They tell you to be there hours before your flight. Upon entering, they steal your water and any food you brought that they can stick their fingers in. You get forced to pay for a spot for your bags because you don’t understand their luggage fee scheme. (Aren’t they just going to misplace the bag anyway?) What to do? You are not going to stop traveling, so stop bending over and arm yourself with these secret weapons that TSA can’t confiscate with their rubber gloves.
Bring a Bottle of Water: So they won’t let you bring it through security full, but guzzle it before security and bring the empty bottle through with you. Once inside, fill it up at a water fountain. (Average savings: $3) Bonus: I board the plane with it full so I can stay hydrated throughout the flight, and many flight attendants will refill it on board.Lounge Access: By flying the same airline, you accumulate rewards and can use them to get free airport lounge access. In these peaceful oases, they offer free drinks, snacks, and sometimes other amenities like internet, showers, and magazines/newspapers. If you do not have free access to the lounge, you can, in theory, (yes, I have done this) make friends with other travelers who do, since members can bring one to two companions with them. (Average savings: $20) Bonus: If you can recognize celebrities (I can’t), they sometimes hang out here (or so they tell me).
Baggage Fees: If you fly the same carrier and earn elite status, many airlines offer these “better” customers free checked bags. Normally, it takes just 5 coast-to-coast round trips in a calendar year to earn this status. Otherwise, you can pack strategically, wearing your bulkiest clothes on the plane and minimal other items in your carry-on.Some items to help are Garment Guard disposable underarm shields, (under)Garment Guard disposable adhesive underwear, and White Collar Grime disposable collar protectors. (www.SolutionsThatStick.com) These enable you to keep key parts of your clothing clean so you can re-wear, cutting down on the amount of stuff you have to schlep. (Average savings: $30 between bag fees and cleaning bill)
Alternately, you can ship your bags ahead of time. UPS charges their normal rates if you put your suitcase in a box, or if you give it to them as is, they charge $7.50 per bag. Just allow for travel time. And on losing parcels, UPS has a way better track record than the airlines. My friend was flying to NYC with a lot of stuff. It only cost her $100 to ship two 64-pound bags to her hotel. She checked one on the plane for $15 and was able to take the subway into the city for $7 instead of paying $60 for the cab. (Savings: Second checked bag $15, overweight fee $25, 3rd bag $100= $193 each way!) Bonus: You can also do this if you go on a shopping spree away from home. Ask the stores if they will ship it for you.
Reading Material: If you don’t have any sitting around at home, ask someone around you to borrow one. And, if you have something you have finished, ask around to see if anyone wants it. I often give them to flight attendants, who are very grateful. (Average savings $8 plus possibilities of fresh-baked cookies and little booze bottles). Bonus: You might discover we declared war on Iraq, get a strange feeling of deja-vu, then suddenly realize that you borrowed a magazine from 2003, to great relief.
Pack a Lunch: It goes without saying that airport food is pretty ordinary with a pretty hefty price tag. Even if you are pressed for time, stop at Trader Joe’s or In-N-Out along the way and get some ready-made food. (Average savings: $10) Non-Bonus: Every Guatemalan leavingGuatemala brings a bucket of Campero chicken on board, making the plane smell like a fast-food chain for the first half of the flight. The second half, it smells like something else, which is when I hand out Subtle Butt disposable gas neutralizers (www.subtlebutt.com, 5 for $9.95) to the ones seated closest to me.
Duty Free May be Free of Duty…: and it is normally free of good deals, too. On my last trip through Brisbane Airport, MAC black liquid eyeliner was about $24 when at home, it is $16.50. Check the prices at your normal stores before you go on a trip or do a little research on the prices at your destination. I steer clear of wines and champagnes in more developing countries because they are rarely stored correctly. But I do pick up a bottle or two of Stoli vodka in Central America for around $8/liter (best price I have ever seen).Just don’t be tempted to shop because you are bored and have another two hours to wait for your flight. But if you do bust open the Stoli and wander into the designer duty-free boutiques, you might end up with a fantastically expensive outfit only a Russian could love. (Average savings: negative, but a priceless story : ))