David Whitley looks at how to beat the airport boredom without being ripped off.
The companies running airports, as a rule, don’t make their obscene profits out of making sure planes come and go safely. The bulk of it comes through the shops, restaurants, vending machines and other things designed to part you from your money inside them.
Essentially, without you getting extremely bored and going round buying things, airports would be utterly cash-strapped. But because they know you’ll be bored to tears and they have a captive audience, they can afford to charge shops and food outlets through-the-roof rents. Those shops then rampantly overcharge for absolutely everything. But there are a few cunning ways of avoiding the gouge and coming away with the wallet relatively unscathed.
1. Don’t spend any money
Obvious. But, alas, easier said than done.
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2. Don’t change any money
Currency exchange rates at airports are almost always the worst. If you must get money before you go, then you’re best doing it a week or so before departure. Otherwise, use a card and take the money out of a cash machine at the other end – even with a bank fee, it’ll usually work out cheaper.
3. Eat before you go
Get something cheap and filling before you head to the airport, and it should save you from buying an overpriced grot sandwich whilst there.
4. Pack some food
If the timings are wrong to eat before you go, some food packed in your hand luggage might be a wise plan. Think of it as a rubbish picnic.
5. Take an empty water bottle
You’re not allowed to take liquids through security unless they’re under 100ml. Which is pointless if you’re thirsty. There’s nothing wrong with taking a large, empty bottle through, however – so do it and fill it from the water fountains or taps in the loos.
6. Play smart with drinks
The brightest thing to do is not drink any booze at the airport, but if you really feel like killing time with a drink or two, make sure you get your poison from the right place. Drinks at bars and food outlets are usually violently expensive. Yet you can often find a miniature bottle of wine in the duty free shop that’s exactly the same size as a glass from the bar that costs much, much less.
7. Read a book
The best way of not succumbing to the temptation to buy stuff in the shops is to not even go to them. A good book is by far the most cost-effective entertainment in an airport. Park yourself down at the gate, read on, and don’t move until the flight is called.
8. Clearing cookies
If you want to get online, you’d better hope that the airport offers free Wifi. Some do, some don’t. Those that don’t tend to charge through the roof for it, and you’re best off going without. Some airports operate a middle ground system, however, and allow an hour or half an hour of free Wifi before charging for the rest. Want more time online for free? Then simply clear the cookies on your computer (you can do it through your browser’s toolbar). Once you’ve done that, the system will never know you had logged on in the first place.
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