Flying is a great way to travel: it always saves more time than taking ground transportation. Unfortunately, one of the biggest downsides to flying is the expensive money trap that is Every Airport Ever. Spending money is almost always necessary (particularly for long layovers), but you don’t have to break the bank every flight! Here are my top money-saving tips for airports:
1. Make a packing list
Before you leave (and maybe before you even start packing), make a packing list for yourself. Put literally everything you might need on it. This way, you won’t forget anything, avoiding the need to buy some random charger/pillow/shampoo at one of the overpriced airport stores last minute. Make sure all your liquids are 3 oz. or less, and can fit in a 1-quart clear bag, so that security doesn’t confiscate anything (and you don’t lose the money you spent on it).
2. Bring your own water
Avoid paying for water at the airport at all costs! Bring your own empty water bottle, and then once you go through security, find a drinking fountain and fill it up for free. There are a few airports I’ve been through where I have really struggled to find a drinking fountain, but you can almost always get there in the end. (Unless you’re in a place where it’s unsafe to drink any water besides bottled, in which case by all means buy clean water!)
3. Bring left-over currency for layovers
If you’re flying internationally, it’s entirely possible that you might have a layover in another country. If you have any cash that is left over from previous travels in that country/currency, bring it so that you don’t have to pay extra money in currency conversion fees. For example, if you are flying through Dublin on your way to London, bring your extra Euros (€) for snacks at the Dublin airport during your layover. It’s basically “free” money, since you weren’t using it before—I’m currently a Canadian baller in Toronto airport with my left-over cash!
4. Bring your own food
Airport food is always crazy expensive—even for chain restaurants, the price will be higher at an airport. If you can, bring your own snacks, pack a sandwich, or stock up on plane candy before you get to the airport.
5. Save up your giftcards
Airports are full of places to eat, grab a quick cup of coffee, and everything in between. One of my favorite tricks to save money at airports: I save my chain giftcards, and then when I turn up at the airport, I usually have a couple dollars I can spend “for free.” Almost every airport will have a Starbucks, Subway, etc., and you can get something to hold you over until you land at your final destination.
6. Don’t exchange money
Never EVER exchange money at the airport!!! It is the biggest rip-off of all the airport rip-offs! Airports overcharge for currency exchange precisely because they can. Avoid this at all costs and purchase your foreign currency in advance before you leave home, or get cash out from an ATM in the city. If you absolutely must have your foreign currency cash before you leave the airport, withdraw cash from an ATM, or change only a small amount of money (enough to get you to your accommodation/last for the day) and then exchange a larger amount of cash later. Airports charge crazy insane fees for currency exchange and should be avoided at all costs!
7. Take public transportation, not taxis
This is mainly for solo travelers, when it literally just doesn’t make sense. Always look into a bus/train that transports air travelers from the airport to the city center. Airports are (obviously) located some distance away from the main part of a city, and a taxi ride into town is generally very expensive. However, if you’re traveling in a group (usually 3 or more), it may be cheaper to take a taxi and split the cost.
What are your biggest expenses at airports? What are your tricks for saving money in transit?