15 Things You Should Never Buy at the Airport
There’s amazing feeling of freedom in being able to fly to your destination of choice. But the time you spend in an airport is anything but free. In fact, it can be pretty darn expensive if you make the mistake of buying any of these items while you’re there.
If you’re reading this story on RD.com, you must be using the Internet, and if you’re anything like us, you probably sometimes feel fairly dependent on all that connectivity. No judgment! However, just say no to paying for Wi-Fi in the airport. “Airports take advantage of the fact that once you’re past those security gates, you’re a captive audience,” explains Coleman Collins, former full-time traveler and author of the forthcoming: The Road Warrior: A Practical Guide to Maintaining Your Health, Productivity, and Sanity While Traveling for Work. First off, the Wi-Fi is “slow and horrifically overpriced,” he points out. But more importantly, “travel provides the perfect forced Internet break. Your emails can wait!” Instead of checking your handheld device, how about reading, engaging in a craft, or sitting quietly. Check out what you can get for free at the airport.
If you’ve decided you can pass up the airport Wi-Fi, then perhaps you’ll be open to passing up the opportunity to impulse-purchase electronics from those overpriced airport kiosks, even those little items like chargers and headsets you may have forgot to pack. “Electronics purchased at the airport will cost you significantly more than if you had bought them ahead of time,” says Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews, a shopping comparison website. “Our research shows that electronics are, on average, 34 percent more expensive at the airport than what they would find online. For some of the smaller items, that could mean a difference of $10 to $15. For some of the more advanced technology digital cameras, you could be overpaying anywhere from $50 to $200. And that charger? It could be up to 50 percent more at the airport.” Collins notes specifically that headphones tend to be ridiculously overpriced at the airport. “If you must buy them, whether for an important call or just to survive a six-hour flight, you’ll get prices closest to retail at those Best Buy kiosks.”
It’s always a good idea to eat a good meal before you fly to avoid getting sick on a plane, but whatever you do, don’t buy your food in the airport. “It’s almost universally overpriced, not very tasty, not very good for you, or some combination of the three,” Collins says. “Besides, most travelers eat at the airport solely as a way to kill time, and not because they’re actually hungry.” Make sure you never, ever buy these foods from the airport.
Water, or for that matter anything to drink
Air travel can dehydrate you, among other physical side effects, but seasoned travelers know not to buy water at the airport. “I always keep a water bottle with me,” says Becky Rodriguez. “Since you can’t have liquids during security check, I just pack an empty bottle water in my purse or throw it in my carry on. This way, I can just fill it up in the bathroom. It might not seem like a lot, but paying twice the amount for something you can get for free is a total rip off!” Just make sure you’re using a glass or aluminum bottle.
Whatever you do, don’t buy souvenirs at the airport. “There is an astronomical markup on souvenirs at the airport,” says Peter Yang, seasoned business traveler. So plan ahead, and purchase souvenirs at your destination, rather than while in transit.
It’s probably one of the last things you’ll think about when planning a trip, but don’t exchange your money for foreign currency at the airport, says Jennifer McDermott, a consumer advocate and former communications strategist for a large travel company. “It’s well-known that travelers are arriving unprepared, and given the lack of competition among currency exchange booths at the airport, those booths tend to charge high fees and far from the best exchange rates.” Yang suggests waiting until you arrive at your destination and taking out money from an ATM there. “You’ll get a much better exchange rate that way.” Make sure you avoid the dirtiest spots in the airport.
“Before your trip, make sure you purchase a neck pillow if you’re going on a long flight,” advises Arik Kislin, co-owner of the Gansevoort Hotel and Alerion Aviation, a private jet company. “The ones they sell in the airport are overpriced and have been touched and tried on by many travelers walking through the airport.” Yuck and yuckier. (We’re fans of the Cabeau Evolution Pillow that comes with its own set of earplugs.)
Tend to get woozy while traveling? Whatever OTC medications you think you might need for your trip, don’t buy them in the airport because the prices are always inflated as compared to what you’d pay outside the airport. Try your best to plan ahead, and have what you need on hand in your carry-on, says Chantay Bridges, CNE, SRES, who travels for work and for pleasure.
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“If you want to obtain the nicest car, at the best price and with the least hassle, arrange this before you arrive at your destination,” according to Bridges. “If you wait until you get to the airport, you’re limiting your choices, and a higher price will reflect that lack of choice.” Here’s how to make the most out of your airport layover.