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Airport money saving tips

Every excited traveller has been there before; you've got hours to kill whilst you wait for your flight and the beautiful outfits, accessories and latest Apple products displayed elegantly in the airport shops are too much to resist. What's more, you're the perfect customer; happy, captive and already in holiday-spending mode. A few minutes of airport shopping and you've eaten into a fair whack of the holiday money you've been carefully saving for weeks, and you've not even arrived at your destination.

The good news is you're not alone and we're here to help. In a recent survey we found that 88% of frequent flyers through Gatwick Airport overspend before they board their flight and so we're on a mission to help you cut back on overspending before you arrive at your holiday spot.

Whether you are flying for business or pleasure, alone or with the family in tow, here are our tips to help you plan ahead and shop sensibly without blowing your budget:

Reserve before you fly

If you know you have an item in mind and want to take advantage of the convenience of the airport shops, make sure you get exactly what you want and the best price possible. Phone the store ahead to check they have the exact product you need and use airport money saving services such as Dixon's Reserve Before You Fly, which honours the reservation price or in-store price - whichever is cheaper. Heathrow Boutique also allows you to browse online then pay and collect at the airport, so you can check the price before you buy with other non-airport retailers.

Know what goods to buy and what to skip at duty free

Whilst it's true that you can get some great savings at duty free, exchange rates fluctuate and you won't always get the best deal. Do a bit of research and don't go in blindly otherwise you could end up spending more. Also if you are going to a destination where bargaining is the norm, you can practice your negotiation skills and come home with some great souvenirs from markets and local shops. Generally you can get savings on liquor, tobacco, perfume and certain luxury goods like designer watches. Duty free shops avoid some of the restrictions other retailers have to abide by and can offer discounts on limited editions. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and United Arab Emirates for example, are known for great savings on certain luxury items.

Be careful with electronics; it's unlikely that duty free will have the latest products so you can end up paying a high price for an out-of-date product. It's also likely that you won't beat online savings or high street sales for books, CDs, DVDs and clothing. Be realistic; are you a Primark shopper or can you afford designer brands? The airport won't have your usual high street favourites and you may be persuaded to spend more than you usually would on a high end brand.

Pack sensibly

If you pack in a rush, there's the temptation to leave the purchase of last minute essentials to the airport, but you're likely to save money on items like cosmetics and health care products if you buy before you arrive. Save hotel bottles to refill with face and body washes, gels and creams for city breaks or buy refillable bottles from a high street pharmacy. This way you also get your usual brand rather than being stuck with the limited brands and set prices available in the airport shops.

Travel money

As with most tasks, if you can do it before arriving at the airport it's likely to save you money. This applies to travel money, where you will get a better deal on the high street and even better still by ordering your foreign currency at the Post Office, which offers 0% commission and competitive rates, or from a reputable online provider rather than at the airport. MoneySupermarket's travel money site helps you compare providers for all your travel money options from foreign currency to travellers cheques, as well as debit, credit and prepaid cards for overseas use. Buying currency upon arrival is another common mistake. Arrive tired from a long flight in a foreign country and you're likely to get charged a huge commission and not even be aware of it.

Don't pay for WiFi

Firstly the idea of a holiday is to relax and switch off, so if you are travelling for pleasure and it's an option to literally 'switch off' from work and other distractions associated with home life you should take it. If you really have to be online and it's a blog post, work document or even catching up on emails that you want to do, consider working in offline mode. You can find this in Outlook or Apple Mac which send your saved emails when you go back online at home or in the office.

Bring your own entertainment

Boredom costs money. The coffee, newspaper and paperback you buy in the airport could be the equivalent cost of a three-course meal in your holiday resort. Resist buying the latest paperback or a magazine you're only going to read once and bring your own reading material, music and games to keep entertained. Pre-load your iPad, Kindle or tablet with reading material, such as magazines and newspapers that you can download before travel and make sure your battery is fully charged. If you don't have such a device, remember books will be much cheaper bought ahead of travel online, in a second-hand book store or charity shop.

Bring your own snacks and refreshments

If possible eat before you arrive at the airport or bring food with you. Food is expensive at the airport; bring snacks (non-liquid) such as cereal bars, nuts and crackers, or if you feel a like sweet treat, cakes and chocolate.

Whilst you can't bring enough liquid to keep your family hydrated, bring an empty bottle and fill up at the water fountain - it is completely safe.

Pre-book airport parking

Yes we would say that, but by booking in advance online you can avoid having to pay exceptional charges at the airport to park your car for the duration of your trip. Purple Parking has parking services at airports across the UK.

Avoid phone charges

No matter how much you are missing your mum if you are waiting for your homeward flight you might be best to keep mum waiting just a little bit longer before you share all your holiday adventures. Same applies to your online social networks; avoid facing whopping bills for Internet browsing simply by leaving your smart phone or tablet on a permanent browsing setting.

Check the small print on your mobile phone contract to see what call, text and data roaming charges apply when abroad and if in doubt text instead - these usually cost only around 11p to send from Europe or between 25p and 40p from farther afield, and are usually free to receive.

Reader's Tips

Tips for families

"Unless you are traveling for weeks and weeks take the toddler nappies and wipes with you in your main luggage! - although you can order from a boots or the like after you have been through customs you run the risk of buying things you hadn't budgeted for. Also don't forget the swim nappies! - They cost us A LOT more when buying from the airport."

From Jaime Oliver, mother of two Beth (12) and Joshua (2), and blogger at The Oliver's Madhouse.

"I cannot believe that only a few months ago I found out that you can pre-order products on Boots to pick them up after the security check. Very often I used to be furious as the selection in store was bad at the airports. Pouches are the best for travelling as they can be heated up in a bowl with hot water much quicker than a jar or other containers. Also the lid that comes with it is useful. If your little one doesn't eat the whole lots at once, you can always use it later. "

From Mirka Moore, mother and blogger at All Baby Advice.

The one we get caught out on every time - make sure you've included an overseas tariff in your mobile phone package. There'll be that one time you need to phone relatives or friends and you'll need to use your phone, eventually coming home to a £50 bill rather than your usual £15 - so look into what your provider offers, or if your phone is able to take it, think about buying a Pay As You Go SIM card to use in your phone to use when you get there.

Tip by Jo Brooks, mother and blogger from Mum Friendly blog.

Take something to entertain the little ones. Pack their Nintendo DS or get some fun free apps for your phone or tablet to keep them occupied. Bringing a paperback from home is a good idea for older kids. Pop a few pound shop toys in your bag to surprise the little ones. Nothing works out more expensive than a child who is bored when surrounded by shops! If they are fed up you may find yourself buying expensive magazines, comics, books and toys to distract them.

From Wendy McDonald, mother and blogger at Inside the Wendy House.

Tips for travellers

My advice would be to write a list. As with any shopping trip, try not to buy things just because you can. Have a list of things you need to get from the airport - new mascara from YSL and foundation from MAC are often on my duty free list - and stick to it.

Tip from Jayne Gorman, travel writer at Travelling Shopoholic.

There is always something you'll forget to pack. Whether it is the toothbrush, your swimming shorts or earplugs, there will always be something you need to get. But don't give in to the convenience of the airport shop network; wait until you've made it to your destination. Most countries in the world sell toothbrushes, swimming shorts and earplugs.

Tip from Ali McClymont, travel writer at RWTBackpackers.

"Consider both these statements: 'Oh this? I found it in a random little boutique somewhere up a side street in Seville.' And, 'Oh this? I got it from (insert standard chain-store name) at Manchester Airport'. Which will sound better when your friend asks you where you bought your new top from? Exactly. So save your money and the space in your case for when you get to where you're going and just walk right past the airport shops."

Tip from Clare Farrell, travel writer at Need Another Holiday.

"My first tip is to fight the urge to enter into a shopping frenzy by bringing some entertainment to distract yourself whilst you're waiting around. For a bit of light reading I like to buy multi-packs of magazines in supermarkets before I go as they tend to be a lot cheaper than buying them at the airport."

Tip from Emma, beauty writer at Emma's Blog

"Use the loyalty points that you've collected from your regular beauty shopping to spend on your holiday toiletries at the airport. I have a Boots advantage card, which I tend to use to make a guilt free purchase in Boots at the airport without handing over a pound. I also have a Heathrow Rewards card, which is basically a loyalty card that you can earn points with. Both memberships are free to join, so you have nothing to lose."

Tip from Charleane, travel writer at Taylor Hearts Travel.

"Don't buy souvenirs at the airport. When me and my sister were in New York we planned on buying everyone I HEART NY t-shirts as inexpensive souvenirs. In the city, we found a shop who sold them at three for £10, whereas in the airport, the same t-shirts were retailing for about £30 each!"

Tip from Carla, fashion writer at Messy Carla

"The last few times I have flown I took an empty water bottle through security and filled it at one of the restaurants - cheeky I know but it saved me money! They do have water fountains at some airports too, be smart!"

Tip from Sophie Mitchell, lifestyle blogger at That's What Lola Said

"If you decide you want to shop in the airport always check the RRP on the high street with the sales price in the airport or plane (via the website or a phone call) and then work out how much it may cost in your destination. For example a lipstick costs £15 in Boots, £11 in the airport but £9 in the country you are going to. It always pays to do a little homework and you can potentially save a fair whack of cash for buying those delightful tacky souvenirs!!"

Tip from Katie, lifestyle blogger at Lady From a Tramp.


Airport money saving tips

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