>  Advice   >  5 tips for saving money at the airport

Arriving at an airport, passing through security and waiting for your flight to depart can be an expensive experience, especially with the added temptation of all those shops.  However, it is possible to get your trip off to a good start without spending  a lot of money. 

Significant savings can be made even before you pass through security. Check-in staff often weigh your carry-on bag, particularly if you are flying on a budget airline. If it is over the approved limit you will have to pay (a lot) to check it in. This is not a fun way to start your trip. Save yourself the ‘I hope my bag is underweight’ anxiety and extra expense by purchasing a checked baggage allowance at the same time you buy your ticket.

You should also pre-purchase international currency so you can shop around for the best rate.  Once you are at the airport, there isn’t much choice when it comes to currency exchange outlets and rates can be higher in some instances. 

If you are flying internationally, you won’t be able to bring liquids over 100ml through security, but there is nothing stopping you bringing food. Bring-your-own dining options tend to be healthier too. You don’t need to buy water either, provided the local water is safe to drink.  Bring an empty bottle or flask to fill up at a water fountain or tap once you’ve passed through security. Your wallet – and the environment – will thank you.

It can be challenging to resist the urge to impulse buy at airport shops, especially if you’re a parent with a long international flight looming. However, it’s much cheaper to purchase colouring books, toys and books at a shopping centre near home instead of waiting until you’re near the departure gate.  There is usually a wider choice if you do this too.

Some airports have ‘family zones’ with cartoons or movies showing on a TV and a play area where your kids can enjoy some free fun. Changi Airport in Singapore takes family fun to a whole new level with attractions like a butterfly garden, super slide and a free movie theatre. All these things are fun for adults too. Do some research before you arrive at the airport or ask about what is on offer at the information desk.

Many airports also have free wi-fi which you can use to download books by your favourite authors onto your Kindle or iPad.  Even better, you don’t have to pay for them as most Council libraries offer online borrowing. This is a much cheaper alternative to buying a book at the airport. You can read a chapter before you fly out to confirm your choice is going to keep you entertained. If not, simply borrow another book before you board the flight.

If you have to spend time at an airport during a layover, check what facilities are available for transit passengers.  Resort-style swimming pools, cultural activities and free or low-cost tours are just some of the things on offer. It might sound hard to believe but some airports are so much fun you won’t want to leave.

Want more tips that save time, money and your sanity at the airport? Check out our suggestions for how to pass the time at an airport with kids, how to access airline lounges (even if you’re not a member), how to make the most of a stopover, and tips for flying a low cost airline.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.