Top 5 Tips: How to Save Money at the Airport and Beat Departure Longue Spending Traps

Save Money at the Airport


How do we save money before we’ve even taken off?

Summer is upon us, and for many, that can involve travelling. Going on holiday is often something we are willing to save up for, and we don’t mind splashing out on a well-earned break. But often, we can fall foul of the cash pit that is the departure lounge and bust our budget before take-off.

Once we have checked our baggage, we have time on our hands. Airports know this. Some argue that they orchestrate it. They instruct travellers to arrive for their flights hours early and hurry them through security. You and your family then have oodles of time near all those tempting duty-free shops. Easy targets – relaxed and feeling like holiday spending has started.

Some forethought and planning can help you save money. 

You can dodge the retail gauntlet and feel satisfied that you are wise to the trappings of the departure lounge. Here is a roundup of the best top tips to keep a grip on your holiday budget from the get-go.

1. Airport Lounge vs Airport food

Once in the departure lounge, you are hungry and have time to kill. Many of us look forward to kicking off the holiday with a bite at the airport. For some, it might be relishing that last proper cup of tea before heading overseas. But there is an eye-watering markup on airport food and drinks. Sometimes up to 60% more than you would pay outside the airport.

A recent survey conducted by Holiday Extras found that a UK family of four spends, on average, over £100 on pre-flight snacks, drinks, and meals.

Lounges include drinks, nibbles, Wi-Fi, and other perks, and admission starts at around £15 per adult. Check what is available at your departure airport. It might be cheaper than chancing the airport food vendors.

Another plus, you have a comfortable place to sit and spend time away from the temptations of duty-free. More on that later.

2. Give the Airport Café a Miss

Of course, shelling out for a spot in a lounge might seem like an unnecessary luxury. For the thriftier traveller, opt for avoiding airport food altogether. Plan to eat at home before you leave for the airport and pack plenty of snacks. And we mean plenty—plan for delays, your time on the plane and time during connecting flights.

Can you take food through airport security?

Well, yes. 

Gov.uk warns that food items in your hand luggage can obstruct the images on x-ray machines which might mean security staff want to inspect your bag. There is also a caveat about liquid or semi-liquid foods, for example, soup, jam, honey and syrups. These would fall under the restrictions applied to all fluids. 

Can you take water through airport security or other drinks?

That would be a no – not really. 

The hand luggage rules in the UK are that each liquid should be no more than 100ml. A drink of that size won’t quench your thirst for long, especially once you get into the dry air of the airplane cabin.

Take an Empty Bottle

You can take an empty bottle or flask to fill at the free-for-anyone-to-use water fountains found on the other side of security. With a quick search online, you can find forums dedicated to pinpointing the free water options at your departure terminal.

3. Don’t let the Duty-Free Shop Tempt You

Treating yourself to duty-free shopping seemed to kick off the holiday on past trips. Traditionally, you could grab a deal on all sorts of items at the airport shops – electronics, alcohol, makeup, and skincare. And it all seemed so much more affordable than high-street prices. 

One reason that airport shopping is no longer the bargain it used to be is a change in tax laws. From 1 January 2021, the UK government ended tax-free sales in airports, ports and Eurostar stations. Airports and luxury goods companies have met this move with criticism. But industry experts suggest that the government’s stance is unwavering, and the change will likely be permanent. 

Another reason is online retailers have given consumers more options. Increased competition vying for your money means there are often better prices around. A quick look at Pricesearcher will reveal the best deals available so you can skip any temptation of a seemingly good deal in the duty-free shop. 

4. Airport Entertainment

Airports rely on travellers’ boredom whilst they wait for their flight. A stretch of the legs around the terminal can turn into a mooch around the airport shops and lead to unplanned and unnecessary spending. Ward off the enticement of mindless expenditure and take something to keep you occupied. A fully charged tablet preloaded with films or an e-reader packed full of reads are items you were likely already taking on holiday. Get them set up for some downtime at the departure lounge. Think about easy-to-pack diversions like a pack of cards or a handheld game console for the youngsters in your party.

5. Set an Airport Budget

If a holiday doesn’t feel complete without an airside buy and you know, and accept, that prices will likely be higher than on the high street – go for it. We suggest some forethought, though. You might make a list of what you want to pack in your suitcase or an itinerary of what sights you might like to see whilst you are away. Likewise, think about what items you want to spend your money on in the airport. 

Set a budget for your airport time as you would for your holiday spending. Most airports have an inventory of the shops and restaurants on their websites. Knowing what you (and your travel party) might be tempted by will help you approach the clamour of this retail space with a plan of action—keeping impulse purchases at bay. 

So, there you have it, five ways to save your hard-earned pennies and put them towards enjoying yourself whilst you’re on holiday. Or even start saving for your next trip. With a bit of forethought and planning, you can jet off satisfied you haven’t blown your holiday spends before you’ve left home turf. 

Know someone about to jet off? Share all these money-saving tips.

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