The days leading up to and directly following Christmas are the third and fourth busiest travel days of the year. With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year many airline industry experts are expecting this weekend to claim one or both those titles.
Flying has never been a poor man’s hobby. Fares continue to climb despite the weak economy and we refuse to let our finances dictate whether or not we see our families for the holidays.
Prices on airport goods are another thing that’s never been considered good. You’ve never heard someone say, “Oh I got a great deal on this item at the airport.” Everything from food to parking gets jacked up simply because you are at the airport.
In particular though there are nine items that are way over priced at airports. If you are flying this weekend DO NOT buy these things! They are a scam. Instead purchase them in the next few days before you fly to save yourself some money.
At the Ft. Lauderdale airport a bottle of water runs me upwards of three dollars a pop. Ridiculous. And heaven forbid if my husband or kids want a bottle too. In a span of two minutes I might have to hand over ten dollars just so my family can parch their thirst. 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 water fountains after you’ve gone through airport security.
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. Nowadays 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 $20-30. 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 in the days before you head to the airport. 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.
Duty Free Merchandise
Just because you don’t have to pay taxes on the merchandise doesn’t make the items sold there a good deal. Most duty-free shops mark up their wares because shoppers mistakenly believe the merchandise is cheaper than it is at other shops. 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.
I’m not sure if it’s just because my airport is a heavily traveled international airport, but I’ve found currency exchange places in the airport slam travelers with sky-high transaction fees. Over the years I’ve realized that it’s much cheaper to exchange my money outside of the airport. 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.
It’s absurd to me that all airports don’t offer this service for free. Sadly many airport hubs are still charging flyers to peruse the Web while waiting for their flights. 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. If that doesn’t work check to see if there is a Starbucks in your terminal, they usually offer free WiFi.
A bag of chips or pack of gum can do wonders for a cranky toddler who doesn’t want to sit quietly waiting for their flight. Unfortunately meals and snacks are some of the most overpriced items you’ll find at airports. It’s somewhat understandable; these places have higher operating costs because they are located at the airport as opposed to an off-site location. To save yourself from paying out the nose for a quick bite to eat pack yourself an energy bar or trail mix in a zip-lock bag and bring it with you.
Books and Magazines
Reading is a great way to pass the time at the airport or on your flight. But if you wait and buy a book or magazine at the airport to enjoy you’re going to pay for it. Instead bring your magazines from home or buy a book before you get to the airport to save yourself some green.
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 this Friday, the 21st, and return on the 26th 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.
Don’t let traveling for the holidays cost you more than it has to. With a bit of preparation you can save yourself well over $50 with these money saving tips. Happy holidays and I look forward to hearing about all the presents you received!
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,