The Getaway
15 Money-Saving Tips To Be A Frugal Flier

Vacation planning is a beast. From finding affordable accommodations to renting a car, the price of a trip can add up quickly if you're not careful.

What you don't need is more unexpected costs at the airport before you've boarded your flight. Thankfully, some of these expenses are negotiable, saving you more cash for sightseeing and meals.

Don't let inflated airport prices tap into your travel funds. With a few clever tips and some planning, you'll be able to stretch your vacation budget as far as possible.

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01 Get creative with transportation

Finding someone to drive you to the airport isn't always possible. Rideshare apps and taxis are great alternatives, but they can get expensive.

Instead, have a friend or an Über driver drop you at a coffee shop or restaurant near the airport. Not only will your ride be cheaper, but you might also be able to take advantage of your airline's shuttle service.

Likewise, check public transportation for trains and buses that connect directly to the airport. You may have better luck securing a ride from loved ones if they can see you off at a more convenient location.

Young woman taking an Uber ride in Berlin, Germany. lechatnoir / Getty Images

02 Take the power with you

Don't leave home without a fully-charged battery pack and adapter cables. Aside from keeping your devices powered up, a travel battery also protects your devices and personal data from possibly dangerous malware.

Green chairs with free standard USB power socket or USB port slot charger in airport. Travelling comfort Dmitrii Guldin / Getty Images

 

03 Carry on with only a carry-on

Overpacking is one way to be prepared, but are the resulting baggage fees worth the effort? That depends on your airline.

Some companies offer one free checked bag, while others charge separate fees for carry-on luggage, checked bags, assigned seating, and refreshments. If you're paying extra for luggage, cut costs by packing lighter and not checking a bag.

Assemble your vacation wardrobe with 10-15 pieces using a Pinterest board for inspiration. Wear oversized coats and tall boots on the plane, and use travel-sized toiletries to save space.

Rear-view a young woman in front of the airport. She wears a face mask for protection during a Coronavirus pandemic. New normal lifestyle for public transport after Covid-19 Pyrosky / Getty Images

04 Bring an empty bottle

Whether you're flying to England or New England, drinking enough water is key to fighting jet lag and staying refreshed.

Bottled water isn't cheap at the airport, so save some cash by bringing an empty bottle, canteen, or bladder.

Fill up at the water fountain for free after passing through the security checkpoint, and add a pre-packaged hydration multiplier to ready yourself for a long day of travel.

Close up of hand with long sleeve red blue stripe shirt pressing button of drinking water filling station at the Airport to refill red insulated reusable water bottle. Jatuporn Tansirimas / Getty Images

05 Plan for an airport picnic

Don't eat into your vacation budget by splurging on airport junk food. Pack flavorful, satisfying snacks that are easy to munch on the go and won't make a mess.

Think high-protein nibbles like beef jerky, roasted salted nuts, and apples with almond butter. Add some chocolate trail mix and dried fruit slices to satisfy the sweet tooth in the family, or pack a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a picnic at your departing gate.

Travel man viewed from back in front of an automatic drink store choosing snacks or beverage before leave or start the business or vacation trip - view from rear at the backpack simonapilolla / Getty Images

06 Scout out your restaurant experience

If you're the type of traveler who switches to vacation mode as soon as you leave home, you might prefer to splurge on a restaurant experience. Check the airport's website ahead of time to browse their selection of eateries, choosing one that fits your taste and budget.

Order a big meal and split it with your companion, leaving room for drinks before takeoff.

Family taking a break at the airport FG Trade / Getty Images

07 Reserve your wheels before arrival

Car rentals can quickly become a hassle if you don't prepare. Not only do rental companies raise their rates during peak demand, but you could also get stuck renting something bigger or more expensive if inventory is low.

Experts suggest booking your car at the same time as your flight. Rental companies have flexible cancellation policies, so there's not much risk involved.

You can also download an app like AutoSlash to track your reservation. They'll notify you if your rental rate drops online, so you can cancel your reservation and book the cheaper rate at no cost.

Young female couple are walking through the airport carpark in Italy with their luggage to get a hire car. SolStock / Getty Images

08 Don't be in a rush to check in

Gone are the days when travelers had to rush to the airport to check in for a flight. You can confirm your trip up to 24 hours in advance with online check-ins.

Letting the airline know you're on your way keeps them from giving your seat to someone else, resulting in costly changes to your itinerary. You also won't have to spend extra on a taxi or rideshare service to rush you to the airport for early check-in.

Young African-American couple doing check-in at airline check-in counter at international airport wundervisuals / Getty Images

09 Pack an emergency kit

Last-minute emergencies aren't uncommon at the airport, especially if you're in for a long layover. Your best bet is to prepare for most setbacks with a proper traveler's kit.

Pack things you can bring through security, like pain medicine, antihistamines, antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, menstrual products, and band-aids. While you're likely to find these items at an airport shop, they will be significantly more expensive.

Portrait of a young woman checks the arrivals and departures board at the airport. She wears a face mask for protection during a Coronavirus pandemic. New normal lifestyle for public transport after Covid-19 Pyrosky / Getty Images

10 Resist the temptation to shop

Airports are like shopping malls, complete with retail stores and kiosks — they've even got food courts.

The temptation to buy souvenirs and snacks is almost irresistible, but you're better off resisting the urge to spend.

Save those dollars for a meal or souvenir at your final destination. Bring a book or download a podcast series to keep you busy at the airport. If you'd rather stay active, walk a loop around the terminal or bring an exercise band for a quick workout.

Duty Free at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul. ugurhan / Getty Images

11 Bring those wired headphones

Headphones aren't just for tuning out the chaos of the airport. You'll also need them to enjoy the in-flight entertainment.

Airlines usually charge a small fee for headphones — which you can take home as a souvenir, but they are not high-quality accessories.

Airpods and Bluetooth earbuds won't help you, either. You'll need a set of headphones with a 3.5mm jack to be compatible.

Woman using the touch screen on the airplane Mina3686 / Getty Images

12 There's an app for everything

Travel apps are quickly becoming essential to the airport experience. Beyond organizing your itinerary and reminding you when to check in, some apps help save you money by partnering with airports and vendors.

Expedia promises exclusive deals for mobile users and a rewards program for additional perks. FLIO is an airport app that also provides exclusive offers and discount vouchers to airport restaurants, cafes, and shops. Download the apps and explore your terminal.

Beautiful woman using mobile phone. Communication concept. santypan / Getty Images

13 Spring for the insurance

Sometimes connections get missed, baggage becomes lost, and airlines cancel flights. The only way to save money in these scenarios is to pay for travel insurance when you book your tickets.

Insurance only costs a fraction of the ticket fare, and it protects your investment. If you need legal advice, visit AirHelp's website.

They're the world's largest air passenger rights advocate, and they help passengers claim compensation for delayed flights, missed connections, and similar situations through no fault of their own.

Rear view of a woman at the airport holding a passport with a boarding pass as she walks to her departure gate Pyrosky / Getty Images

14 Don't lose money on exchange rates

When traveling internationally, you need a little bit of local currency to pay for things like street food, public transportation, and access to restroom facilities.

Airports are notorious for their exchange rates, but some customers will pay for convenience. What they don't realize is that your bank likely offers the best exchange rates, and all you have to do is withdraw money from an ATM. Some financial institutions work with local banks to eliminate ATM fees, so do your research to save the most cash.

Currency exchange sign at Osaka Airport. groveb / Getty Images

15 Travel to your hotel without breaking the bank

woman riding a hotel shuttle bus

You've arrived at your destination, and now, you're ready to get to your hotel. Some airports have kiosks where you can reserve a taxi for a flat rate — a measure that prevents drivers from overcharging tourists.

If you're staying at a resort, find out if they offer discounted or complimentary car service to and from the airport. Adventure-savvy travelers might consider finding accommodations near a metro stop and connecting to a train from the airport. Not only is it the most cost-effective option, but it's also a great way to explore the city.

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