As you read this, I am probably on a plane heading home from a trip to a family wedding in Arkansas. When we fly, we almost always take an airport shuttle to Detroit and fly out of there. It saves us a lot of money but means hanging out in the Detroit airport for a good 4 hours.
We’ve learned a lot in our travels about how to save money at the airport:
1. Take your own snacks.
Y’all, airport food is expensive. Packing your own food not only saves you money but it also ensures that you have food to eat even when an unexpected layover occurs.
2. Pack a water bottle.
You can’t take a bottle of water through security but you can take an empty bottle and fill it up after. Many of the restaurants will fill it for you for free or for a nominal fee (much cheaper than buying water).
Or you can fill it at one of the water fountains – many these days even have a spout intended for refilling water bottles. My preferred travel water bottle is a pouch that flattens when empty, thereby taking up almost no space.
3. Bring your own entertainment.
Avoid those airport gift shops and pack your own in-flight entertainment! I used to pack a novel and a few magazines to carry along but a) they got heavy and b) with an unanticipated layover I would run out of reading material and end up buying more at the airport.
Before leaving, I make sure to load up my Kindle, download some magazines in the Texture app, and download some TV shows and movies from Netflix. Even without wifi, I am all set for hours and hours of boredom-relieving fun.
4. Find out luggage fees before heading to the airport.
I often fly Southwest and they allow 2 checked bags (up to 50 lbs. each) per person for free. This, however, is rare. Most airlines charge for luggage so you may want to pack light and travel with only carry-ons.
We’ve even started a tradition of picking up some artwork at each destination – simple sketches or watercolors. They’re flat and fit easily into our carry-ons. Otherwise, investigate whether it’s cheaper to pay for a piece of checked baggage or to mail home your souvenirs.
It can be well worth investing in a luggage scale to make sure you aren’t going to incur any overweight baggage fees too.
5. Be careful not to bring banned items with you.
My daughter and her husband forgot about the liquids rule and had to leave behind a bottle of honey from Vienna. Same thing happened to my sister with chocolate sauce from France.
Be sure to check out the banned list before you travel as the items on them can change from time to time. If you’re crossing a border, be sure to check out the rules for each country that you’re entering as well.
6. If you can take public transportation to the airport, do.
Like I said, we usually fly out of Detroit and we take an airport shuttle to get there. It’s a much better deal than paying for gas money and then parking at the airport. Look into what’s available at your airports and compare prices.
If you’re going to be staying at a hotel at your destination, be sure to ask if they have a complimentary airport shuttle.
7. Travel prepared.
Try to anticipate your needs and make sure you are prepared for them. Take along some basic over the counter medications – pain relief, antacids, motion sickness, and so on. Also include some bandages, hand sanitizer, tissues, and wet wipes.
I like to take special ear plugs that help to reduce the pressure in my ears during takeoff and landing as well as chewing gum, ear buds, an eye mask, a pashmina that I can use as a blanket if needed, and my travel pillow. All of this allows me to get comfortable while traveling without having to buy any necessary items at inflated airport prices.
8. Volunteer to give up your seat.
If you have flexible travel plans, you can really save some money by volunteering to give up your seat if the flight is overbooked. Most airlines will offer incentives such as free travel vouchers and hotel stays.
9. Think ahead for exchanging your currency.
Those airport currency exchanges are generally the most expensive. Next best is simply to withdraw some cash from an ATM – you will receive local currency at a better exchange rate. ATMs away from the airport might have even lower fees if you can wait until then.
10. Save money on wifi.
Most airports have some form of free wifi. On occasion, this may be limited to a certain amount of time (2 hours for example) or it may be limited to very basic, slightly slower wifi. Plan accordingly and try to make use of this instead of paying for the premium wifi.
Or, if your cellphone plan provides for it, simply use your phone as a hotspot!
11. Be cautious with duty-free purchases.
Duty-free shopping can mean savings on some items. It’s important to know your prices and ensure that you are truly getting a deal (I’ve seen quite a few items that were actually much more expensive at duty-free). You also need to consider how important this purchase is. Is it something you could easily find at home? If so, unless it provides substantial savings, you’re better off to simply buy it at home.
How do you save money while traveling? Get more travel tips here.