Ever traveled through an airport, realized you forgot something (or were super hungry), and got mad about the price you had to pay for the item you purchased? Well, I've been there, done that.
Airports are a money pit by design. You are forced to pay a premium price on items because you don't have much of a choice at the airport if you are waiting for a flight. Retailers capitalize on that fact by charging higher than usual prices for everyday items.
Paying a premium price for food and other items at the airport is a really easy way to waste money that could otherwise be put to better use. For instance, towards your savings or paying down your debt (yup, those small amounts add up).
So here are 5 tips to help you avoid falling victim to the money traps set in airports.
1. Create a travel checklist specifically for the airport
When people make travel checklists, they are usually for things that go in their suitcase that they don't want to forget. However, it's also a good idea to make a checklist for your hand luggage to include things you know you'll need while you are at the airport before your departure, during a layover or upon your arrival.
A few examples of things that could go on your list include -
- A variety of dry snacks
- Travel electronics e.g. headphones, iPad, etc
- Other entertainment e.g. a book or magazine
- Toiletries e.g. toothbrush and toothpaste (if you are traveling long distance), wipes, travel moisturizer and hand sanitizer
- A pen and notebook
2. Create a fixed budget for meals
It's super easy to get swayed by all the different food options at the airport. However, if you know you'll most likely be getting something to eat at the airport, then set a fixed budget and let the amount you have budgeted determine what you can buy to eat.
Also, since airports have a lot of chain restaurants, it's not a bad idea to see what coupons you can find before your trip to use at a chain restaurant in the airport. This can save you the overpriced difference in the cost of your food.
To see what restaurants the airport and terminal you are traveling through has, take a look at the airport directory online in advance of your trip.
3. Pack an empty water bottle
Bottled water is one major item that is excessively overpriced at airports going for 2 to 3 times more than the average cost of what a bottle of water should be. To save, pack an empty water bottle (so you can get through security) and refill it at the various water foundations in the airport or while you are on the plane.
Most airlines won't hand out entire bottles of water but it's pretty easy to pour the glass of water you are given on your flight into a water bottle and then ask for more!
4. Look for free WiFi first
While being on the internet can be a great way to kill time when you are waiting for a flight, paying for wifi at the airport is another big money pit. Most airports offer free wifi but with a catch - it's either for a limited amount for time (e.g. 30 minutes at a time) or you'll get access to the internet at a slower speed.
This approach is used to up-sell people into paying for "unlimited" and "faster" wifi but unless you are working on something that requires a super-fast internet speed (those large downloads can wait) then the free option should work just fine.
Refreshing the wifi to get additional time added only takes a couple of minutes and you can definitely survive the few seconds difference between page loads on the free wifi vs the paid version.
If you can't get free WiFi through the airport itself, try checking with the free lounges, coffee shops or restaurants as many many have their own free WiFi set up.
5. Change your international currency before you get to the airport
Currency exchange is another thing that can cost a lot of money at the airport. Before you travel, do your research online or by making some phone calls to determine whether buying your foreign currency at your local bank is a cheaper option than buying it at the airport bureau de change.
In some cases, you might need to order it a couple of days in advance and but you might still be able to save yourself some money if possible.