I’m sitting here in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport composing this post and all around me I see opportunities to burn through a lot of money very quickly. Hungry traveler? You can drop $10 on some pretty awful fast food quite quickly. Want to eat somewhat better? TGI Friday’s will be glad to take a few Hamiltons from you before you blink. And if you expect to pay below MSRP for anything, think again. Think that’s bad? I watched a friend just this morning spend $12 on two breakfast sandwiches that were described as “awful” and a small container of orange juice.
So what can a busy traveler do to avoid these ridiculous expenses? Here’s what I do every time I travel so I’m not stuck shelling out a lot of cash during airport layovers.
First, I put a ton of goodies in my carry-on. I usually take beef jerky, Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, and Nutri-Grain bars, but you may want to try some other stuff. I also pack a meal if the trip is going to be really long or the layover is long. I have room for plenty of snacks in my carry-on, because usually I just have a few reading materials and maybe my laptop in my carry-on bag (which itself is actually the backpack I used in college). Beef jerky is the absolute best food to take because it’s extremely filling for the volume.
Second, I pack an empty water bottle in my carry-on. Most of the time, this goes through airport security without a blink. Recently, a security guard did dig it out and check it over, but it was completely empty so he didn’t do a thing about it. After I get it through airport security, I go to the restroom and fill it with tap water. If this bothers you, you can use a filtered water bottle instead.
I also pack plenty of reading material and other entertainment in my carry-on. This always includes a notepad and a pen. Why? No matter how bored I get, I can come up with things to write down. If I have my laptop along, I can always use that for plenty of entertainment (I like playing through older computer games, but that’s another frugal topic…).
When I’m in the airport, I head straight to my gate and sit down. Making this my goal as soon as I get through security makes it a lot easier to not get distracted by the shopping mall-esque qualities of many modern airports. Once I’m entrenched at a gate, the only thing that can really roust me is the need to use a bathroom, so I usually stop at a bathroom very near my gate (and also use that opportunity to fill my water bottle).
What about return trips? I make it a point to pack my bag with snacks before I even reach the airport. Sometimes, this means grabbing stuff at a grocery store in the middle of a trip, but it is much, much cheaper to do this than to buy stuff iniside of the airport. I usually pack enough jerky for both the trip going and coming and I keep it in a sealed container for freshness, so usually I just look for other snack items.
You can easily save $20 each trip using these tips, and even more if you’re ever “tricked” into shopping in airports. Just remember that airports are extremely poor for competitive prices and a bit of advance planning here is well worth the time invested.