In between shopping for our new holiday wardrobe and getting to wear it while relaxing on the beach, there’s something we must all put up with first – the airport. We’re pretty sure that no-one looks forward to the airport stage of their journey (and those that do probably have an assistant taking care of everything while they put their feet up in the departure lounge). With people rushing about, the endless queues at security and the fear you’ll miss your flight – airports are not a nice place to be.
And as if travelers weren’t stressed enough about the idea of losing their passport or learning that their flight has been canceled, some airports like to add to it by charging for every little thing. If you’re not careful, you can end up spending as much as the cost of your flight ticket on all the hidden costs waiting for you at the airport. So, what kind of money traps do airports like to set for travelers? Where to begin…
Everything from getting your boarding pass to using your phone in the airport can sap away at your travel funds (and this is before you’ve even hopped on your plane!). Sneaky airport charges are particularly prevalent on budget airlines, so if you’re flying on the cheap this year, be sure to do as much research as you can and find passenger reviews to scout out hidden charges. In the meantime, here are 20 sly airport costs you need to watch out for.
20 Printing Your Boarding Pass
Ever wondered how budget airlines manage to sell flights at nearly half the rate of their competitors and not go bust? It’s quite simple – they charge passengers for pretty much every other aspect of their journey. Even things that should be a given once you arrive at the airport, like say, your boarding pass.
That’s right. Certain low-cost airlines can actually charge a hefty price for your boarding pass!
Some budget airlines give travelers the option to print out a paper boarding pass at home or to download one to their phone in the airline app. Failure to do either will sometimes mean using the airport’s own ticket machine, which also means parting with between $20-50 depending on which budget airline you go with.
19 Pack Extra And Prepare To Pay Extra
As tempting as it might be to cram in a different outfit for every day of your summer vacay, you might want to step back and learn to minimize a little, because all that extra baggage may come back to bite you in the behind at the airport.
Every airline is different, but in most cases, any checked luggage that exceeds the weight limit can result in fees ranging from an extra $25 to $100!
To be crystal clear about your luggage weight allowances, use a scale at home, and take a handheld weighing scale with you to make sure you haven’t overpacked on the souvenirs too!
18 Being Dropped Off? Make Your Goodbyes Quick!
Airports can be very emotional places with families reuniting and long-distance couples returning to their respective homes, but the airline industry clearly has no room for sentiment, which might explain why some airports actually charge people for long drop-off times!
Any farewell that isn’t kept brief clearly has some airports rattled, because many airports are beginning to charge people for taking too long at the drop-off and pick-up points. To keep traffic at a minimum, some UK airports charge up to £4.50 ($6) for drop-offs longer than 10 minutes and US airports are following suit, with Boston and Dallas/Fort Worth international imposing $2-4 fees for lengthy drop-off times.
17 The Airport Wi-Fi Is Best Avoided
Whether we need to access some important travel docs or just want to kill time on social media while waiting around at the gate, most travelers will be glued to their phones at the airport at some point, but whatever you do, don’t assume that an airport’s free Wi-Fi service is entirely “free”.
Similarly to a hotel’s Wi-Fi service, “free” airport Wi-Fi may only stretch to a complimentary 30 minutes. After that, many will charge around $5 for an hour’s use and $12-15 for an entire day,
so if your flight’s been delayed and you want to while away boredom on the airport Wi-Fi, find other ways to kill time! Also, save any important docs on your phone so you can access them in offline mode.
16 Buying Last-Minute Currency At The Airport
No savvy traveler would book their accommodation at the airport unless it was an emergency, so don’t leave something as important as your foreign currency till the last minute either. Buying your currency from an airport desk will mean paying astronomical rates – you may end up losing up to $100 in potential spending money for your trip!
Always plan ahead by doing your research on travel money comparison sites first and considering your local bank for your foreign currency. Take the time to compare over 30 different bureau de change outlets to save yourself time and a heap of your vacay funds.
15 The Cost Of Last-Minute Airport Parking
If you’ll be leaving your car behind in the airport’s own parking lot, this should carry as much consideration and planning as booking your flight. Just as you wouldn’t buy a plane ticket at the desk, neither should you turn up and find a parking space on the day you travel. Not only is there no guarantee of a free spot on some days, but you can be charged an eye-watering fee for on-the-day parking.
Most airports will let you book your parking space in advance and if not, make sure you shop around for any discounts and offers on coupon sites. On the day parking can cost you twice as much so if you can, come prepared!
14 Grabbing A Specific Plane Seat
As long as you book your flights well in advance, most airlines will allow passengers to pre-book their plane seats. But if the mood strikes you to book a last-minute flight off into the sunset, selecting a specific airline seat may cost you, so if you’d like to ensure a seat next to your partner or children, aim to book at least 12 weeks in advance for a free seat reservation.
Depending on how late you book before you’re due to fly, budget airlines such as AirTran and Allegiant airways will charge passengers between $11 and $15 for a specific seat on the plane
and this can increase to as much as $20 for passengers selecting an exit row seat.
13 Being Charged For Hand Luggage
There was a time when passengers were only charged for their checked hold luggage that is stored in the actual plane, but today, even hand luggage can carry a fee if it’s over the weight and size restrictions (and sometimes, even if it’s not!).
It’s worth noting that not all airlines impose fees for carry-on luggage, but it’s always worth checking to make sure you’re not caught out. Even the stingiest of airline companies won't charge passengers for taking on a small handbag with only room for a purse, keys and phone, but if you’re planning on lugging a holdall filled to max capacity, know that no matter how easily it fits in the overhead bins, some airlines could slap you with an extra $25-50 before boarding.
12 The Real Cost Of Taking Too Many Toiletries
To keep in line with safety and security guidelines, any toiletries you pack in your hand luggage need to be in a clear plastic bag and strictly within the 100ml (or 3.4 oz) requirements and this often means having to buy a ton of mini toiletry products at the supermarket.
While buying miniature versions of your toiletries can be a quick and easy way to pack for your holidays, it’s certainly not the cheapest method. It might be more time consuming, but transferring your favorite shampoos and other creams and liquids into TSA-approved sized containers can save you so much money in the long run. Plus, that tall bottle of hairspray you can’t part with? Just pack it in your hold luggage.
11 Water At The Airport Shops
The inside of a plane can be notoriously dry and dehydrating, so water is a must for any traveler who wants to avoid a headache when they land (or especially during a long-haul flight). While flight attendants might happily serve you tap water, it usually comes in meager portions, so the obvious solution is to bring a bottle with you.
But whatever you do, don’t buy your water supply from the airport! At $5 for a small bottle, airport water is officially the biggest rip-off in the building.
To save money, take an empty bottle of water through security to fill up at a water fountain before you board – or by asking a restaurant staff worker if they’ll fill it up for you.
10 Know When To Use Your Air Miles
Those in possession of an air miles card can seem like the envy of all other passengers since they get to jet off for a discounted price (sometimes entirely free), but using air miles doesn’t necessarily afford users the same freedom all year round.
Frequent flyer miles are very much a ”use it or lose it” kind of deal, and if you don’t redeem them within a certain time frame in the run-up to your travel date, it can work out to having saved no money at all! A last-minute flight will be twice as expensive as one booked 12 weeks or more in advance. Add this to the fuel and airport fees you’ll incur and you may as well have paid without your miles at all!
9 The Price Of Baggage Fees On The Day Vs Online
Generally speaking, lots of things in life are more expensive when purchased on the actual day of the event. For example, you wouldn’t turn up to a concert or Disneyland Paris in the hopes of paying the same price as the die-hard fans who pre-ordered their tickets months before. Otherwise, we’d all be doing it. And the same goes for airport baggage costs.
According to the travel agency Cheap Air, most airports are deliberately driving up their baggage fees since many travelers are still paying their baggage fees at the airport as opposed to saving time and money by doing it online. When booking your flight, always check to see if you can pre-pay for your luggage to avoid this trap.
8 Paying Through The Neck For An Airport Travel Pillow
Gone are the days when your airline might have provided you with a neck pillow and a blanket free of charge to ensure a restful snooze for long-haul passengers – now, travel pillows are normally something you have to take with you on the flight and are typically sold in the terminal shops to tempt weary, forgetful flyers – but don’t fall into the trap!
For the cost of what is essentially a curved piece of foam, airport malls and drug stores will charge about $18-20 for a travel pillow almost identical to one you might find on Amazon for less than $12.
Be savvy and invest in a good value neck pillow for your flight, instead of replacing one pain in the neck with another.
7 The Nasty Surprise Of Secondary Airports
Cheap flights are a great find, but cheaper than cheap flights on budget airlines should usually be treated with caution. A budget flight to Paris may sound great on paper, but look closer and you might find that the airport’s location is a little further from the Eiffel tower than you might have hoped (about 80km further to be exact!).
This is because low-cost airlines will often be headed to secondary airports outside the city so that enticingly cheap ticket to the Big Apple could actually be closer to New Jersey than it is to New York City – resulting in a costly journey to get to your intended destination.
6 Not So Helpful Airport Trolley Charges
If you’re traveling in large groups or you simply can’t bear the phrase ‘travel light’, you’re probably going to be carrying a lot of luggage with you and if this is the case, you may end up needing to use an airport baggage cart. But with most airports charging around $3 per cart, that can add up – especially if you’ve got many legs on your journey!
The cost to hire the baggage carts can sometimes be refunded to passengers on their return, but if not, a large family or group could be shelling out an extra $10 each way for no good reason. To avoid dragging multiple cases around the airport, opt for hard shell luggage on four wheels as these offer more room in addition to making it easier to maneuver.
5 Booking Your Trip By Phone Vs Online
We’re sure that the majority of modern travelers book their flights online or through an airline app, but if, for whatever reason, you were thinking about booking your flights over the phone – hang up right now! If you know an elderly friend or relative who’s planning a trip and perhaps prefers to arrange things the traditional way, know that
they could be throwing away close to $40 in travel agent fees!
When you call an airline to book your flight, you can be charged a fee anywhere between $15 and $35. In fact, some new flight bookings made over the phone can amount to an extra $39 per ticket. Being set in your ways really can cost you sometimes!
4 The Hidden Extras At The Car Hire Desk
If you’ve hired a car for your week’s holiday, then depending on your circumstances, you might be in need of some extras to go along with it. If you’re a couple planning a road trip, perhaps you just need insurance, or if you’re a family with young kids, you might need a child car seat. Whatever your needs, don’t rock up to the airport hire car desk to request them, as you’ll be parting with a small fortune!
To avoid giving in to airport-price extras because of jet lag and a desire to get your trip started asap, be sure to book any extras with your hire car company in advance. Online prices are far kinder and will let you view your options at a glance.
3 Paying The Cost Of A New Book For A Magazine
A lot of travelers will opt for reading their kindle on a flight or flipping open their laptop to catch up on some work, but if you’re the kind of flyer who just wants a bit of casual reading material while away, a magazine is perfect – just not one bought from the airport shop. Ever.
Your favorite glossy mag that’s normally super cheap at the convenience store can cost you triple that amount in the airport terminal mall.
When you realize that you’re paying almost as much for a new bestseller as you are for a trashy celeb gossip mag to get you through one flight, you know you've been ripped off big time.
2 Checking In With Budget Airlines
It’s terrifying but important to know that many budget airlines can actually charge you for the simple act of checking in to the airport. Leave baggage fees and printing out your boarding pass aside – some low-cost carriers can charge you for just turning up! For this reason, cheaper airlines will normally insist that passengers check in online, but since this isn’t always advertised in bright bold letters, a lot of travelers can get stung with a surprise check-in fee.
If you have the option to go through the check-in process online, always opt for this instead of at the airport desk. As well as sparing yourself some queuing time during busy periods, you could be saving yourself up to $50 in check-in charges.
1 Lose Or Forget Your Headphones? Yours For A Not-So Small Fee
Once upon a time, a free pair of headphones, a sleep mask and a complimentary drink might have been waiting for you on board a flight. Today, however, the only free items on an average passenger plane are the sick bags, the in-flight magazine and a teensy cup of water.
Anything else usually has a price tag attached to it, so if you don’t want to be charged anywhere between $3-5 per flight to kick back with your favorite playlist, we’d advise taking a spare set with you just in case. (Even buying a pair at the airport would cost you less in the long run!).