Tips to Traveling on the Cheap: Airport Edition

Charity Yoro The Practice of Packing Light


As a seasoned space-available globetrotter, I am well acquainted with the consequences of standby travel—which often involves hours (and sometimes days) of getting intimate with various airport terminals.

20140516-image1As much as I enjoy the spontaneity and excitement of picking a city at random to visit for the weekend, the price of a low-cost/no-cost ticket can be offset by the expensive (and limited!) airport entertainment and food options. With a little planning and pre-purchasing, I've learned that I can more usefully allocate the money otherwise spent on bland, overpriced airport grub on something worthwhile (like a confirmed seat on a plane, maybe?).

Here are some tips to save some money and your sanity if you are stuck, terminally, at the airport.

1. Stay hydrated. Bring an empty water bottle to refill once you get past security. Bottled water is not cheap or sustainable. Do your wallet and the environment a favor: refill.

2. Bring lots of snacks. Choose foods that are healthy, digestible, and light (who likes to feel full and bloated on the already uncomfortable plane ride?). I prefer travel-sized items that are also cheap, easy to pack, and don’t need refrigeration.

• Other favorites include assorted nuts, trail mix, energy bars, Trader Joes' individual bags of popcorn and/or seaweed snacks.

• Try making homemade sandwiches (like peanut butter and jelly) or wraps (like mixed veggie) instead of spending a ridiculous amount on a meager, lacking airport salad.

• Make these on-the-go two-ingredient banana breakfast bites the night before your trip.

• Bring a variety of teas (ginger is great for digestion), pockets of instant coffee (think Starbucks VIA), and Crystal Light-type flavored water mixes.

• Miso soup packets are also an easy, cheap, and filling mini-meal. And speaking of mini...

3. Make your own in-flight mini-bar. Though nothing can beat a refreshing pint of pale ale before a flight, it’s no surprise that the tab for airport alcohol can add up quickly. A widely shared tip is to buy nips (shooters) of liquor from your local bodega or liquor store beforehand--then take advantage of the free drink service on the plane to use as mixers (OJ, cranberry juice, tonic, ginger ale, etc).

4. Keep refreshed. Get sample-sized beauty products (often free with purchase at stores like Sephora or Ulta) for the draining, skin-dehydrating plane ride; additionally, if you are spending long hours on airport benches. Some essentials I recommend:

• Hypoallergenic wet wipes for hands, body, and face

• Travel size moisturizer (scented serves as a perfume too!)

• Multipurpose lip/cheek/eye tint, like Benefit's Benetint

20140516-airport-layover5. Entertain yourself. Traveling with a friend or partner? Bring cards. Going solo? Load episodes of that season of <insert your latest TV drama addiction> you’ve been meaning to watch on your tablet or computer. Or bring a dense book. Don’t let boredom lead you to make that impulsive high-ticket purchase at the duty-free shop. No, you don’t need that inflatable neck pillow.

Other cash (and sanity) saving tips:

• Gate check your carry-on (if you can) to save on baggage fees

• Download these cool travel apps

• On a long layover? Consider investing in an airport lounge pass for snacks, WiFi, and/or a hot shower—instead of a hotel room.