10 Things You Should Never Buy at the Airport
Tips & Tricks
10 Things You Should Never Buy at the Airport

As travelers, we have to spend a considerable amount of down time in airports. This can often tempt us to make unnecessary and even unwanted purchases. The temptation is becoming stronger by the day as modern terminals continue to increase and improve their drinking, dining, and retail options. Fair pricing is scarce and stores knowingly take advantage of travelers with huge markups on everything from parking to vending machine drinks. Flying is expensive enough as it is, so here are ten things that you should never buy at the airport if you want to save some cash.


Woman pouring pills into hand from small bottle over wooden table.
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Sometimes buying medicine at the airport is unavoidable, but if you can it’s best to avoid it. Airport shops know that travelers are often anticipating a flight-induced headache or nausea and subsequently increase the prices of OTC medicines. It’s also typical for medicine to be sold in small, travel-sized packs that, while ideal for travel, aren’t great for getting your money's worth. From Tylenol to Dramamine, grab your go-to cure-alls from the local grocery store or pharmacy before your flight. This also ensures that you have some leftovers to take during your trip – and on the flight home.

Bottled Water

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There’s no denying that navigating your way through an airport and air travel itself is thirsty work. However, there’s no justifiable reason to fork out $5 for a bottle of water or any other bottled or canned drink. To put it into a more astronomical figure, back in 2015 a lawsuit was filed against airport retailer Hudson News for selling water 300% more expensive than the street price. Plus, it's not very eco-friendly, which is why some airports, like San Francisco's SFO, are banning the sale of plastic water bottles. Fortunately, there’s a very simple way to combat the need for liquid refreshment. Purchase a reusable bottle before arriving at the airport and fill it up inside the departure lounge. There are affordable options to choose from, and more and more airports are installing better water stations for just this purpose.


Shelf of souvenirs for Greece, bells and magnets.
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While you might be vying for a few last-minute souvenirs at the airport, it’s one of the worst places to buy them. Not only are they typically at least twice the price, but they're not likely to be authentic. Save your souvenir buying for your time in town and you’ll save yourself both money and quality. Plus, hunting for unique souvenirs is half the fun, and you'll feel good knowing you invested in the local community.

Electronic Goods


The lure of high-tech cameras, headphones, laptops, and smartphones can be hard to avoid when killing time before a flight. Nevertheless, impulse purchases of electronic goods and accessories can be damaging to your budget. Price comparison website PriceSpy once found that duty-free goods sold at major English airports were around $130 more expensive than online prices. Basic items such as replacement cables and chargers that you can pick up for a dollar or two elsewhere are overpriced too. If you do forget your charger, look for free-to-use charge points and then purchase a new one after arriving at your destination.

Neck Pillows

A neck pillow on top of a suitcase that's flat on the ground.
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Neck pillows are at a premium at the airport. Purchasing a neck pillow at the airport is double, if not triple the cost of buying one online or at a store at home. If you’re a germaphobe, keep in mind that they’ve also likely been tried on by other weary travelers. If you find yourself wishing you’d brought a neck pillow along, try using a scarf or fluffy sweater instead. There’s also a chance that the airline will provide you with a small pillow, depending on the length of your flight.


Two suitcases near panoramic window at airport.
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Paying for additional luggage at the airport is a big no-no. Last-minute baggage additions can come at exorbitant prices not only for the extra bags themselves but also for any extra weight. If you can help it, avoid paying fees for excess baggage at all costs by planning ahead and purchasing your checked (or even carry-on) luggage online. You can usually do this even a few hours before your flight, although some airlines close this portion of the check-in process 24 hours prior to take off.


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Eating before a flight is a sensible thing and has many health benefits associated with it such as the ability to combat nausea. Eating well and avoiding fried, greasy and processed food is also important to in-flight wellbeing. While some airports are opening high-quality restaurants, most of the time your culinary options will be limited to fast-food joints and chain restaurants. If you want something bland and overpriced — high operating costs at airports drive up menu prices — then go ahead. Otherwise, fill up before arriving at the airport or bring a packed lunch and snacks with you. Unlike liquids, you won’t be asked to throw away food at the security check. If you're flying long-haul, then hold out for your in-flight meal.


Glass of red wine on a wooden bar.
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Buying a pre-flight celebration drink at the airport is a must-do ritual for many travelers. But whether it's a balm for flying anxiety or just a special treat pre-vacation, alcoholic drinks at the airport are often extremely expensive. A typical glass of wine can easily go for $15 to $20, while a beer is upwards of $8 (or more for craft brews). Mixed drinks are even more of a shock. If you need an excuse to persuade yourself away from having a cocktail or two, it’s been proven that drinking before a flight can actually increase anxiety and lead to worse jet lag in the long run. Save your cash for a celebratory margarita when you land at your destination instead.  

Foreign Currency

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One of the last things people think about when going on vacation is foreign cash. If you've forgotten it, don’t make the rash decision of exchanging at foreign exchange booths such as Travelex. You’ll be hit with high transaction or commission fees and pay far less favorable exchange rates. In an age when debit and credit card payments are accepted in the most remotes corners of the world, sometimes cash isn’t required at all. However, it’s always useful to have a few bills in your pocket for tips, taxis, and public transportation. Rather than giving in to the airport exchange houses, use a local ATM machine upon arrival. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the more favorable rates.


Credit: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

With smartphones forever in our pockets, we continually check emails, messages, and social media. While many airports offer free WiFi, it is usually for only a limited period. When the time is up, you’ll be asked for your credit card details to continue browsing at an extortionate fee. Resist the need and delight in a forced internet break by reading or people-watching. If you must log on, then search for non-password protected WiFi by sitting outside frequent flyer lounges, hotel lobbies, and restaurants or give one of these airport WiFi hacks a try.

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