As wonderful and enriching as travel is, the part where you’re actually traveling tends to be less so. Most of us aren’t fans of airports in particular, and for a good reason — they’re stressful, you have to show up hours early for your flight, and everything costs more than it should. However, there are ways to make the most of your time and money. If you’re looking to save a bit of both the next time you head to the airport, follow these tips.
Don’t Check Bags
Checking luggage has grown increasingly expensive in recent years. Besides Southwest, which allows two free checked bags, most airlines charge at least $30 for your first, $40 for the second, and $100 for the third — fees that add up over multiple journeys. It’s less costly if you pay in advance, but that doesn’t account for the extra time dropping it off and picking it up at the airport, in addition to the possibility of the airline losing your precious cargo. While relying on a carry-on requires you to travel light and put your Tetris skills to good use when it comes time to pack, it’s always worth the ease of mind.
Exchange Money Before Your Trip
In order to avoid exorbitant service fees and poor exchange rates, exchange your currency before you get to the airport. Your best bet is to change your American dollars at your bank or credit union, and aggressively budget — you can always exchange the money back. And if you’re running low, you can always get more from an ATM but be prepared for a foreign transaction fee.
Sign Up For TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
If you’ve ever wondered whether TSA PreCheck is worth it, the short answer is yes — especially if you’re a frequent flyer. Signing up is easy and costs $78 for a five-year membership. After filling out the online application, you’ll receive an email in a few days stating if your application was accepted. Then, you’ll have a short in-person interview at one of the local enrollment centers. Once enrolled, you get to skip the regular security line and no longer have to take off your shoes or remove the electronics from your bag.
If you find yourself abroad often, Global Entry affords you all the benefits of PreCheck, as well as expedited customs screenings when re-entering the U.S. While the application process is a bit more difficult, it costs just $22 more than PreCheck ($100 for five years).
Or Sign Up For CLEAR
If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between PreCheck and CLEAR, here’s the skinny: CLEAR is a private company — not a government entity — and signing up for its services allows you to bypass security entirely. Instead, you go to their kiosk, where your biometric information is verified. It’s more expensive than PreCheck — $189 per year — but several credit card companies will reimburse you for one or both programs.
However, CLEAR isn’t just for airports. The program is also available at certain stadiums, which is great for people who attend lots of sporting events. If you can afford it and travel often, signing up for PreCheck and CLEAR is a good idea.
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Pouring out liquids before the security screening often means that you may find yourself needing to buy water at one of the airport’s many shopping kiosks. Save yourself the time and inflated prices — bring along an empty, reusable water bottle that you can refill while waiting for your flight. While you’re at it, bring solid food items, such as snack mix and granola bars, to avoid buying an overpriced bag of chips at the convenience store.
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