. Make sure your digital devices are fully charged and pre-loaded with your audiobooks, podcasts or other media you may use. Or if you’re really brave, go old-school and bring an actual book, magazine or journal to keep occupied.
8. Get a Jump on Parking and Transportation
Parking at the airport – especially busy international airports – can cost you a bundle. If you must park a car, see if your airport allows you to book parking in advance or offers alternate parking off-site with shuttle service.
Think about how you’re getting to the airport and how you’re getting home after your trip. Save money by getting a ride from a friend or other reasonable transportation like the train, bus, Uber or Lyft. Also, don’t forget to plan ahead for how you’ll get around once you arrive at your destination. In certain locations, a simple one-way taxi ride into the city can cost you $60 or more.
9. Exchange Currency Outside of the Airport
You will almost always pay more for foreign currency exchanges at the airport. Avoid the upcharges and fees by using an ATM outside the airport, which charges lower fees and exact current exchange rates. Even better, find a reputable bank at your destination to get the best deal. If you need just a bit of cash to hold you over, opt to get cash back on a debit card transaction during checkout, which is available with many businesses within the airport. Traveling to Europe? See our tips on using credit cards, debit cards and ATMs in Europe.
Airports can really break the bank if you let them. With some thoughtful planning and our tips at the ready, you will save money and be able to indulge more at your final destination. Let the adventures begin!
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