Avoid $5 Bottled Water, Plus Other Ways to Save Money at the Airport

Women wait in line at the airport.
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You spend enough on vacation as it is.

The last thing you need is to blow $5 on bottled water, $75 on parking and $200 for an overweight suitcase at the airport.

When you’re trying to get from the curbside to the terminal, here are seven hacks to help you save money at the airport.

7 Money-Saving Tips for When You’re Traveling Through Airports

1. Pack Food From Home

You’ll pay a premium buying meals at airport restaurants or snacks from the kiosk by your gate. Be proactive instead and bring munchies from home.

Choose food options that hold up well without refrigeration, aren’t messy and won’t upset your stomach while flying. Avoid liquids and gels, and be prepared to separate your food items out of your carry-on bag when going through the TSA security line.

2. Bring an Empty Water Bottle

Packing an empty water bottle in your carry-on is the airport hack for getting around the exorbitant prices for bottled water. Once you get through the security checkpoint, just head to your nearest water fountain to fill it up.

Use a filtered bottle if you don’t want to drink tap water, or check to see if your airport has filtered water-bottle filling stations. Another way to get filtered water is to ask restaurant vendors to fill your bottle. They may refuse if you’re not a paying customer, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

3. Park Away From the Airport

Parking at the airport is notoriously expensive, even when you choose the economy lot. Parking off site means you need to leave a little earlier, but you’ll save some cash.

You can typically find independently run parking lots near major airports where the daily rates are less — and they offer shuttle service.

Another option is to take public transportation to the airport, parking at the transit system’s park-and-ride lot. Be sure to verify that the lot allows vehicles to stay overnight.

4. Prepay for Luggage

It’s a total drag that most airlines now charge for checked bags and carry-ons. But when you’re booking your flight, you’ll often get an offer to pay for your bags at the time of purchase instead of at the airport — when it would cost more.

5. Rent Out Your Car While You’re On Vacation

Car-sharing services like Turo and TravelCar allow you to rent out your car when you’re not using it.

You can arrange to drop your car off near the airport when you’re heading on vacation and require it to be back before you get home. Instead of paying for parking, you can be making money off your car.

6. Bring an Empty Bag to Avoid Overweight Fees

Stuffing your suitcase can come with an expensive penalty. Some airlines charge more than $100 for heavy luggage.

Even if you manage to keep your suitcase within the weight limit on the departing flight, buying new things on vacation may bump your luggage overweight on the return trip.

Generally, the cost of checking an extra bag is cheaper than an overweight baggage fee, though it depends on the airline. Pack an empty book bag or duffel bag (something that’s lightweight and can be easily flattened or rolled up in your main luggage), so you can load stuff in a second bag rather than get hit with an overweight fee.

7. Tie a Colorful Ribbon to Your Suitcase

In a sea full of dark-colored cases on a conveyor belt, you want your luggage to stand out — but this airport hack isn’t just so you can find your bag quickly.

You want your suitcase to be distinct from others so someone else doesn’t accidentally make off with your belongings. Something as simple as a colorful ribbon, patterned tie or distinct shoelace can help set your luggage apart without investing in a custom suitcase.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.