What To Buy At The Airport (And What To Avoid)

The airport is a minefield of up-ticked pricing, hidden fees, and impulse buys that feel like a good idea, but are actually kidney punches to your wallet. That said, lots of things for sale in the airport and during your flight are worth the money. They may not be cost-effective, but they make relative sense for the benefit of the product you receive. Here are our suggestions for how best to spend your money when navigating your travel days.

Overweight Luggage Fee: Yes

Lugging around a giant suitcase is only going to cause you problems. Between weaving around other travelers, fitting things into the overhead compartment, and God forbid having to open it up to get something inside, keeping your bag(s) with you to save on the $50 you’ll have to pay for overweight bag fees is ridiculous. One giant suitcase will change your life. Invest in one, throw everything but your laptop, book, and phone in it, and check that things at the front door. Yes, they’re going to charge you a bit extra, but what you’re losing in your wallet you’ll be saving in sanity for the rest of your day.

Bags Of Candy At Newsstands: No

Mom was right; you’ll ruin your appetite. Eating bags of candy, no matter how much of a cheat day you’re giving yourself, won’t end the way you think it will. Somewhere between the sugar headache and fidgeting on the plane, you’re going to regret your choices. Candy in an airport is also almost always overpriced too.

Fast Food In The Terminal: Yes

Eating in the terminal is recommended. It may be expensive, but it’s far better for your wallet than eating on the plane and far better for your body than more candy bags. One caveat to this is to not go with the sandwiches at the little stands. They’re always stale and never taste like anything but slightly chilled cardboard. Not all airports have one, but a name you’ve seen before is your best bet: Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, etc.  We’re not suggesting that Pizza Hut is particularly healthy at all, but it’s better to have something warm and filling once than bags of candy or a sandwich you’ll throw out two thirds of and order the cheese plate mid-flight.

Economy Plus Seating: No

This is the biggest sham. You think it’s first class. Nope. Economy plus is an option offered in most airlines that basically amounts to the slightest whisper of more legroom and a different shape of headrest. It’s a rouse, a sham, something there to bamboozle you. Don’t let them claim you as another victim. The hard truth is that if you book your flights based on what’s cheapest—like the rest of us—than anywhere in economy is going to be equally uncomfortable. It’s not like economy is a granite slab but economy plus is your plush sofa at home to sprawl out on.

Priority Boarding: Yes

While we advocate checking luggage, sometimes it’s just not necessary. Maybe you were only gone for a long weekend and can make the cut with one bag. In those instances, having priority boarding saves lots of time. Maybe it’s worth it because you can get your laptop set up to get some work. Maybe you want to secure some nice real estate for your bag so its not squishing that piece of art you just bought that’s in there. Priority boarding doesn’t affect the price of your seat, but still affords you the luxury of looking down on the rubes waiting in the standard ticket holder line.

Headphones: No

If an airline still has those two pronged headphone jacks—you need to find a better airline because those people live only to make others unhappy. Nobody needs new headphones in the modern era. While most airlines have TV’s and normal headphone jacks, spending money on something you have 168 pairs of back home somewhere is stupid. Not to mention, lots of airlines also offer special Wi-Fi connections for their online movie database, where you can watch the same movies or shows offered on normal in-headrest screens from your phone or tablet.

Wine: Yes

Two glasses of red wine can relax your nerves, calm you down, and make folding yourself into the economy class seats just a little less awful. It’ll also make Grown Ups 2 just a little more enjoyable. (But no promises.) Wine will also dehydrate you though, so it’s important to alternate between wine and water so you’re not falling to pieces when you deplane.

Liquor: No

Liquor on planes is overpriced, underserved, and won’t have the jovial effect you’re going for. It’ll dehydrate you far quicker than wine will and is more likely to give you a headache before it gets you buzzed.

Selected Seating Choices: Yes

A good rule of thumb when flying is that if you let the airline decide where you’ll be sitting, expect to sit in the worst seat possible. If you’re looking to sleep the whole flight, buy a window seat so you won’t get climbed over. If you fidget, get an aisle seat so you can walk around without disturbing people. If you prefer the middle seat, well, there’s just no understanding your masochistic ways.

In-Flight Wi-Fi: No

Flying is one of the only places where it’s still completely acceptable to not answer emails or phone calls or texts. “Sorry, I was on a flight” is never held against you when you finally get around to responding. Even if it were okay to spend money on a plane’s Wi-Fi, it’s the weakest signal known to man. Astronauts in the international space station have a stronger connection to the TGI Fridays in Bismarck, North Dakota than you do connecting to Boingo Go-Go from seat C15.

Extra Battery Pack: Yes

If you are stuck on the plane for a long time, and need to play games or watch movies on a phone or tablet, having that backup battery can be the difference between pleasantly passing the time and sheer boredom in its rawest form. Battery packs are often sold fully charged and available in Hudson News counters or other electronics vestibules. They may be pricey, but they can be worth their weight in gold. Take this on  a case-by-case basis. If you know you’re already entering the airport on 30%, maybe it’s worth it for an appliance you’ll use next time you’re in this situation.

Magazines: No

It’s 2018. It’s absolutely baffling that print magazines still exist at all. Is there a store for top hats and waistcoats somewhere in Terminal C?


Bottom Line

While the airport is designed to bleed you of as much money as possible, certain things are worth spending some money on. It just helps to know where to look.

Join The Plunge (Don’t Worry: It’s Free)

Even More Honeymoon