7 Things You Should Never Buy at an Airport

If you thought booking a hotel was expensive, just wait until you see how much a bottle of water costs while you wait for your flight to board.

5 min read

If Covid-19 derailed your 2020 travel plans, you’re not alone. But with vaccines rolling out across the globe, traveling safely is finally starting to feel possible again. And because tourism has been hit hard by the pandemic, travel prices are at an all time low. However, the costs associated with traveling can add up quickly, and there’s one place folks tend to overspend before they even board the plane: the airport.

Air travel is an exercise in patience. From last-minute flight delays to lengthy layovers, you’ll spend a decent amount of your vacation sitting around and waiting. Airports know this, and thus fill their halls with very expensive ways to pass time. From pricey cocktails to perusing duty-free shops, it’s dangerously easy to blow your travel budget before you even take off. Here are just a few things to avoid buying from an airport:

1. Duty-free

In theory, duty-free purchases are a traveler’s best friend. The allure of avoiding taxes on pricey items tempts many shoppers to indulge while they wait for their flight to board. While it’s possible to score a good deal on vices like booze or cigarettes, which boast high taxes in some countries, experts argue that you can usually find the exact same goods for the same price, if not cheaper, at local convenience stores. 

If you’re considering buying anything from a duty-free store, make sure to do your research — especially when it comes to electronics, beauty products, or luxury clothing brands. A quick Google search will reveal if a product is reasonably priced or not.

2. Food

American travelers spend $52 on average on food and drink before a flight. This figure might seem high, especially when you think about the dry sandwiches and dodgy salads you’ve suffered through while waiting for a flight to board. 

Unsurprisingly, the driving force behind the high price of food at airports is demand. Hungry travelers have a limited number of options to choose from, and most restaurants don’t have much space for inventory. And when demand exceeds supply, prices surge. Try to make time before you leave home to pack your own snacks to enjoy before and on the flight. While you won’t get through security with a bag of fresh fruit, there are many foods you can pack in your carry-on without hassle.

3. Bottled water

There’s a good chance you’re already aware of the reasons why many shoppers avoid buying bottled water all-together: it’s bad for the environment, the labels are often misleading, and it’s very expensive. A 16-ounce bottle may cost as much as $5 at an airport. This small expense can add up quickly if you’re buying supplies for a family or preparing for a long journey. To save cash, pack a refillable bottle in your carry-on bag and reload from a nearby fountain or tap.

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4. Airport Wi-Fi

For those who came of age in the screen generation, the thought of spending a few hours without access to Wi-Fi may seem incomprehensible. While many major airports offer free Wi-Fi for business and travel needs, there are still plenty that do not. Depending on the city, Wi-Fi can vary in cost by the hour. If a lack of connectivity makes you nervous, research beforehand if the airport you’re traveling to offers free wireless connections. If it doesn’t, consider downloading media beforehand from apps that provide offline storage like Spotify and Netflix.

5. Foreign currency

Everyone knows that local currency is a must-have for international travelers, which is why airport-based currency exchange shops have such exorbitant exchange rates. Whether you get cash before you leave home or once you arrive at your destination, currency exchange shops and kiosks in airports are generally not the best places to exchange money.

Be sure to research your travel destination to see how much cash you’ll actually need. While it’s smart to have bank notes for emergencies, many cities allow you to pay with a debit or credit card, which may be the easiest and most cost-effective option. Just be sure you read up on foreign exchange fees before you start swiping.

6. Airport parking

While parking your car at the airport is convenient, it’s a convenience that comes with a hefty price tag. If public transit isn’t available, consider searching for a private, off-site parking lot near the airport. Private lots are usually significantly cheaper and less busy than what you’ll find at an airport. If you’re traveling to a metropolitan area, you might want to consider using a taxi or ride-sharing service rather than letting your automobile rack up fees day after day.

7. Medicine

Has a long flight ever left you feeling a little queasy? Many travelers experience nausea, stomach pain, and dizziness on planes. While most airport convenience stores offer a variety of over-the-counter medications, try your best to plan ahead and pack what you’ll need in your carry-on, as the prices you’ll find at the airport are heavily inflated as compared to your local drug store.

Traveling with N26

We know that traveling can get expensive, which is why we designed N26 to be your new favorite travel companion. Here are just reasons you’ll love to travel with your N26 card:

  • Spend on experiences, not fees. You can shop with no foreign transaction fees when you pay with your N26 debit card abroad. 

  • Get cashback when you travel. That’s right — you can earn cashback simply by paying with your N26 debit card. From local bars and restaurants to everyday essentials, you’ll automatically get cashback into your bank account when you spend at participating businesses. 

  • Save money with Spaces. Whether you’re booking a weekend trip to Vegas or backpacking through Amsterdam, you can save for your trip with Spaces. Set a savings goal and budget at your own pace — no fees, no minimum balance, no fuss. 

Ready to experience mobile banking the world loves? Open an account in just 5 minutes directly from your phone. Already an N26 customer? Check out more money saving tips on our blog.

N26's cashback offers are powered by Dosh. View our terms and conditions.

The N26 account is offered by Axos Bank®, Member FDIC. N26 Inc. is a service provider of Axos Bank. All deposit accounts of the same ownership and/or vesting held at Axos Bank are combined and insured under the same FDIC Certificate 35546. All deposit accounts through Axos Bank brands are not separately insured by the FDIC from other deposit accounts held with the same ownership and/or vesting at Axos Bank. The N26 Visa® Debit Card is issued by Axos Bank pursuant to a license by Visa U.S.A. Inc. The N26 Visa Debit Card may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

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By N26

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