A Few Simple Quick Ways to Save Money Traveling

By: Chris Gorrie | Published: Feb 21, 2024

Let’s take a look at some tips from former flight attendants who’ve acquired special insights into maximizing savings for air travel.

These tips, mostly learned through flight attendant experience and shared among colleagues, can greatly increase your journey’s cost-effectiveness. Here are some essential pieces of advice for passengers looking to make the most of their travel budget.

Wait Until You’re at the Airport to Upgrade

Purchasing an economy ticket and opting for an upgrade at the airport can be a savvy move. 

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A corridor in an airport. People are walking with rolling luggage and carrying handbags.

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Waiting until you reach the airport to request an upgrade, either at the counter or gate, can significantly reduce the upgrade cost.

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Arrive Early and You Might Even Upgrade at No Cost

In certain scenarios, especially with an empty flight or loyalty program perks, you might even score a business class upgrade at no extra charge. 

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A close-up image of a passport with a plane ticket inside of it.

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The key is to be polite to the staff and arrive early to secure available business seats.

Skip Overpriced Bottled Water at the Airport

Airport expenses can quickly add up, and purchasing bottled water is one area where you can save.

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Rows and rows of bottled water. Only the top quarter of the bottles and their caps are visible.

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Rather than spending money on expensive airport water, bring an empty bottle through security and utilize water fountains in the terminal. Flight attendants are often willing to refill your bottle during the flight, ensuring you stay hydrated without breaking the bank.

Bring Your Own Food on the Plane

There’s no need to splurge on airport food when you can bring your own. Many people are hesitant to carry food through security, but as long as it’s solid (like a sandwich), it’s TSA-approved.

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A brown takeout container with a thin metal handle sitting against a pure white background.

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Some pre-security restaurants even advertise TSA-approved foods. For international travelers, consuming perishable items before landing in a new country can prevent issues with customs regulations.

Freeze Your Liquids to Avoid Baggage Fees

When faced with liquids exceeding the 3-ounce limit, consider freezing them to pass through security as solids. 

A close-up image of a large pile of ice cubes.

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This tactic can save you from having to check a bag and incur additional fees. Proper storage should prevent any issues, even if the liquid thaws slightly during your journey.

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Online Shopping vs. Duty-Free

Duty-free shops may be tempting, but the savings are often overstated. Onboard duty-free catalogs are not a better alternative either. 

A duty-free shop in an airport advertising perfumes, liquors, tobacco, and sweets.

Tamar Mazpi/Wikimedia Commons

Take the time to explore online options, where better deals can often be found, providing you with a more cost-effective shopping experience.

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Strategic Ticket Booking

While there’s no foolproof recipe for securing the cheapest flight, consider some strategies. 

A planner is open to a calendar and an uncapped highlighter is lying across the page.

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Tuesdays and Wednesdays are known for lower ticket prices, and flexibility with travel dates can open up more budget-friendly options. Take the time to explore different dates on the calendar rather than fixating on a specific day.

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Avoid Onboard Purchases While Flying

Onboard purchases are notorious for being overpriced, and this trend has continued amid the pandemic, with some airlines suspending hot food services. 

A photo taken down the aisle of a commercial airplane. You can see passengers' arms and the blurred form of a flight attendant at the end of the aisle.

Kenny Eliason/Unsplash

Save money by bringing snacks or meals from home or your hotel. Purchasing onboard snacks can be costly and may not constitute a satisfying meal.

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Beware of Airport Parking Costs

Driving to the airport might seem convenient, but parking costs can quickly accumulate, especially for longer trips. 

An airport parking lot outside of an airport in the UK. You can see an EasyJet airplane in the background.

Matthew Hatton/Wikimedia Commons

Consider alternatives like reaching out to family or friends for a ride, which is the most economical choice. Taxis are often cheaper than parking fees, and for those with extra time, booking affordable parking near the airport with shuttle service can be a wise compromise.

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Exchange Currency Wisely

Exchanging money at the airport is rarely the best option. Rates are often unfavorable compared to banks or shopping malls. 

The outside of a currency exchange shop in Moldova. Electric signs show currency rates for various countries, and small red arrow signs with “exchange” written on them in gold point toward the shop.

D-Stanley/Wikimedia Commons

If you plan ahead, banks or malls offer steadier rates for currency exchange. In a pinch, get enough currency for immediate needs at the airport and head to a local bank for better rates.

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Airline Loyalty Pays Off

Staying loyal to one airline or a group of affiliated airlines can yield numerous benefits.

A Delta Airlines Diamond Medallion card attached to a piece of luggage.

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By opening a bonus card with them, you not only accumulate miles for future flights but also enjoy perks such as free checked bags, upgrades, and access to lounges with complimentary food and drinks.

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