My husband and I both travel extensively by plane. Whether it is for business or pleasure, we clock up quite a few flights per year, mix of national, short haul and long haul.
We have a carefully honed routine now and try to stick to it to avoid hassle. Money saving isn’t so importing when you are claiming everything on expenses but when everything you spend comes out of your own pocket, you’re a lot more careful, I assure you!
It is reported that 88% of people who pass through London’s Gatwick airport spend more than they intended to in the terminal! Ouch!
With that in mind, and with the start of the winter holiday season kicking off, I thought I’d share with you my favourite money saving tips for air travel.
Before you get to the airport.
Be sure to join mailing lists for the airport, your chosen parking provider and the duty free shops. You can get some really great money off coupons ready for your holiday.
If you require foreign currency, ordering via Travelex and collecting in the airport has always given us really great rates. If you have plenty of time, you can keep an eye out for Travelex’s frequent sales and promotions to really maximise your pennies. If you don’t have time to buy in advance, never buy from the airport as the walk up rates are never usually that good, hunt on the high street. I sometimes use M&S money.
Book your car parking in advance, you can use sites like Purple Parking. I always park in one of the shuttle services within the grounds of the airport. I can usually pick up a week’s safe + secure parking for between £30-£50 depending on location and time.
When deciding on which parking area to choose, I always strike a balance of one with a short connection time to the terminal (by bus and walking) but just far enough away for easy access from main routes because there is nothing worse than being stuck in a busy circular route to navigate the airport to get parked or landing back at 4am and having to wait 45 minutes for a shuttle bus for the 10 minute circular route when in fact you could walk in 2 minutes.
|Newcastle’s almost tiny airport
Sometimes, the onsite parking attached to the terminal is considerably more than others, yes it is handy to be in such close proximity if you have heavy luggage or small children but I once found out the hard way after paying £70 for parking that the route to terminal from the multi storey was so confusing and convoluted I probably could have been on a bus from the car park and in the queue to check in by the time I figured it out. Reading reviews of the airport and parking on Tripadvisor or parking websites is always handy if you haven’t visited it before.
If you are travelling from further afield to the airport, why not check out the local hotels. Most major airports have an onsite hotel, either joined to the terminal or in the grounds. Many of these offer stay + parking deals. For example, you need to be at the airport for 4am, you live 4hrs drive away and will be on a 12hr flight. Parking will cost £50 for the week. The onsite hotel may charge £90 for a room for the night before your flight, breakfast, parking AND a shuttle to the terminal. Yes it is £40 extra but you don’t have such a long trashy day to start your holidays and you can save money on the expensive terminal food by stocking up on a good hearty breakfast.
|A good breakfast could help you avoid airplane food!
Check the airport website and make a list of all the vendors you may want to visit, whether it is a pub, café or stand alone retail store. Often you can find money off vouchers on the airport website or on the company’s own site that will make airport time a little more purse friendly. You can find free coffee vouchers, 2 for 1 meal vouchers and money off spend coupons for duty free. All you will need is either a printer or a smart phone.
If you decide you want to shop in the airport always check the RRP on the high street with the sales price in the airport or plane (via the website or a phone call) and then work out how much it may cost in your destination. For example a lipstick costs £15 in Boots, £11 in the airport but £9 in the country you are going to. It always pays to do a little homework and you can potentially save a fair whack of cash for buying those delightful tacky souvenirs!!
At the Airport
I am one of those fanatical people that get to the airport for the minute check-in opens. For me, my holiday starts the minute I go through the magical revolving doors and step foot in to the brightly lit marble mecca. It sets me up for holiday relaxing. Because I get there so early, I always make sure I check out the shops I want to visit first before I start to make purchases because something even quite as small as a bottle of water can vary by up to £2 in price between the newsagent, duty free, the coffee shop and the Boots concession. It sounds penny pinching but we mainly fly long haul and like to take water with us, for 2 people for 12hrs, those extra £s can make a difference.
|Killing time, plane spotting!
To avoid having to buy water, we always take a folding water bottle each with us (invaluable when going to hot or developing countries where bottles aren’t as readily available). You can pop it in to your hand luggage and fill it up from drinking fountains once you are through security. It always comes in handy on the airplane if you want to stock up on water to save going back and forth to the galley, especially on night flights.
|Filling up our bottles with water, not a bad view eh? North East coast of America
If you get sick of water, I pop a little squirty bottle of water flavouring such as Go Splash concentrated cordial from Tesco
in my plastic liquids baggy. A couple of squirts makes up a pretty tasty squash and it is a saviour to quench thirst and to continue to use throughout the holiday. Again, a squirt of this in your refilled water bottle saves you money from buying drinks in the bar.
Airport lounges. We discovered these a few year ago and haven’t looked back since. Priced at around £20 per person, these can be an incredibly cost effective way to start your holiday. With alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, hot drinks and a myriad of snacks and hot food, it can sometimes work out cheaper to spend the money in a lounge and use their facilities to the fullest, than try to find a meal and few drinks and a comfy seat to sit in. Many lounges have zones for entertaining children so you won’t be pressured in to buying toys from the shops.
Back to shopping! Keep an eye out for brands special travel only offers. You can google your airlines online shopping brochures and Biza duty free to see if you can get a special edition or extra value pack. On a flight (to Cuba of all places!) I spotted a giant bumper jar of Elizabeth Arden 8hr cream in their inflight shopping. Never one to miss out a bargain, I bought it. The size vs cost was better than I could buy on the high street.
|He thinks he is funny!
If you have time to kill on connections, make sure you hunt out the wifi and charging points. Some planes now offer (paid) wi-fi onboard so if you plan to use it for working etc, make sure you are charged up and ready to go as the charging points aren’t always working. Sitting close to a starbucks or bar can grab you some free wi-fi and sometimes you can get 2/3hrs of wifi for the cost of a Coke in order to get the code.
If you are boarding an un-catered flight but don’t want to pay the extortionate charges for snacks on board, make sure you head to the Boots concession that most airports now have. You can pick up a Boots meal deal which is more than enough for a short haul flight. £3 versus up to £10 is a great saving, especially if you are a couple or family… and the choices are usually healthier and a little more exciting! If you have a layover but going on a catered flight, I sometimes grab a meal deal and keep it for the connection to save me having to hunt out food.
What are your favourite money saving tips for travel?