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How to Avoid Spending Money at The Airport

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For most travellers, airports seem to burn a bigger hole in our pockets the longer we spend in them. Curb unnecessary costs and kill time at the airport productively with our 12 tips on avoiding spending before you fly.

Picture this: you’ve arrived three hours early for your flight, you’ve checked in and gone through security, you’re a bit peckish, and oh doesn’t that perfume smell nice… It’s so common to find yourself spending unnecessary money at the airport while whiling away time waiting for flights.

But how about stopping those spending habits and using that money you’ve saved for a nice meal once you arrive in your destination? Here’s how:

1. Use free airport WiFi

If you’ve got some work to do before catching a flight, need to make some holiday bookings before you arrive in destination, or you just want to kill some time and browse the web while you wait for your flight, don’t pay for what you don’t need to. Many airports across the world have free WiFi that travellers can connect to. The elements of what makes it ‘free’ will differ in different airports; for instance, some you may only get 15 minutes, others you may need to fill in some personal details to connect, while others still will have unlimited free WiFi. You’ll be able to find out if the airport you’re travelling through has free WiFi when you try to connect to the network. If you want to plan ahead, visit the airport’s website before you fly to see what they offer in terms of connection.

More tips for finding free WiFi: How To Find Free WiFi While Travelling

Stay connected for free: many airports offer free WiFi to travellers. Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

2. Bring an empty water bottle to refill

For thirsty travellers, most of us will have been caught out with a half-full bottle of water that we have to dump at security, only to spend a ridiculous amount on the other side for a new bottle. Plan ahead and either take a BPA-free or stainless steel bottle that you can keep refilling, or simply empty your plastic bottle before going through security; you can take empty bottles through fine, and then you can fill up the other side if there’s a water fountain. Even better is that it’s also good for the environment to use a refillable bottle. Just be aware that if you’re taking a connecting flight, sometimes you’ll be required to empty your water bottle again before boarding your connecting flight, even if you haven’t left the airport.

Want to be more environmentally aware when you’re travelling? Read our blog 14 Easy Eco-Friendly Travel Tips For Your Next Trip.

3. Bring your own food instead of buying it

One of the most common ways to end up racking up a bill at the airport is on food. You can avoid that by bringing your own sandwiches and snacks with you. This is true for the flight as much as the airport, especially onboard budget airlines, where food prices are heavily inflated. Instead, pack some dried fruit, crackers, cereal bars, pre-cooked pasta, diced vegetables and treats that you can nibble on during your flight. Be considerate of your fellow passengers though; avoid bringing nuts, as they can cause allergies, and stinky foods that will make everyone around you wrinkle their nose – you’ll make no friends that way. Most airlines allow you to bring food onto a flight, providing it complies with liquid restrictions, and that you eat fresh foods and seeds or grains before arriving at your destination. It’s always best to check with your airline’s policy and that of the country you’re travelling to before packing snacks though. Just remember to bring some reusable cutlery to eat with such as a plastic spork, but avoid anything metal or sharp as you won’t be allowed it through security.

An added benefit of bringing your own food is that it’s probably healthier than what you’d buy at the airport or onboard the plane. We have lots of advice on staying fit and healthy when travelling on our blog.

Read more: How To Stay Healthy While TravellingHow To Keep A Healthy Diet When Travelling For Business

Handy Hint: If you’re sold on the idea of packing snacks, but can’t fathom making up more substantial food to eat at the airport, consider ordering sides or bar snacks instead of a full meal at the airport. You’ll still save some money compared to buying a big meal.

4: Avoid Duty Free!

Unless you have something specific in mind you want to buy, like a bottle of wine for friends you’re visiting, just avoid going into Duty Free all together. It’s so easy to spend money on things you don’t need as you walk through the shops; multiple magazines even though you have your Kindle; a new bottle of that perfume that smells so nice on the shop assistant promoting it even though you have yours in your checked baggage; a new pair of headphones or sunglasses even though you have two already. Chances are, you can probably find the items cheaper online anyway, so just avoid the shops and you won’t break into your holiday fund before you’ve even arrived.

Many travellers fall into the trap of buying before they fly: simply staying away from Duty Free stores can help curb unnecessary spending

5. Do some exercise to keep you busy

Before your flight and during any stopovers, make the most of the airport terminal space and stretch your legs by walking around and staying on your feet – not only will you be keeping fit before your flight, but you’ll distract yourself from spending money. Some airports even have free spaces designed to help you stretch and move before flying. San Francisco Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth Airport for example have two yoga rooms where travellers can stretch and meditate before their flight, with the latter also offering complimentary mats, exercise balls and stretch bands to use, as well as 20-minute instructional videos. There are many other airports around the world that offer yoga spaces, so check-out your airport online before you fly to see what’s available. Other airports have exercise routes to keep you moving, such as Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which has the the ‘Sky Harbor Fitness Trail’ between Gates A30 and D8 where you can stretch your legs and see local sights.

Interested in keeping fit on your travels? Read our blogs 7 Simple Exercises For Long-Haul Flights and 5 Ways To Stay Fit When Travelling.

6. Find out what cool free things your airport offers

There’s a whole host of airports competing to be crowned ‘best airport in the world’, and thanks to that many airports offer some really interesting extras to keep travellers entertained. Singapore Changi Airport for example, has often been voted the World’s Best Airport thanks to its many different attractions including free 24-hour movie theatres, the world’s first Butterfly Garden in an airport with more than 1,000 tropical butterflies, the Cactus Garden with more than 100 species of cacti, and much, much more. Denver International Airport has an interesting collection of art and sculptures within the airport plus regular exhibitions, while there is a permanent Art Collection at Orlando International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport is home to the SFO Museum, which was created in 1980 and features rotating exhibitions throughout the airport and was the first cultural institution of its kind located in an international airport. Research your airport before you travel to find out what’s on offer.

Singapore Changi Airport is home to the world’s first Butterfly Garden in an airport with more than 1,000 tropical butterflies, and is free to visit

7. Bring your own entertainment

This is a simple one: make sure to pack your phone, Kindle, book, iPad, iPod, laptop or whatever your choice of entertainment; that way you can keep yourself busy with listening to music, browsing the internet, watching movies or reading while you wait. It’s also good if you’re travelling with a budget airline that doesn’t offer complimentary entertainment onboard.

8. Pre-book your airport transfer

Unfortunately, the spending usually starts before you even get to the airport; travelling to the airport can be a costly business. But you can keep costs to a minimum by being organised with your travel. Save on unknown taxi fees or on-demand transport surge prices by pre-booking your airport transfer on; that way you know exactly what you’re spending and can potentially save money before you even get to the airport. Shared shuttles are a great option for the budget-conscious traveller, as this type of transfer is generally cheaper than a private transfer. A shared shuttle may pick up a number of passengers from the airport and drop each off at their hotel, so there are usually a number of stops along the way. If you’re travelling in a group or a family, a private transfer can work out cheaper than other options, and you’ll all get to travel together.

Find out all about airport transfers: How To Pick The Best Airport Transfer For Your Travel Needs

9. Make sure you’ve weighed your bag before travel

Always double check the baggage requirements and restrictions of your airline and the weight and size of your bag before you fly. If it’s too big or heavy, you may end up being charged extortionate excess baggage fees at the airport, or even be requested to check it in instead, which will also incur extra baggage fees.

10. Print off your boarding pass before you fly

Another quick and easy tip: if you’re travelling with a budget airline, make sure you have a printed copy of your boarding pass with you. Not all airlines and airports accept mobile boarding passes, and some budget airlines, such as Ryanair in Europe, will charge you a Boarding Card Reissue Fee to print one at check-in, which adds up to a very unnecessary expense.

You may like: 12 Tips For Flying With Budget Airlines

 11. Make the most of free tours at stopover destinations

If you’re flying the distance and have a lengthy stopover as part of your journey, don’t waste money at the airport and rack up currency exchange fees; instead find out if that airport offers a free city tour, that way you can make the most of being in your transit destination and avoid spending money at the airport. From Doha to Istanbul, Taipei to Tokyo, we’ve done some research into which airports offer the best free city tours so you don’t have to.

The Blue Mosque is a highlight to see on a free city tour in Istanbul. Photo by Fatih Yürür on Unsplash

12. Buy an airport lounge pass

It may seem counterintuitive for us to say that by spending money you’ll save money, but that can sometimes be the case with purchasing an airport lounge pass. Some airline lounges will let travellers buy day passes for a small fee, while there’s an array of independent lounges popping up in airports across the globe that aren’t affiliated to airlines, meaning anyone can buy a pass. These usually cost less than USD$50 and include food, snacks, free WiFi, newspapers and magazines, among other amenities (some include free alcohol too). By purchasing a pass you could save on what you’d spend on food and booze in the airport, as well as start your trip in a calm and relaxing environment.

You can research which airports have lounges where you can purchase day passes using websites such as LoungeBuddy, which allows travellers to search airports for available lounges that can be accessed regardless of class of travel or airline, read reviews, find out the amenities and benefits of the lounge, and also book your entry pass directly on the site. There’s also a mobile app, which is handy if you’re on the go.

Read more: Airport Lounges: The Insider’s Guide.

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