Budget Travel 101- Spending Less Money at Airports
Airports are expensive. Like, literally everywhere. Show us an airport with affordable food and drink and it will be the first one we’ve ever found. Ergo, saving money in airports is an important aspect of budget travel.
Airports can also be overcrowded, disorganized, and poorly laid out. However if we want to travel, and flying is the chosen method of transportation, spending time in an airport is inevitable. Sometimes, spending LOTS of time. And spending lots of time in an airport usually adds up to spending lots and lots of money in an airport.
When booking flights online we all want to find the cheapest airline ticket available and save our precious travel dollars for our final destination. What we usually don’t think about is how much money we’ll end up spending at the airport. From transportation, to luggage fees, to meals and drinks, it can all add up fast.
There are plenty of ways you can avoid spending money at the airport. Some of these methods are obvious, some you learn via trial and error. Here are some of our best budget travel tips on how to spend less money in airports, and thus, how to have more money to travel!
Table of Contents
Tips on how to avoid spending money at airports
Use Public Transportation to Get to the Airport
When available, public transportation is by far the cheapest way to get to the airport. For example, getting to JFK Airport in some parts of New York City can cost over $70.00 in a taxi, whereas using public transportation will cost under $10.00.
So, do a little research ahead of time or ask the staff at your hostel/hotel what your options are. Spend your travel dollars elsewhere and opt to use public transportation to get to the airport.
Research Airport Car Parks to Find the Cheapest Rate
If you do have to drive to the airport, research long term car parks in advance to find the best options and rates available. A good place to start is with the airport’s website, which usually has details on nearby parking lots.
If you’re flying from the States, the site Airport Parking Guides is a great resource for anyone looking for car parks near the airport.
Bring Your Own Food With You to the Airport
Anyone who has ever flown knows that airport food is EXPENSIVE. After traveling for a few months, we started packing our own food for bus, train, and plane travel. Wraps, sandwiches, cold pasta, nuts, and health bars are excellent options because they transport well. It’s saved us a lot of cash and is one of the best ways we’ve found to avoid spending money at the airport.
Let’s be real here, who wants to eat overpriced airport food anyway? Bringing your own food to an airport is also the perfect solution for anyone with dietary restrictions who doesn’t want to take any chances while traveling.
TIP: A tiffin tin and reusable spork are great travel accessory for anyone who wants to carry food with them for long journeys, and they’re both excellent options for responsible travelers who want to minimize their waste output.
Cheap Food at the Airport
If packing your own lunch seems like too much work or you can’t afford the space in your carry-on luggage, sit at one of the airport’s bars and order a side dishes or two instead of an entree.
On one of our more recent trips we ordered french fries at an airport restaurant that cost about $4.00. The portion was huge (it was Texas afterall) and the bill was reasonable.
Bring a Water Bottle to the Airport
It happens every time. We run the marathon that’s know as “passing through airport security” and once we reach the finish line we’re parched. A water bottle with a filter is an awesome eco-friendly travel accessory that will come in handy the entire time you travel, but they’re also great to have at the airport.
Rather than spending $4.00 on a small bottle of water to quench your thirst, bring your empty LifeStraw bottle with you and fill it up once you’ve passed security. You could always bring a regular empty water bottle but this one will also filter out any nasty pathogens that might be floating around the water supply.
Cheap Booze at the Airport
Having a drink or two is a nice way to unwind before a flight, but drinks at the airport can be hella expensive! Here are a few tips for drinking at the airport that will keep your tab down.
- Bring it with you: Guess what? You can get mini-bar sized bottles of booze (50 ml bottles/under 3 oz) through airport security. Yeah, you might get a few funny stares but BYOB is much cheaper than buying it at airport bars. Just make sure the bottles have their original seal, they all fit into a one quart ziplock bag, and you enjoy every last drop before your flight because it’s illegal to drink them on the plane.
- Shops: If you don’t feel like explaining to the TSA agent at security why you’re carrying five bottles of rum, look for airport shops, including take-away dining stands and duty free shops, that sell beer and wine rather than buying it from bars and restaurants. You’ll save at least a few bucks and you don’t have to tip.
Free Wifi at Airports
Many airports around the world offer free WiFi. So before you pay to get online, look for free options in the network list on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
We’ve encountered a few airports around the world that offer free WiFi for a mere 30 minutes (shame on you). You can get more time by logging on with different devices and we’ve even heard that you can trick the system by setting your device’s clock back before the time expires.
Fly Cheap With Luggage
We’ll never understand why airlines are allowed to impose fees on travelers who insist on bringing luggage with them. There are a few ways you can stick it to the man and avoid or reduce the amount you pay to bring your own clothes, toothpaste, and shoes with you.
- Carry On Bags: We all know that limiting yourself to a carry-on bag is a good way to avoid checked luggage fees. However, what you might not know is that most airlines allow passengers to bring two carry-on bags with them, and the size limits are surprisingly generous. So check your airlines rules regarding carry-on bags before you pack.
- Checked Bags: Often times it’s cheaper to pay online for checked bags than it is at the airport. If you know your’e checking a bag in and it’s not included in the price of your ticket, pay for it before you get to the airport.
- Weigh and Measure your Bags at Home: Check the size and weight restrictions for bags on your airline’s website before you fly. Weigh and measure them before heading to the airport to ensure they comply and you aren’t stuck paying extra fees at check-in.
Check For Any Additional Airline Fees
Some airlines, especially the budget variety, will milk you for every penny you’re worth. I once read that RyanAir wanted to charge passengers 50 cents to visit the toilet in-flight. Thankfully that never came to fruition, but in some cases they will charge up to $20.00 to print off a boarding pass for you at the airport.
Make sure you read the fine print before you head out so you don’t end up spending a day’s budget on silly fees at the airport.
Luggage carts can be a lifesaver, but paying a few bucks to use them for less than 20 minutes sucks. Before heading into the airport be on the lookout in the pickup areas outside your terminal for carts that have been discarded by other travelers. Grab one up, plop down your luggage, and zoom your way to the check-in lane.
Skip the currency exchange booths when you travel. You’re going to get ripped off. We live in a world where we can easily get local currency with our debit card from nearly any ATM machine, including those in airports. Just make sure you’re aware of any fees the ATM or your bank might charge you before pulling out cash.
We hope our list of tips on how to make airport travel more affordable helps! Did we forget anything? Do you have any nifty advice on how to avoid spending money at the airport? Share them with us in the comments below!
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4 thoughts on “How to Avoid Spending Money in Airports – Budget Travel 101”
I did not know you could BYOB to the airport – great tip!
Another way I’ve saved on luggage fees is by having that airline’s credit card (US citizens can do this with US airlines and British Airways.) Often when you have their credit card, they’ll let your bag (or your extra checked bag on an international) flight fly free. Plus those same cards usually have big mile bonuses when you sign up and use the card, so you can often get a free flight out of it too. AND they often come with no extra charge when using the card in another currency, which is a great way to avoid exchange rate fees!
Of course, you have to be vigilant about paying it off on time or none of this ends up a good deal 🙁
Excellent information Tracy! Thank you for sharing that. 🙂
Great article! I love the idea of a water bottle you can bring with you! Never thought about that and was always buying my water at the airports. And they are not cheap, compering to what you can get from the shop.
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