Airport Frugality in the Era of New Security Regulations

As you read this, I’m likely somewhere in the sky over the western half of the United States. I’ve flown quite a bit over the last decade, but I haven’t flown since the most recent restrictions on carry on items. These restrictions really shoot in the foot most of my strategies for saving money in the airport, such as bringing my own bottled water from home and making sure I have a well-stocked carry-on with all my essentials in it (many of them are now banned).

Instead, I’ve adopted some new practices to avoid the ridiculously high costs I’ll face inside of an airport – and also at my destination if my luggage were to go missing. Here’s what I do to get around the new regulations (along with some of the better things I used to do):

I pack an empty water bottle into my carry-on luggage, then fill it at a water fountain inside of airport security. The empty bottle is completely fine within regulations, and then the bottle can easily be filled at a water fountain inside the airport. This saves a lot on beverage costs within the airport.

I pack some energy-rich snacks. Things like granola bars are very filling and energy-dense, perfect for keeping away hunger while in an airport. I can generally find good, healthy food on the other end of my trip so that I don’t have to pay for overpriced airport food.

I look for “travel size” toiletries for cheap – or free – wherever I can. I do much of my shopping at warehouse stores, where quite often you can find full size packages with “travel size” items attached to them for little or no cost. I’ve started to look out for these and then collect them, so I don’t have to pay a lot for a travel sized bottle.

Before trips, I actually refill the “travel size” shampoo and conditioner bottles. These are easily refillable with whatever shampoo I have – I just use a small bulb to suck out a little from a large bottle, then squirt it into the small one. That way, I don’t have to buy these again. This process doesn’t work as well with toothpaste, though, unless you’ve been very careful with the tube.

I always keep at least two days’ worth of clothes in my carry-on. Nothing fancy, but something that will work. That way, if my luggage vanishes, I can wear these clothes in a pinch without having to dump cash on some clothes at a shopping mall. On shorter trips (like this one), I plan the entire trip solely out of my carry-on, though that may mean some ironing when I arrive at my hotel.

My number one tip, though, is assuming that I will be delayed. I always pack a long book of some sort into my carry-on, always. I also pack away my trusty Nintendo DS and more than enough granola bars (along with that empty water bottle). I’ve been stuck in airports for many, many hours before and the last thing I want to do during that long wait is to get bored and then talk myself into buying stuff I don’t need.

All of these tactics work with the new airport security regulations – you should be able to zip right in without skipping a beat and not have to open your wallet for needless things.

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