In general I try to write timely articles. I think you benefit more when the information is fresh in your mind. So in honor of next Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year, I want to help you save money at the airport.
Next week airports across the nation will be flooded with travelers who are en route to see their family and loved ones for Thanksgiving. During which time I expect travelers will peruse the many shops and eateries that line the terminals of airports while waiting for their flight.
I’m sure no one thinks they are getting a good deal when they buy something from a store in the airport, but I wonder if anyone knows just how bad a deal they are actually getting. Everything from food to parking costs more at the airport than it does at other locations.
In particular though there are nine items that are consistently over priced at airports. If you are flying next week DO NOT buy these items while waiting for your flight! They are a scam. Instead purchase them in the next few days before you fly to save yourself some money.
Next week you’ll notice an increase in kiosks and vending machines selling electronic equipment at the airport. They sell everything from headphones to iPods out of the machines. You need to avoid them at all costs! Mark-ups on the items contained inside can run as high as 300 percent! You’ll save yourself a boatload of money if this week before you travel you make sure you have working headphones, your iPod is fully charged, you don’t forget your phone charger and so on. One exception to this is the Best Buy kiosks. The prices in their airport kiosks are the same you’ll pay in the store.
At the Ft. Lauderdale airport a bottle of water costs me four to five dollars. Ridiculous! Usually when the rest of my family sees me with a bottle of water in my hands they decide they want one too. In a span of a few minutes I might have to hand over ten to fifteen dollars just so my family can wet their whistle while we wait for our flight.
Instead of paying exorbitant prices for water, bring a reusable container, like a water bottle, from home to fill up at any of the airports free water fountains after you’ve gone through airport security.
Many of us have long lay overs or flights coming up next week, combine that with super early flight times and you have a recipe for a much needed nap during your travels. If you’re hoping to catch a few Z’s on your flight you probably want a neck pillow. Up until a few years ago airlines provided these for travelers at no cost. Now-a-days you’re hard pressed to find one on any flight. The most popular, and most comfortable, are the U-shaped pillows that wrap around your neck. If you wait and buy the pillow at the airport you’re likely to pay between $25-35. Save yourself a bunch of money and buy one ahead of time. I found this one at Target for only $12.99.
Not only are the trinkets you see for sale at the airport expensive, they are usually pretty lame. “Ohhh, a Statue of Liberty coffee mug, just what I always wanted,” said no one ever.
Do yourself and whoever you plan to give the gift to a favor and buy them something original during your trip. You’ll save yourself a bunch of money and the recipient won’t have to fake enthusiasm for that keychain you bought in the shape of your home state.
Still don’t know what to get someone as a souvenir? Well without knowing who you are buying for, it’s hard to say what to get them. If you are traveling abroad, bring back an item that is well known for its quality from that region. Bring back a bottle of wine if you are traveling anywhere in Italy, or a Hummel figurine if you stop by Germany. An authentic kimono from Japan will really wow your friend or family member. If you are traveling domestically think about a Christmas ornament or something that can be fashioned into an ornament from the state you traveled to. It’s a very timely gift since Christmas trees typically go up right after Thanksgiving.
Duty Free Merchandise
Just because you don’t have to pay taxes on merchandise doesn’t make the items sold at duty-free shops a good deal. Most of these retailers mark up their wares because shoppers mistakenly believe the merchandise is cheaper than it is at other shops. Not so. Many duty-free shops mark up their wares anywhere from 10-300%!
This is especially true of electronic goods, beauty supplies and designer purses. The exception to this rule? Cigarettes. If you live in a state with high taxes, cartons of cigarettes will be significantly cheaper at these shops than your home town store.
For years I mistakenly thought that because I use an airport that has a lot of its international flights going to Central and South America that the currency exchange stations in the airport would give travelers a good deal. Man was I wrong! Turns out airports are the most expensive places to exchange your money. Currency exchange desks at airports around the world slam travelers with sky-high transaction fees.
You’ll get a much better deal, and by deal I mean you’ll pay much less in fees, if you exchange your currency outside of the airport. Banks and ATM’s in the country you are traveling to will give you a much better exchange rate. Years ago when Mr. Patterson and I traveled to Costa Rica our friend took us to a bank in our destination city to exchange our currency. The bank didn’t charge us a fee at all.
If you can’t get to a bank try taking out money at an ATM in your destination city. You’ll likely get the best interbank exchange rate available. The transaction fees you’ll incur at a foreign ATM won’t even compare to the airport’s ridiculously high charges.
If you’re like me than you think it’s absurd that all airports don’t offer free Wi-Fi to its travelers. Now-a-days everyone has a smart phone or tablet they play or work from while waiting for their flight. Since the Department of Transportation estimates that only 77 percent of flights arrive on time, you could have a long wait in the airport.
While there are a few airports across the country that offers Wi-Fi for free to its travelers, the majority still charge for the service. Connecting to the internet will cost you $8-10 for a full day. Of course, you’ll be at the airport only for a fraction of that time, but most providers don’t offer hourly or per minute rates.
Before you type in your credit card information to connect to the web try these sneaky ways to get it for free. Once I was able to sit right outside the entrance to an elite flyer’s lounge and pick up a signal. You can also try sitting in an airport hotel lobby to pick up a Wi-Fi signal that isn’t password protected. If that doesn’t work check to see if there is a Starbucks in your terminal, they usually offer free W-Fi.
Food and Snacks
Boredom is a big reason why we eat at airports. Many times we eat to make the time go by faster before its time to board our flight. Eating at restaurants is a good time waster…until we get the bill and realize what a money waster it is too!
Restaurant meals are notorious for their high prices, especially compared to their off-site locations. A meal that costs $10 in a restaurant not at the airport, will easily run you between 30 and 50 percent more.
Travelers feel trapped by these high costs because they are spending more time at airports because of post 9/11 security rules. Unfortunately the only way to combat the high cost of eating at airports is to bring food with you while you travel. Pack yourself a sandwich, trail mix or an energy bar to avoid paying out the nose for a bite to eat while you travel. If you must eat while traveling avoid eating at sit-down restaurants and pick up an on-the-go snack that won’t have been marked up quite as much.
A Parking Spot
If you park close to the airport you’re paying for the convenience. That makes sense if you’re just going to be gone a day or two. When you stretch a trip out over a long weekend or more though, you’ll really see the jump in price. To park at the garages close to the Ft. Lauderdale airport I have to fork over $12 or more a day. If I fly out next Wednesday, the 27th, and return five days later I’ll receive a bill for $72! Parking at off-site lots will always save you a bunch of cash. Around here off-site parking lots usually run about $8 a day, knocking $24 off my final bill.
Flying to see friends and family for Thanksgiving has never been a cheap thing to do. But you don’t have to allow the airlines to make any more money off you by buying their overpriced wares while waiting for your flight. With a bit of preparation you can save yourself well over $50 with these money saving tips.
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,