Air Travel Checklist for the Frugal Minded Traveler

So you spent hours finding the best bargain air fare and are now a very proud owner of an incredibly priced air ticket for your next business/vacation jaunt. But if you don’t watch out, all your efforts will be undermined by what you spend at the airport!!! Here is a simple checklist I put together based on our recent weekend trip to help avoid some unnecessary expenditure during air travel.

Take a bottle of water!
I usually do this, but this time we left for the airport in such a hurry that I didn’t think of it until it was too late. In the airport I decided to buy a bottle of water. Guess how much it cost? $3 + change!!! For a half liter bottle!!! You can get a case of 24 bottles for that price in the local grocery store! Everything is just too expensive in the airport! (Update: Please check comments below which indicate that even sealed water bottles are not allowed through security! Thanks Plonkee, Grad Girl and Strange bird for pointing it out.)

Pack a snack/meal
Earlier, airlines used to provide meals when your flight was longer than 3 hours or so. On shorter flights you would usually get peanuts or other snacks. These days most airlines operate in major cost cutting modes, and hence no longer offer these things that we took for granted earlier. If you want to have a meal on the flight, you have to pay extra. If you are lucky, they may serve you a tiny sachet of mini-pretzels (which by the way, I detest). So unless you want to pay $3 for a snack pack or $5 for a skinny sandwich, pack you own snacks or sandwich or fruits.

Carry a magazine or book
I had my book this time. But the better half forgot his. Since I had stopped to pick up water anyway, he decided to pick up a newspaper and a magazine. Between the water and the reading material, by the time we walked out that store we had bid adieu to a $10 bill and some change :( I think we still got away easy, since the girl in front for us in the checkout line bought stuff worth close to $40! And no, she was not buying any souvenirs or anything. All she had was a book and drink, a pack of trail mix and I think a chap stick! So, carry your magazine or book with you. Even if you vow to buy only a newspaper at the store, you never know what you will “remember” once you are inside the store. Better to avoid the trip to the airport book store all together than risk spending money on unnecessary stuff.

Check your carry on luggage for banned items such as lotions, perfumes etc.
This one really bothered me :( I carry a lot of junk in my handbag - you never know when you will need a bottle of lotion or hand sanitizer etc. So, on my trip up, I had made sure that all the stuff I had in my handbag met the 3oz per bottle limit and were in a neat Ziploc bag. But somewhere during the weekend my (new and relatively expensive) big tube of sunscreen lotion had found its way into my hand bag. And while we walked past the security it raised red flags. The lady asked if she could open my bag to search it, and found the offending lotion. I had no choice but to let her confiscate it. Fortunately, it was just a bottle of sun screen lotion. If it was one of the expensive perfumes or lotions, it would have sent a dagger right through my heart to watch her throw it away in the bin of banned items!

Make sure you carry the charger for cell phone, laptop in your hand luggage
These are more for contingencies than a real necessity. But if you are on a work trip and need to use your laptop or phone while you are in the airport, make sure you take your chargers in your carry-on luggage. You never know when a flight might be delayed or cancelled or how long you will be stuck in an airport. Most airports have abundant power supply outlets that you can plug into. So make sure you carry your charger with you.

If you take a rental car, make sure you top off the tank before returning.
If you do not top off the tank before returning your car, the rental companies will do it for you. Only, they are a lot worse than the oil companies and charge you almost twice the cost of gas at the pump. So, always, make sure you have enough time on your trip to the airport to fill gas! Another tip here is to try and fill the gas at a pump away from the airport. I have noticed that as you get closer to the airport, the gas prices seem to increase. This may be a one off thing, but, we are still glad we filled our gas at a pump on the way which had cheaper gas than those by the airport.

For longer trips, carry your own head phones
I have made a few international and cross-country trips. During such long trips, a good set of headphones in a life saver. Not only can you keep yourself occupied through in-flight entertainment, but if you have an excessively chatty and nosy person sitting next to you, having the headphones on, is a subtle way saying “shut up, and leave me alone” :) It used to be that airlines used to offer passengers with complimentary set of headphones before. But recently, I have noticed that more and more airlines charge you for it. So, if you have a long flight, make sure you take your head phones with you.

Ok, that’s all I have for now. If I think of anything more, I will continue to add to this list. If you have some items on your checklist that don’t appear here, or if you have some interesting stories about the items listed above, please do share by leaving a comment below.

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plonkee said...

But you can't take water from outside with you through security. You need to drink it all before you check in, or purchase it expensively airside.

GradGirl said...

plonkee: is that true if the bottle is still sealed and packed in your bag? that stinks.

Great ideas here, though!

Strange Bird said...

I had the same experience as plonkee. I've had to buy my water in the airport, because they've made me throw out the (sealed) bottles I've brought.

Although, I've found they'll let you get quite a bit of free water on the flight--drinks being the only thing they don't charge for (as long as they are not alcoholic).

ispf said...

Plonkee, Gradgirl and Strange bird: Wow, I hadn't realized that sealed water bottles were also banned! Thanks for pointing that out! In that case, I am glad I did not take any water with me... the only thing worse than buying expensive water is being forced to throw away your inexpensive water first!!!

Strange bird: We had a long wait before our flight and were very thirsty. Next time around though, I think I might look for a water fountain to tide me over till we board the flight!!! $3+ for a couple of gulps of water is a bit much for my frugal taste...

mapgirl said...

Yes, you cannot carry any water with you through the security gate. You must buy it inside and consume it before you get on the plane. Heck, in some airports, they have to open it for you and do not return the cap. (True story. It happened to me at SEA while I was traveling last year. I guzzled a liter in 5 minutes flat.)

Emma said...

Yup, we were reminded at the screening by security to throw away any liquids, water or soda.

I was talking to a co-worker about the companies that are seeing an increase in profits, i.e. Ziploc and whoever makes the travel size lotions and such.