Whether you’re an early bird who likes to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, or are unfortunate enough to be stuck by travel delays, don’t fall into the trap of unduly spending your holiday money while waiting around in the airport.
Here are Moneywise’s top five tips of cutting the cost of waiting at the airport:
Bring your own food
With so many flights leaving early in the morning, it’s all too easy to not bother bringing any breakfast with you and instead grab something while you’re waiting to board. But restaurants and cafes in airport departure lounges benefit from having a captive market, and often charge more than you might expect to pay elsewhere.
Budget airlines increasingly now offer passengers food and drink - but, again, this comes at a cost.
Although you can’t take water or other drinks through to departures, you can pack some snacks – or a full-blown picnic – to keep you going before you get on the plane, instead of buying pricey airport food.
Andrew Hagger, communication manager at price comparison website Moneynet, says: "If you and your family are going to need to have something to eat before flying home, buy your sandwiches/snacks/drinks before you arrive at the airport – this offers far more choice and is a much cheaper option."
Pre–book your parking
Heathrow’s long-stay car parks cost £15.70 a day if you pay on the day, going down to £15.10 a day for stays over four days. However, if you pre-book, it would cost you, for example, £98.10 for a fortnight compared with £213.80.
In most cases, the major UK airports require 24 hours’ notice, but you can also go through independent websites, such as airport-parking-shop.co.uk, to check availability on the day of your departure. It is, however, normally cheaper to book as far ahead as possible, and for as little as £1 you can purchase a cancellation waiver that will ensure you get all your money back if you decide to terminate your trip.
To save money on parking, it’s worth researching if there are any other parking facilities in the area of your airport. These are likely to be cheaper but remember to find out how regular airport transfers are - especially if you have a very late or early inbound or outbound flight.
To find alternative car parks, try airport-parking.co.uk. Or go to parkatmyhouse.com and yourparkingspace.co.uk to rent someone’s driveway for a week, which could cost as little as £6 a day.
Finally, compare the total cost of driving (including parking and petrol) to the cost of taking public transport or, if you are travelling in a group, booking a taxi.
Shop till you drop
If you wish to take advantage of the duty free shops, just remember that the shops before passport control charge you tax, whereas those beyond don’t.
If you are a savvy shopper then you’ll know that you can sometimes pick up a discount in airport shops, especially for items such as digital cameras. Do some research ahead of your departure date to find out how much you could potentially save, and find out from the airport if it offers a service for you to leave your shopping and pick it up on your return.
While it is possible to make savings by shopping in an airport, don’t give in to impulse buys. According to Abbey, British holidaymakers spend a collective £1 billion replacing essential items that they've left at home, with sunglasses, swimwear and books topping the list.
If you have genuinely forgotten an essential item, then consider whether it might be cheaper to buy this when you get to your destination – for example, swimwear is often cheaper in foreign seaside resorts than it is on the high street in the UK.
And if you just happen to be passing a bookstore in the airport and are tempted by the latest thriller or autobiography ask yourself whether you really need another read on your break?
Forget changing money
It’s a mistake to leave changing your currency until you get to the airport, as you will always get a poor exchange rate in a captive market. You’d probably get a better deal by waiting until you arrive at your destination – even if it’s in a tourist area, the bureau de change will at least have to compete with each other to attract customers.
Or, even better, get all your holiday finances sorted ahead of packing your suitcase.
Your own bank is normally the most convenient place to change your money, as it can take your sterling payment straight out of your current account, but again you might not get the best exchange rate here. Compare the rates on offer with other high street providers, including Marks & Spencer Money and the Post Office, as well as online bureaux de change.
As well as comparing exchange rates, you should also take commission into account. Don’t automatically assume that commission-free exchanges will give you more money for your pounds. In order to be sure you are getting the best deal, ask how many units of currency you’ll receive for your bulk sterling payment.
Don’t get caught out with your baggage
Airlines are a lot stricter on baggage allowances now and if you are over the limit, you will have to pay a significant fine or repack your bags. For example, easyjet and Ryanair charge £9 and £15 respectively per kilogram of excess baggage.
To avoid paying this extra charge, weigh your luggage ahead of leaving for the airport. Remember, your bags may well be heavier on the way back, so take this into consideration before you decide if you need that extra beach towel.
Also remember that security rules mean you can’t take containers holding more than 100ml in liquids or pastes into the departure lounge in your hand baggage. You must also be able to carry all of your liquid items in a single transparent bag.
A quick look at the bins around the entrance to the departure lounge reveal the true cost of this rule, with hundreds of passengers forced to chuck away expensive body lotions, perfume and aftershave. Even the smaller items – bottles of water, toothpaste and lip balm – add up.
If you are putting a bag into the hold, then remember to pack all liquid items larger than 100ml in this luggage otherwise they will be confiscated. It you only have hand baggage then you will have to think carefully about what you are able to take on holiday with you – ditch the items you know you’ll be able to buy at your destination potentially for a lower price than they cost in the UK.