The key items you should NEVER buy at the airport, from duty-free to bottled water – or risk wasting hundreds of pounds

A captive audience of consumers make for manifold markups, from expensive food to pricey parking.

To save money, do some research ahead of time and compare costs—especially when you’re in the market for one of these nine items.

Duty Free

It may be possible to snag a good duty-free deal once in a while, depending on your airport.

But it’s important to know that duty-free in no way ensures a good buy.

USA Today reported: “Duty-free is almost never a deal for the casual shopper out to get a bargain.

“You can save significant amounts if you’re a smoker, but you’ll find that electronic goods, beauty products and luxury items such as designer purses usually cost less online.”

The solution? When making duty-free purchases, do a little homework. Go online ahead of time and do some cost comparisons beforehand.

Foreign Currency

Since currency exchange desks in airports often hit travellers with sky-high transaction fees, the airport is probably not the best place to exchange your money.

It can be convenient, so if you’re willing to pay the price for that, so be it.

A better strategy is to get foreign currency by taking out money at an ATM in your destination; this way, you’ll likely get the best interbank exchange rate, which is usually much better than rates offered at airport exchange counters.

Contact your bank before your trip for more information on any possible foreign transaction fees.

Bottled Water

It’s a no-brainer that passengers should bring a refillable bottle from home.

Stop buying water bottles in your terminal at £3 each and invest in a Vapur Reflex reusable plastic bottle, which is foldable, for packing into your hand luggage.

Fill it up at a water fountain after you’ve gone through airport security. It’ll pay for itself after just a few uses.


Plan ahead and be sure to buy your souvenirs before you’re at the airport, waiting for your flight home.

Airport souvenir stores usually hawk severely marked-up merchandise that can be found elsewhere for a lot less.

There are exceptions to this rule, as some airports offer unique finds, like gifts crafted by local artisans.

Our advice, as always, is to do your research before you get to the terminal so that you can compare prices.

You could even take a quick look at what’s on offer when you land, and then buy whatever you need when you return to the airport upon departure.

Neck Pillows

Trapped in their terminals, travellers are at the mercy of anti-consumer pricing schemes, especially when it comes to particularly convenient travel products like neck pillows.

Order your neck pillow online ahead of time, and keep an eye out for special offers and sales.

At the time of publication, we spotted the Ergonomad neck pillow on Amazon for £17.99, complete with sleep mask, ear plugs and carrier bag.

Restaurant meals

You may have noticed that restaurants commonly charge higher prices for menu items in airport locations than they do elsewhere.

There’s reason for this: Restaurants’ operating expenses are generally higher at airports than at street locations. But food costs can vary even by the terminal, heightening the confusion for travellers who want to compare prices.

To sidestep this, bring your own lunch from home, as well as snacks bought much more cheaply from the supermarket.


Although many airports offer free Wi-Fi, some hubs are still firmly entrenched in the dark ages, charging flyers to search the web while waiting to depart.

Before you enter a card number, though, see if you can get connectivity for free.

You can do this by sitting near the entrance of an elite flyer’s lounge or in an airport hotel lobby, both of which might offer free Wi-Fi that’s not password protected.

Or try your terminal’s Starbucks. Although all Starbucks stores offer free Internet, airport locations are sometimes the exception. Some offer free connectivity; some don’t.

Check the Starbucks store locator online before you get to the airport to find out.


You’re not normally taking a big hit to your budget when you grab a magazine for your flight.

But when overseas, watch out. Imported magazines cost a lot more than those sold at home and can sell for well over the recommended list price at overseas airports, even if they’re old (mostly due to taxes and shipping costs).

Stock up before leaving the UK to avoid these kind of charges – or bring a good book.


You’ll frequently find the better price at off-site parking lots, rather than at airport lots. Do your research.

There are ways to save on airport parking, especially when just dropping off or picking up passengers.

Click here to see our guide on the best ways to save on airport parking.

This story originally appeared on Smarter Travel and was reproduced with permission.
Sun Online Travel previously went behind the scenes at Heathrow Airport – which has its own police station, fire fighters and even a beekeeper.

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