10 amazing ways to save money at the Airport

Going on holiday can be an expensive business, so the last thing you want to do is spend a fortune at the airport.

Tyson Peveto
Tyson Peveto

Tyson Peveto is an American travel writer living abroad since 2017. After three years in Bangkok, he currently lives in Germany with his wife and dog.

10 amazing ways to save money at the Airport
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There are quite a few common sense things that you can do to save money at the airport and while flying. It’s wrong to think that you have to spend a large amount of money to see the world. The expenditure required to go almost anywhere is minimal at best. You’ve got to budget your money and live within your means. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll learn how to avoid wasting too much money at airports. You’ll be able to visit far more places around the globe if you can keep your costs in check.

1. Don’t buy reading material at the airport

passengers browse for reading materials - save money at the Airport

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This goes for books, magazines, and newspapers. Have you ever noticed the number of hardcover books sold in airports? You’ll pay through the nose for those books. The better alternative is to download books onto your mobile device and read them. If you buy eBooks on Amazon, then it’s possible to download many low-cost and even free books. You can also go online and find free books and other reading material. If you prefer the feeling of a book in your hand, go to your local thrift store and buy something to read. You should be able to find a book for under a dollar that will keep your attention while flying.

2. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it

A man sits by the gate at the airport - save money at the Airport

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I debated if I should include this money-saving tip or not. I’ll be honest and say that I never bring a refillable water bottle. Why? I never drink tap water. I had a bad experience in Mexico drinking the tap water, and I paid the price. I spent quite a bit of time on the toilet because of their water. The odd thing is, I avoided tap water at all costs. But, I didn’t avoid drinking the fountain soda pop. Can you blame me for not wanting to miss out on Mexico’s famous Coca-Cola? I honestly didn’t think about tap water being used when making fountain soda pop.

If you’re the type who doesn’t worry over tap water, then bring aottle and fill it up. You’ll save at least $2-$3 dollars while at the airport. That money can add up if you’re traveling with family and have a few layovers. Always remember that once you’re in the sky that the plane will have free drinks. You can ask for two glasses of water, and they’ll give it to you. Usually, drink service starts shortly after the plane reaches the altitude when wearing a seatbelt isn’t required.

3. Use the free wifi at the airport

Heathrow Airport London terminal 3 with blue screen displaying WIFI sign at the departures

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I suppose it depends on where you’re traveling to and how much data your plan has. If you’re traveling throughout your homeland e.g. the UK, you may not want to use the wifi. It’s probably faster and more logical to allow your device to connect to a tower. That’s not the case if you’re flying internationally. Sure, you can buy a SIM card at the airport and use it. But, that’s far too costly. If you’re only staying a few hours in the country for a layover, buying a SIM card is too extreme for a temporary internet connection.

You should be aware that Wi-Fi in some airports can be less than stellar. Sometimes airports may have technical problems that day, or they generally have weak Wi-Fi. You shouldn’t think that just because you’re flying domestically that the Wi-Fi is going to be good. There are plenty of airports locally and abroad that have terrible Wi-Fi, you should also note that sometimes you will be required to provide your mobile number or email address to use the free Wi-Fi. If they need your phone number, it’s more than likely that the airport will send you an SMS/text message with a code. You’ll need to enter this code into a protected area on a webpage to get access to the free Wi-Fi.

4. Avoid alcohol at airports

Bartenders serve customers in the cafe at the airport - save money at the Airport

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I understand that flying can be very nerve-wracking for some people. I get very nervous while flying. A drink can calm your nerves down, but it’ll do so at a very high price. If you’re the type who needs more than one drink to feel calm, then it’s going to be a costly adventure for you. Many people like to have a drink with their meals, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But avoid buying alcohol at airports. Waiting a few hours to get home to have a drink would save you a third or less of the cost they charge at airports.

5. Don’t spend too much at the duty-free shop

Duty free shop in Suvarnabhumi international airport - save money at the Airport

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What’s the one thing everyone loves to do while traveling internationally? You and I both love to walk through the duty-free shops. You can find items there that are native to the country itself. Not only that, but there are all kinds of high-end products in duty-free shops. However, most of the items in these shops are overly expensive. You also need to be aware of the limits of what you’re allowed to buy if you have other stops on your way.

If the next flight takes you directly to your final destination, then the amount of liquids you’re allowed to buy will be more. However, if you have another connecting flight, then the amount of fluids you are permitted to buy is more restricted. Ask the clerk at the duty-free shop before purchasing if you’re allowed to take it with you on your plane.

If you must buy from the duty-free shop, then place a reasonable limit on how much to spend. Finding a gift under $10 is possible if you’re willing to look around and avoid the impulse of purchasing overpriced alcohol and other luxuries. You can easily wind up spending hundreds of dollars on just a few items at the duty-free shop. If you have any doubt about that pay attention to what people are buying and you’ll see how much they’re spending.

6. Trendy restaurants tend to be expensive

counter service in a McDonald's restaurant.

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I always look for McDonald’s, Burger King, or Subway when I’m traveling. No, these aren’t my favorite restaurants. They just happen to be the most affordable places to eat while traveling. Sure, you can get much better food at almost any airport. But everything is pricier in airports as you would have established by now. It’s not worth it, in the end, to pay so much more for food that is not a good value.

The food may be better than McDonald’s is serving up, but keep in mind this is a one-time thing. You’re only trying to get enough nourishment to last until the trip is over. I also like Subway because I can take their sandwiches on planes without worrying about them being messy. If you get a foot long at the airport and eat half, then you can eat the other half on the plane if you’re taking a long flight.

7. Skip the food if you’re taking an international flight

young female traveler eating pizza airport

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Let’s say you’re going from Detroit to Paris and you’ve only got an hour of layover time. You may want to skip eating anything at the airport. Your international flight will have several meals on it. First, there will be a drink service before the food. When flying international, the drink service tends also to include free alcohol. You should be able to order a beer, wine, or cocktail at no extra charge. They usually also have whiskey and other drinks. It is not uncommon for the flight attendants to pass out menus before the drink service begins, this will give you time to glance over the list and see what drinks are available. Shortly after the drink service is complete a meal should be given out.

If you’re traveling outside the USA, for example, throughout Europe – inflight food is often given to passengers. It might only be noodles with sauce, but it sure beats paying the outrageous prices airports charge food. There are quite a few countries where meals are given to passengers even if it’s a short-haul flight. You can always check online to see if your flight provides something free to eat. Airlines in many countries give out free food as part of their flight package, including alcoholic drinks on some short-haul flights, so checking your airline website to see what their offers are prior to making your booking could very well save you a few bucks.

8. Be prepared with over the counter medication

A branch of Boots. an international pharmacy-led health and beauty group

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I know this is going to sound strange to some of you. If you travel with children, then it might not seem too unusual. But you should carry with you a few pain reliever tablets, allergy pills, something for diarrhea, and a few antacids. I’m not saying that you should travel with an entire medicine chest in your carry-on luggage. Though, you should take with you a few things that may be necessary while traveling.

If you or your child has seasonal allergies, then it’s best to bring something with you in case it is a problem. The same thing could be said about antacids. You never know what foods you’re going to encounter while traveling and they might cause some indigestion. If you have to buy any of these items at the airport it will cost you big time.

9. Set up a budget before traveling

Map and agenda to calcul the budget before traveling

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I like to set aside some money when traveling on long trips. If you’re only going from one city to the next and there’s no layover, then you should be okay. Eat before you arrive at the airport and take care of anything that needs to be done before. If your flight is only a few hours, then it’s no big deal. I’ve been on flights that were 13 or more hours long, and those can become tedious. How you prepare for a trip depends on how long it is. A quick flight that’s an hour or two requires minimal preparation compare with an around the world adventure.

I always like to budget for what I feel is necessary. Traveling is difficult, and I don’t want to put any undue stress on myself. If I’m going on a trip that will take 24 hours including layovers, then I’ll set aside $30 to $50 for food and other things. That length of a trip sounds almost impossible, but it isn’t if you consider flying from let’s say London or Paris to a distant destination.

Those trips can take quite a bit of time, and there’s no way to avoid spending money at the airport. Yes, you could skip meals, but you’re going to have some long layovers during at least one leg of the trip. It’s not uncommon to have to spend eight hours in an airport during a long journey.

10. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive

Young woman sitting with phone on airplane seat near window while flying in airplane

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The biggest misconception that people have when it comes to traveling the world is that it is expensive. It doesn’t have to be costly at all. Traveling on a budget requires you to plan – you have to think about what expenses you’ll have down the road. There are some expenses you can’t avoid like food and lodging. Though, there are others like touristy stuff that you can avoid.

I like to avoid most of the tourist traps as they tend to suck the money out of your wallet. For example, I try to eat where the locals eat when they go out for a bite. I feel comfortable in saying that wherever the taxi driver is getting their lunch is probably a good place to eat. It’s also going to be inexpensive and a better representation of the local food compared to the restaurant in the hotel. Sure, the hotel food tastes great, but it’s not the experience that I’m after while traveling and this is the case for many travelers out there too.

Almost every airport has a website where that lists everything that’s in it. So, you can find out ahead of time if they have a fast food restaurant that’s cheaper than the places that soak you for every dime you’ve got. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people eating at those restaurants if they can afford it. I’ve eaten at a few myself and can honestly say that my experiences have been mixed. I still prefer fast food if for nothing else the consistency of quality. A cheeseburger or other popular menu items will almost always be served the same way no matter what city or country you’re in.

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