Even after purchasing a flight, just being near the airport will cost you. From getting there on time, to getting something reasonable to eat, it’s easy to spend cash quickly. Yet, with careful planning and willpower, you can triumph over these hassles and still have a few extra bucks left over in your wallet. Check out these money-saving hacks that will not only help to keep your card or cash in check, but also give you back your time and sanity.
1. Get picky over transportation.
Cabs are no longer the be all and end all to getting to their airport. Plus, you don’t want to put someone who loves you through the agony of driving you there. Thanks to Uber and Lyft, you can get a fixed rate (yet be mindful of surge pricing times) and service right at your doorstep. If you’re okay with stops or sitting with strangers, book a seat on a shuttle service like SuperShuttle or find ones via AirportShuttle.com. Or if you’re near a major bus/train line that can take you straight to the airport, hop on board for a fraction of the cost of a cab.
2. Pre-book your parking.
If driving to the airport is a must, look to pre-schedule your parking spot totally in advance to make sure you’re good on getting a space and getting a lower rate – especially during peak travel times. Another cheaper option is going with offsite airport parking. Websites like BestParking.com, AirportParkingReservations.com or CheapAirportParking.com can help you compare various discounts and pricing levels. Or consider staying at an airport hotel that would bundle parking specials (think free) with room bookings. Check out Park Sleep Fly, which lists packages for U.S. and Canadian hotel properties and some cruise ports.
3. Stock up on toiletries.
The 3-1-1 TSA rule (liquids or gels must be in 3.4 ounce or smaller containers) makes for limited amounts of primping products and much time getting your travel size toiletries. Instead of going on a mission, look at alternative sources to meet your beauty fix. Major retail stores often give out small freebies that fit with TSA size standards. And, take advantage of the complimentary bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion in your hotel bathroom by taking them with you (SHHH: Just remove them from the counter space and hospitality will replace the “missing items” with fresh ones). One other consideration: When at your dental appointment, perhaps you can score an extra sample size of toothpaste. It doesn’t hurt to ask. And with medicines, get trial sizes of over-the-counter pills like ibuprofen so you don’t have another headache over buying a similar version at a larger price tag.
4. Purchase your own snacks.
Sadly, it’s now the norm to pay to eat on a flight. If you’re not willing to give out $3 for an energy bar or pay $10 for “not really a meal” onboard, you do have options. At your grocery store, stock up on pre-packaged goodies like dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky, pretzels, chips, or cereal bars. Fruit can be doable, too, but make sure it’s a whole one like an apple, banana, or orange. So can sandwiches and leafy or grain salads (add the dressing in before going through security), but like fruit, place it in a clear, easy-to-open container. That way TSA can scan your dish and send you and your food on your merry way. Another tip that you didn't hear from us: A few days before your flight, squirrel away some extra snacks from your office pantry.
5. Go with a carry-on.
For most flyers, baggage fees are here to stay – and can add up. If possible, look to pack your clothes in a carry-on sized bag. If at your gate, your plane doesn’t have enough overhead room for storing everyone’s luggage, graciously volunteer to have yours checked in – at no cost. If it’s not possible to stuff everything in a bag, and checking is your only hope, pre-pay your baggage fee online when checking in to avoid hefty in-person fees.
6. Get an empty water bottle.
The days of having to toss a full bottle of H20 in a garbage can at security checkpoint are still upon us. However, what you can do is bring a bottle that has no H20 in it – or any liquid at all. An empty water bottle can go through security, and once you’re past there, you can fill it up at a water fountain. Feeling sketched out by that idea? Invest in a bottle that includes filtration.
7. Make a budget cocktail.
While we can't say this is the classiest tip (nor are we sure it's entirely Kosher, but shhhh), it certainly is clever. You can save money on a pre-flight drink by packing those little mini bottles of alcohol in your carry-on (they're under 3 ounces). Once in the terminal, purchase a mixer like a bottle of soda or juice. Drink a bit, then surreptitiously add in your sauce.
8. Study up on your airport’s setup.
Unless you’ve flown out of a certain airport often, figuring out any terminal can seem like studying for a test. Yet there’s a cheat sheet. Foursquare account holders can add in their recs and insights at airports; just put in your location and see what they have to say. Most airports have their full layouts featured on their website, listing details and locations about everything from departure and arrival gates to restaurants and shops. Take a look before going to map out your way, even to find where the bathroom is or where you can kill some time. In the case you do have to break down and buy something, you know what your options are. And what to avoid.
9. Bring something to entertain you.
Whether it’s a Kindle or hardcover or a magazine, catching up on your reading can kill a lot of time and keep you from purchasing one impulse items to distract you. If music or movies are more your thing, bring headphones from home to avoid paying through the nose at the terminal or onboard. Carry a powered up battery pack for your electronics, too.
10. Go your own way.
If you have time to kill and can’t stand aimless wandering, you don’t need to buy a club pass. Most major airports like LAX, Newark, O’Hare, San Francisco, and Miami (and overseas ones like Dublin and Charles de Gaulle) have interfaith chapels or meditation rooms that are open to passengers to sit in and reflect. Be mindful: show respect for this place and to those who are sharing it. If you want a busier scene, find areas that give you a different perspective. For example, JetBlue passengers can hang out in their outdoor lounge in JFK’s Terminal 5, get some exercise on a fitness trail at Phoenix Sky Harbor, or those in Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s McNamara Terminal can go for a ride on the Express Tram.
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, a little advance planning can save you big time. Follow these tips to avoid dropping cash at the terminals on your next trip.
11. Try a sneaky hack for free texting while in the air.
That GoGo In-Flight service is hella pricey. And if you have any other provider besides T-Mobile, it seems to be taunting you. But guess what — all you need is a T-Mobile phone number on hand to access the free messaging service. So, before your trip, ask your T-Mobile-paying friend if it's okay for you to enter their number. Also, we're not saying this works all the time, but it has worked a few times for us — occasionally, we've been able to use Facebook Messenger just by logging onto the GoGo landing page. Maybe it was a fluke, but worth a shot.