The Best Way to Save Money on Food at the Airport (and the Amenity You Should Never Buy)

You may love traveling, but there’s no doubt that jet-setting from country to country can get seriously expensive. Not only do you have to pay for all of your travel expenses and lodgings once you arrive at your destination, but you may end up dropping a lot of cash at the airport without even realizing it — especially when you’re hungry.

Airport food can be double or triple the cost of what you would normally pay at home. Luckily, there are ways you can keep your stomach from growling and more money in your pocket all at once.

The best money-saving tip for food: Know how to pack your own

Trail mix on wooden background

Trail mix on wooden background | HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Seem obvious? There are actually quite a few foods that can be taken when you go through airport security, so you should know the best foods to bring along with you if you hope to avoid the overpriced airport offerings. Here’s what MintLife Blog recommends you have:

Sandwiches with no condiments: A sandwich can be the perfect pre-flight meal, especially if it’s packed with veggies, protein, and on whole-grain bread. But you need to make sure the sandwich you’re bringing with you through security is dry. Hold the condiments until you’re headed toward your terminal. Then, feel free to go to one of the airport food stands and ask for some mayo or mustard.

Make your own trail mix: It’s totally customizable, easy to bring with you, and lasts without any refrigeration, which is why trail mix is a traveler’s best friend. Make sure you’re adding plenty of nuts and seeds in your blend for a protein boost that will keep you full while you’re waiting at your terminal. And if you suspect your carry-on bag may get hot, skip the chocolate pieces.

Dried oatmeal or soup mixes: If you want something more substantial than just snacks, then packets of dried oatmeal or soup mix is a great alternative. You can get hot water from a food stall after security or on the airplane to have a delicious, warm, and cheap meal of your own.

Other advice you should follow

Starbucks sign at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport

Starbucks sign at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport | Southtownboy/iStock/Getty Images

Perhaps you forgot all of your snacks at home, or the thought of packing your own meals alluded you before your travels. There are other ways to save money on airport food even if you choose to buy it.

Go to the convenience store for snacks: It may seem counterintuitive to head to an in-airport CVS (or equivalent) for food, but you can actually get healthy and cheap on-the-go snacks here. Sandwiches and salads are typically between $6 and $12, but if you choose a filling snack such as nuts or beef jerky, this may only set you back $5-$7.

Stick to restaurant chains you know: Now’s not the time to try the new Italian restaurant in the airport. Restaurant chains have certain standards they’re expected to hold no matter if they’re in an airport or not, which means the food quality should be what you expect. We don’t suggest you go for a Big Mac, but a simple McDonald’s cheeseburger or McMuffin should do the trick.

Skip the alcohol: If your flight is delayed, we know how tempting the airport bars look. But they can cost you serious cash (and, of course, make you foggy for the rest of the day). Also, if you’re planning on sleeping on your flight, definitely skip the bar. Alcohol may seem like it puts you right to sleep, but it actually impedes your ability to get quality sleep, making you more tired than you would have been if you just stuck with juice or water.

Skip the “fresh” produce: If you’re eyeing up the fresh produce stands at the airport, you may want to think twice. Odds are good that the produce has been sitting out all day and multiple people have already touched it. Packaged snacks are less likely to make you ill.

The one amenity you don’t need to buy: Water

Do yourself (and your wallet) a favor and travel with a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of places in the airport where you can refill it after airport security, and you certainly don’t want to be buying a $5 bottle of water if you don’t have to. Not to mention it’s more than likely you’ll be able to get as much water as you want during your flight.

If you forgot your reusable bottle, then buy one plastic bottle once and keep it with you for the duration of your trip. It could end up saving you $20-$30 in the long run.

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