Maybe you’re different, but I’m easy prey to the Money Pits at the airport. Once you get to that between-place-that’s-not-a-place, your mind relaxes and expands in the belief that vacation has arrived, regardless of whether you’re actually at the airport for a business trip.
Business savvy retailers running the insanely overpriced stores in every major airport are familiar with this phenomenon. The proof? Give me another logical reason to locate high-end franchises in a place designed to be passed through on the way to somewhere else. Does anyone seriously go out of their way to buy electronics or designer purses at their local airport?
What I do to avoid these traps is buy one drink I can savor; whatever catches my fancy, whether it be coffee, water, lemonade – or once, a suspiciously bright blue slushy drink going by the unashamedly trashy name of ‘razzleberry’. I also make sure I have at least three lightweight options for keeping me occupied: a book, a scarf I’m knitting (no, I’m not 90 years old; knitting is a trend, ok?), and my phone, for instance.
I learned to do this because I realized how terrifyingly easy it is to spend $100 on airport food, junk souvenirs, or things to read. The trip hasn’t begun, but I’ve already spent a wad of cash without even noticing. Here’s how to avoid airport spending traps:
Bring your own snacks and empty water bottles
You can bring just about any snack item or solid food you prefer into an airport:
- Is there a favorite local bakery or sandwich shop on your way? Eliminate most food expenses by stopping there for whatever delectable and portable food you want instead of settling for overpriced Whatever at the airport.
- An even less expensive option is, of course, to make yourself snacks or sandwiches at home and bring those.
- Avoid bringing liquids. That said, if you bring an empty water bottle through security, it’s easy to find a water fountain from which you can fill it without any issues or unnecessary spending.
Do your credit cards carry travel perks?
This won’t necessarily work for everyone, but it may be helpful to see if you have any flying-related benefits on your cards:
- Does your credit card offer perks for traveling with a specific airline? For instance, a United Mileage Plus card gives access for two to their United Club once a year, where free snacks and drinks are available.
- Does your credit card offer discounts on checked bags, or even a free one? Some do, when linked with a specific airline.
- Check into other potential benefits associated with using your card while traveling. Companies make these associations for their own benefit, but there’s no reason it can’t also help you avoid airport spending traps.
Before you leave, become a Mystery Shopper
You may well question why you should choose to use vacation time for mystery shopping; the answer is this: mystery shopping companies often have shops in airports they find difficult to fill. For example, Sinclair Customer Metrics is pretty much always searching for Airport Mystery Shoppers. In fact, the desperation for feedback among these retailers is at such a fever pitch you might even make more money per shop. A long layover during which you entertain yourself by mystery shopping could earn you as much as $100. Maybe even some free food.
Next time you go to the airport, note how many stores in the place are actually chains. If you have a coupon for Burger King, there’s no reason you can’t use it in the airport same as you would at your local franchise. Check the airport’s website and you should be able to find which places are there. Then you can look into coupons for those places you’ll encounter during your trip.
Bring reading material with you
Plan to entertain yourself. You’re not going to get around the airport spending traps in the airport bookstore. These savvy business people know very well how often a flight is delayed, and the resulting desperation for any cure for boredom available. This is in addition to the anticipation of boredom many people experience at the prospect of a flight with no delays at all. Avoid their expensive trap by bringing your own amusement in whatever form you prefer.
Saving money when every retailer around you is plotting to make you spend it depends on one thing: planning ahead. This goes for travel as well as for everyday life. Take note of where and how your money drains away, then plug those drains if they’re not worthwhile. Here are 6 Tips for Saving Money at the Airport that may also help. Also, check out the video below: