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7 Ways to Avoid Breaking the Bank at the Airport

Saving money at the airport

If you travel a lot than you know one of the most expensive parts of any trip is the time you spend in the airport. We all get hungry, thirsty, or bored waiting for a plane or sitting through a layover. All those fast food restaurants and duty-free shops can start to get pretty tempting. A drink here, a bite to eat there, and a magazine at the airport convenience store start to add up. Before you know it you’ve blown through a large stack of cash.

Once you’re through the security checkpoint those stores and restaurants know you have no other option than to get what you want from them. There is nowhere else you can go until you arrive at your destination and that’s how they get you. All those marked up products can look pretty alluring when you’re waiting for your plane to start boarding or sitting around waiting for your connection after sitting on a plane for a couple of hours.

But don’t worry! With a few simple precautions you can avoid breaking the bank at the airport or on a plane. All it takes is a little restraint, planning, and will power.

1. Pack A Snack or Lunch

One of the biggest markups at the airport is the food. You wont find any dollar menus once you get past security. Some airlines will even charge you for snacks aboard the plane without giving you so much as a bag of complimentary peanuts, (I’m looking at you American Airlines.) Avoid the high prices by packing a lunch or snacks you can keep in your carry on. I enjoy a few peanut butter sandwiches and a big bag of trail mix. Both are tasty and packed with protein to keep your stomach and wallet full.

2. Bring a Water Bottle and Powdered Drink Mix

We all know by now that you can’t get a bottle of water past the security line, but an empty one is perfectly fine. Once you get through security fill it up with water. Lets face it though, water alone is pretty boring and you may want something with a little flavor. If you bring some powdered drink mix you can add some flavor once you fill up to keep you from spending some serious cash on high-priced drinks.

3. Bring your own Airplane Bottles of Liquor

Airplane bars know that many people are scared of flying. They also know one of the most common ways people get over that is with a bit of liquid courage. If you’re someone who needs a drink or two before you can get on a plane than you’re well aware of the high price of alcoholic beverages both in the airport and on the plane. The markup on alcohol is even worse than on food. Think somewhere along the lines of ten dollars for a glass of beer at a bar or five dollars for a shot on the plane. Luckily, travelers are allowed to have containers smaller than 3.4 ounces of liquid, and airplane bottles are only 1.7 ounces. Put a few in a clear plastic zip-top bag and that it’s under 140 proof. Also make sure you’re drinking responsibly.

4. Bring Your Own Entertainment

The biggest mistake I’ve ever made while flying was forgetting to bring anything to do on a 16 hour flight to Pakistan with two layovers. I ended up spending about $30 on books and magazines. Learn from my mistakes, bring your own entertainment. Bring a novel or puzzle book to pass the time. More importantly prepare to be disconnected from the Internet for a while. Sure you can buy access to Wi-Fi on the plane or in the airport, but its going to cost you. Instead save some of your favorite web pages and download some movies, video game, or songs so you're not tempted to pay for the airlines service.

5. Weigh Your Bags Beforehand

Airlines all have their own rules on how heavy your checked or carry-on bag can be. Go over those predetermined sizes and you can expect to pay a hefty extra charge. Before you head off to the airport get a luggage scale and check your bags. Make sure they are under the weight so you aren’t surprised once you check in.

6. Don’t Exchange Money at the Airport

If you are going on a foreign trip don’t, by any means, exchange your currency at the airport. It is the most expensive way of getting the local currency. The fees are huge and can really destroy your budget on a trip. Instead plan ahead; stop by your bank and exchange your money before hand, bring an international credit card, or use a no-fees debit card to take out money. Just make sure that the country you are going to accepts your brand of credit card beforehand.

7. Don’t Buy Anything!

Simply put the best way to save money is to simply not buy anything at all. Sure that article of clothing or new electronic gizmo may seem pretty tempting when your window shopping at the duty-free shop, but trust me once you reach your destination you can find it much cheaper. There are markups on everything so just don’t let them get the best of you. If you use the tips we’ve outlined for you here you wont have to worry about losing all of your money at the airport and will have more when you get where you’re going, and it will go a lot farther too.

Adam Leviness