You have to arrive at the airport a couple of hours early to ensure enough time for check in, security check and boarding. If you are on a tight budget, you can not afford unnecessary expenses, and – believe yme – most of the money people spend in airports is unnecessary.

imageBetween your tasks at the airport, you will be inundated with opportunities to spend money on everything from food to newspapers to plush animals wearing t-shirts advertising the city you are in. There are jewelers, art dealers and even high end clothing stores in the terminals.

Worst of all, there are hidden charges and fees just waiting to suck resources from your wallet.

There are plenty of opportunities to spend your money in an airport, here are some ways to save it.

Don’t buy any food or drink

The food and beverage vendors at most airports charge about 18 percent more for their menu items than the same franchise on the outside. For example, a call to a McDonald’s in town, revealed their meal that includes a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries and a soda sells for $5.69, while the same meal in the airport food court a couple of miles away is  $7.19. It’s the same food, the same service, the same everything except it costs a lot more to operate a franchise on the inside.

Either eat before you get to the airport or bring a snack with you and dine at your leisure after you’ve checked in. Bring an empty water bottle (if you bring a full one, it won’t make it through security)  and fill it up at a water fountain once you’re settled at the gate. Not only is the food you bring from home cheaper, you can also make sure it’s healthier.

Bring your own reading materials

Once you’ve been through security and have settled at the gate, boredom generally sets in. You’ve snacked, filled your water bottle and tried to make friends with those around you. Now what?

Oh look, the newsstand. Books, magazines, newspapers and other reading materials beckon. A plethora of reading at a substantial mark up. You could stand at the shelf and flip through all the magazines, reading all the articles that interest you, but I can tell you from experience, the shopkeeper will ask you to leave just as you get to the key point of what you’re reading – besides, it’s rude.

Load up your reader, gather the magazines you’ve been meaning to get to or bring today’s paper in your carryon. You will have a lot more money to spend on your travels if you bring your reading materials with you.

Be ready for emergencies

Before you go to the airport, make sure you’re ready for all contingencies. Throw some aspirin, bandages,  anti-nausea medication and such into your bag. Make sure you have a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste well. The vendors in the airport are going to tack on a hefty surcharge to anything you buy, so you are going to get a real headache when you see the bill for the headache remedy.

Know what not to bring
The TSA has published a list of items that are banned from carry on luggage. There are restrictions on the size of liquids and gels, for example. If you try to bring a large bottle of shampoo, it’s going to get tossed. If you bring banned items only to have them thrown away, it’s wasted money.

Playing by the rules will save you money. Security personnel are not going to cut you any slack, so don’t waste their time and your money. Pack right.

Lighten your load
Most airlines are charging for any checked bags ($25 to $30 per bag and even more if they are overweight. Pack only the essentials. If you can put all your stuff in a carryon, so much the better. We never check a bag no matter how long the trip.

Not only does traveling without checked luggage save you money, it saves you the time of waiting for your bags at the carosel.

A little advance planning is the key to saving money when you travel. Don’t waste your money in the airport. Save it for the fun stuff.