finance, Health, Living, travel

The Airport is a Huge Money Suck

This week I have the joy of boarding a long-haul international flight. I love travelling, and I actually don’t mind flying, but what I absolutely despise is the waiting. My dad instilled a very strict “BE AT THE AIRPORT THREE HOURS EARLY!” rule from since I was very young, and I’ve never been able to shake it.

Take me away!

The Vancouver International Airport is a beautiful one: there is a giant fish tank, sculptures, waterfalls, and an abundance of restaurants and shops. They knew what they were doing when they built it – give your captive audience a chance to wile away the time and they will be parted with a lot of dough.

In my particularly instance with this trip to the UK, I will have just gotten off for Spring Break. Unfortunately this means that I will probably run in to multiple students and their families who are also flying out that day. I don’t mind seeing them when I am not at work, but I will be in full on holiday mode and completely uninterested in small talk (it might make me seem selfish or a bad teacher, but trust me. It’s necessary.). So I’m going to be in full-on disguise mode, sneaking my way around without trying to look too suspicious because I don’t believe the authorities take to kindly to that. If I do see one of my kids, I will probably have to duck into the nearest doorway.

Normally I am a very good traveller. I have my little baggie of almonds and carrots, a stainless steel water bottle, my neck pillow, and the comfiest, baggiest clothes I can get away with. All of these are so important in keeping your wallet in check while you are forced to wait in a contained area for three hours. Boredom can set in quickly. I try to save all my music and podcasts and books for the actual flight, so my usual distraction tactic in the airport is to walk everywhere. This allows me to see people buying some pretty outrageous things on their way to other parts of the world. I once saw a woman in the a designer shop drop hundreds of dollars on a new travel bag, dump everything from her old one into it, and leave the old one in the trash. Another spent a small fortunes on roughly a dozen magazines that must have been so heavy to carry around. I personally spent $4 on a single banana because I hadn’t planned well and desperately needed something healthy.

I understand how shopping and eating/drinking at the airport can help you set the tone for your vacation. You are already in holiday mode so you may as well start enjoying! I have no problem with that sentiment, but I do think people should pause before they dive right in, or at least have a set budget for the airport splurges. I know the trend now is to snap a picture of that airport pint or cocktail, but I personally would much rather spend that money on something better when I eventually reach my destination. I feel like I am robbing myself of something during my holiday if I spend too much at the airport. Not to mention that, at month’s end when I do my spending tracker, I will slap myself silly for spending so frivolously on shitty food and drinks that were merely there to stop my boredom.

Airports have gotten so fancy.

I have several tactics that help me avoid spending at the airport:

  • I walk the length of the terminal several times, giving myself some last minute exercise before spending multiple hours cramped in a sardine can.
  • I load up on tons of small, healthy snacks and bring a water bottle from home. Ditto with reading material.
  • I people watch. Airports are fascinating places where so many different cultures come together. There are always many, many people to enjoy watching (discreetly, of course).
  • I phone my family. A great boredom buster is to plug in my headphones and talk to the fam. My sister and I can talk for several hours about nothing, and it is highly entertaining. I usually incorporate this with my walking.
  • I try my best to avoid sitting, drinking alcohol and caffeine, and consuming passive entertainment. I will be doing more than enough of each when I am on the actual plane, so there is no need for me to add to it beforehand.

The key to keeping your money for your trip is to be very prepared before you go to the airport. There is no need to part ways with your hard earned moolah until something special really speaks to you at your destination – I have thanked myself countless times for not indulging in a very mediocre meal that costs an arm and a leg, since I could then indulge in a fabulous meal when I am truly on my holiday. Just some food for thought.

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