10 Travel Tips to Save Time & Money At the Airport

Travel Talk

This week the Hudson Group, who operates convenience “newsstand” stores at just above every airport I’ve been to in the US released a list of the most popular airport purchases. Not surprisingly bottled water topped the charts followed by Sodas (Diet Coke and then Coke), Candy (M&Ms) and the Wall Street Journal. I say no surprise because of course drinks can’t pass through security these days making a little refreshment the obvious choice after you clear the body scanners but water? There’s a better way to do it! In fact, if you apply just a few frequent traveler “tricks” to your adventure travel flights, you can save yourself plenty of time, money and hassle on your next trip.

In the airport

  1. While any adventurous traveler knows hydrating is one the best things you can do, at $4+ a bottle, buying water in airports is probably not. TSA may not allow full bottles through their checkpoints anymore but empties are perfectly welcome and with more and more airports installing filtered water stations, it’s easy to get the exact same [or better] quality in whatever quantity you like. So grab your Hydroflask and fill up while saving enough to cover the coffee you’re really craving.
  2. The same goes for snacks. Sure, it’s nice to have something for your flight and often leagues cheaper to buy in the airport than on the plane but selection around the gate is hardly impressive which is why I always suggest stocking up before you head towards the terminal. Energy bars, nut mixes, chocolate, all the snacks of the outdoors all do well on planes and will make it through TSA just fine. The longer the trip, the more I bring, after all, leftovers just make trail treats the next day.

    Of course if you can score a seat up front in the plane, you may be able to save those snacks for another day.

    Of course if you can score a seat up front in the plane, you may be able to save those snacks.

  3. Before you fly, be sure to pick up a spare battery for your phone and other small devices, the bigger the charge capacity, the better. With pretty much everything from our entertainment to itineraries on our phones these days, batteries go quick which can be a real problem for staying amused in flight and getting your bearings when you land and are forced through customs right from the plane. Having extra juice to use along the way sure beats standing at the one open outlet, which is always right next to the opposite gender’s restroom for some reason.
  4. On the subject of electronics, don’t forget the headphones, heck, bring two pairs. Long delays, in flight entertainment, screaming business travelers, whatever happens on a travel day, blocking it out is a night and day piece of mind win. Plus you’re not stuck buying utterly crummy buds on the flight when you cave halfway through the showing of the latest romantic comedy (don’t worry, I won’t tell). If you do forget a pair, InMotion and other airport electronics stores tend to offer street pricing on premium brands.
  5. Looking to save a little time and hassle? Consider what you do with those bags before you head to security. I know it’s a travel taboo to check but if you’re planning a three leg journey to Patagonia (or a Disneyland visit with the family), lugging around luggage is often a lot more of a burden than waiting when you arrive, especially if someone can run off to find the car at the same point. With so many credit cards offering free checked bags and the “hack” of gate checking for free on full flights (which seems to be almost every flight these days), it’s easy to ditch the hassle of lugging it all around.
  6. Another bag tip for bigger trips is to stuff an empty duffel into your luggage before you leave home. This way if when you end up stocking up gifts or a few things for yourself you won’t have to debate where to put them. If you still find yourself overloaded with goodies for the return, run down to the local super store and get a box and packaging tape, it will work just well as a suitcase without you know, the cost of a suitcase.IMG_3967
  7. Once you have your carry on bags sorted out, stash everything you don’t need to clear security inside them. Your watch, phone (if you have a paper boarding pass), car keys, change should all be out of your pockets by the time you reach security. This way you can dump just a few things into the bin, walk through the detector (without a beep) and get what you need out whenever you want and without the frustration of people who should have showed up earlier breathing down your neck behind you.
  8. Speaking of people breathing down your neck, if you’re not storing a bag up-top and don’t need extra time to board, don’t worry about getting on that plane any earlier than you need to. I’m not saying to run off to the coffee shop during boarding but you can snag a few extra minutes of sanity, good air and make a last pit stop by boarding near the end of the process instead of sitting around and waiting to move for your fellow seatmates to arrive.
  9. Although Wifi is found just about everywhere these days, getting from an all day flight to a hotel / hostel / campground in a new city can be really rough. Rather than relaying on smart data or connections when you arrive, I try to download a city map while I wait to take off (or in the air if I know there’s a connection). This gives me a chance to study the sights, plan any additional side trips and start to calculate how to navigate around.In the airport
  10. Speaking of trips, make friends with your seatmates (unless they already have their headphones on). Whether a local who knows the real scoop on what to see or another tourist who may just share an stop along the way (or money saving tip they picked up), planes are the first place to make a connection. Besides, what else do you have to do for all those hours?

And at all times, don’t be afraid to ask just about anyone. As a frequent traveler I know we can be a little, well, impatient / pushy / know it all, but I tell you this: if someone wants to be sure they’re getting through the lines quickly it’s music to my ears. Travelling smoothly is all about knowing the system which means being ready for the ever changing processes and rules so when the guy in front of me gets stuck, we all want to chime in rather than watch them struggle for 10 [ok 2] minutes.

Now hop in your window seat, grab your camera and enjoy the adventure!