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15 Things You May Not Want to Buy at the Airport

Traveling is expensive enough. Don't make it more so by buying any of these items while you're at the airport.

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JFK Airport Terminal 1
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The airport is like its own little world. Once you make it past security, you can find anything and everything you may need. Air travel can feel stressful, so you may want to stock up on some necessities before you fly, but you don’t need to go overboard—although you may want to invest in some duty-free items. Save a few extra dollars and try not to buy these things in the airport. And before you fly, also check out what you may not see in airports anymore.
Exploring Austin International Airport
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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.

First off, the Wi-Fi is “slow and horrifically overpriced,” he points out. But more important, “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?

Miami International Airport, Inmotion Entertainment, wireless device, accessories store
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“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 be online. 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, because who doesn’t want to use Wi-Fi on the plane? “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.”

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It’s always a good idea to eat a good meal before you fly to avoid getting sick on the airplane, 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.”

New York, LaGuardia Airport terminal, concession Sandwiches to go
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Water, or anything to drink, for that matter

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 of Lady Qs. “Since you can’t have liquids during security check, I just pack an empty water bottle 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!” Snag one of these reusable water bottles before your next trip.

Miniature Statue of Liberty's for sale in a store at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
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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 while on vacation, rather than while in transit.

Currency Exchange Office In Nepal
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Foreign currency

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.” Make sure you avoid the dirtiest spots in the airport too.

Midsection Of Woman Holding Suitcase With Neck Pillow
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Neck pillows

“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, which comes with its own set of earplugs.)

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Tend to get woozy while traveling? Whatever OTC medications you think you might need on the airplane, don’t buy them in the airport, because the prices are always inflated compared with 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.

A rental car pick-up sign in the gate area at Miami International Airport.
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Rental cars

“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.

Suitcases on the shelves in the supermarket
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Shop too much on your trip and looking to pick up an extra suitcase at the airport? According to Bridges, you never should do that. “What you can buy in the airport is attractive, no doubt, but you’ll definitely pay a premium.” Find out what is getting your luggage flagged by TSA.

Florida, Fort Lauderdale, airport bookstore with best sellers displayed
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Reading materials

Your brain needs you to read, and there are so many good books just waiting for you. But don’t wait until you get to the airport to think of this! “Grab a book from your bookshelf and bring it with you, cost-free,” says Bridges. “Otherwise you may be paying that extra hike-up charge to be entertained for a short period of time.” The exception is if you are buying your book at one of these amazing airport read-and-return bookstores.

Miami International Airport, M & Ms display
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Chocolate is oh-so-good, and it’s also good for your brain. But don’t buy it at the airport, and certainly not in the duty-free shop, advises Brittnay Sharman, one half of The Travelling Housesitters, who’ve been traveling the world for the past three years and have been in and out of 25 countries.

“Take a look at the prices, and you’ll see you’re usually paying two or three times more than you’d pay at the supermarket,” she points out. “They try to make it look more exciting by having oversize items. But do you really need that much chocolate at that price?”

Duty Free Shop at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada
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“Many people stop at duty-free stores because of the common misconception that they will save a fortune on taxes,” points out Veronica Thor, a consumer and shopping expert and blogger. “However, the reality is that the small tax savings doesn’t make up for the markup in prices. And this is particularly true when it comes to alcohol.”

She gives the example of Grey Goose, which can be bought for under $50 at Costco but is selling currently for $60 at the duty-free chain, Duty Free Americas. Looking to get on the airport WiFi? Here’s a map with airport WiFi passwords all over the world.

Miami International Airport, Duty Free store, designer perfumes cosmetics display
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Department store perfume

That perfume they’re selling at the duty-free shop in the airport could very well be a fake. It’s not just at the airport that you’ll find counterfeit perfume, but at the airport, there’s a greater chance that the retailer you’re buying it from has no idea if he’s selling a counterfeit version. In other words, the duty-free shop may be selling what it believes to be the real deal, but it’s not. You’re far better off buying perfume directly from its manufacturer or in a department store that you trust.

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“Airport parking garages tend to overcharge for long- and short-time parking,” points out Gari Anne Kosanke, who finds herself at the airport frequently because her spouse works there. “There are a lot of privately owned parking garages near airports that are way more affordable. Some even provide free shuttles to the airport.”

You can get started choosing an off-site parking lot or garage using a website like Cheap Airport Parking. Now that you know what not to do in an airport, here’s what you probably shouldn’t do on a plane.


Lauren Cahn
Lauren has covered knowledge, history, the British royal family, true crime and riddles for Reader's Digest since 2017. Having honed her research and writing skills as an attorney in the 1990s, she became one of HuffPost's first bloggers in the early 2000s, graduated to reporting hyperlocal news in the 2010s and has been researching and writing news and features for a wide variety of publications ever since. Aside from Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in Mashed, Tasting Table, Eat This, Not That!, Grown and Flown, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Insider, Business Insider and many others.