Travel Tips: How To Save Money When You're Stuck In The Airport
We love to show people how they can travel more on the money they already make. Traveling doesn't cost as much as most people think it does. We're usually pretty good about budgeting and knowing how much our trips will cost. On traveling days, however, we always spend more than we plan. That's because airports are expensive and if you have a long layover, you have no other choice. The airport can derail your budget pretty quick. How do we get through the airport and still have money to spend on our actual destination? Here are five things you can do to save money at the airport.
1. Use Credit Cards That Give You Free Lounge Access
Most of our budgeting tips revolve around using credit cards to your advantage. This list is no different. Our favorite perk from credit cards, besides free plane tickets, is free lounge access. Several cards offer this. Our favorite is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. It gives you access to "Priority Pass" lounges all over the world. The Amex Platinum card offers access to their fantastic "Centurion" lounges. Several Airline branded cards also get you into their company lounges.
What we love about lounges, besides the respite from the bustle and noise, is the free food and drinks. Every lounge we've ever visited has a complimentary bar and snacks. Many even include meals. It's great to duck into a lounge and enjoy the quiet. It's even better when you add the drinks and snacks. If you don't have a card that gives you free access, paying for entry may still save you money. It usually costs about 50 bucks to enter. If you have a long layover, it might be worth it if the lounge has the amenities you need. We always save a ton by hanging out in lounges, instead of overpriced airport restaurants and bars.
2. Bring Your Own Water Bottle
You can't bring a full bottle of water through security unless you have TSA Pre-check. So when you get through security, you'll have to buy water. We travel with refillable insulated bottles. The ones we use are from Healthy Human, but any double walled container will work. Once you get through security, most airports have fountains with filters specifically designed for refillable bottles. Bring your own cup, and you won't have to spend money on water.
3. Bring Your Own Food and Snacks
Surprisingly, the TSA lets you bring almost any solid food through security. You could even bring a huge 6ft submarine sandwich if you wanted. Gel type foods or liquids, like soup, are subject to the 3oz restriction. Pretty much anything else is fair game. It's much cheaper to bring food and snacks along with you. Bringing an entire meal, or the aforementioned 6ft sub isn't the most convenient though. We mostly bring snacks like chips and granola bars. Charise loves RX and Perfect bars. If you're going to take your food on the plane, avoid anything with peanuts. If someone on the plane has a peanut allergy, even the tiniest amount on the flight can affect them. We usually eat the bars before we get on the plane because of the nuts.
We previously mentioned Priority Pass. Not only does that membership get you into lounges, but at several airports, it will also give you a 30 dollar credit to some restaurants. If you have that membership, check the site before your trip to find locations. You may be able to get a free dinner. Even if you can't get a free meal, pick something up at the airport instead of eating airplane food. Food on the plane is free, but it's horrible. Pick you up a pre-packaged salad or wrap. They're usually inexpensive and certainly better than whatever is on the plane.
4. Limit Parking Fees
If you don't have someone to drop you off at the airport, consider parking fees before you bring your own car. Parking can sometimes be upwards of 10 dollars a day at the airport. That really adds up. It might be much cheaper to take an Uber and cheaper still to use public transportation. Many cities also offer cheaper parking, away from the airport. You ride a shuttle from the parking lot to the terminal. Add it up for yourself before you decide how you're going to arrive for your flight.
5. Avoid Overpriced Shops
I know that your bored during your long layover. So maybe you want to wander the shops a bit. That's fine. Just don't get suckered into paying the huge markups that those stores charge. They inflate the prices because the shops know that you have no other choice. It's not like you're going to leave the airport and go through security again to save a few dollars on toothpaste. Some people swear by duty-free shops, but I've never seen any prices I thought were worth it. Most of what I have seen is cheaper on Amazon or back home. Better to spend your money at your destination where you can buy something unique to the locale.
6. Make Money At The Airport
Suppose money is a little tight and you're not in a hurry, want to make some extra cash while you're at the airport? Airlines routinely overbook flights and will have to bump people if everyone shows up. This practice has gotten a lot of press recently, with some people literally being dragged off of planes. Because this need exists, if you're not in a rush, you can volunteer to take a later flight. Here's a nice write-up on how to do it. Just be sure to take the cash offer and not the flight vouchers. Those flight vouchers are notoriously hard to use. If your plans are flexible, you might be able to walk away with a nice profit.
The airport can be an expensive place to spend any length of time. And who wants to spend all their vacation money at an overpriced Johnny Rockets or Guy Fieri restaurant? I know we don't. Hopefully, our tips will help you have a little more spending cash for your final destination. What do you think about these tips? Do you find it hard to save money in the airport? Answer below in the comments.