save money at the airportSo you’ve made it past the long lines, your bags are checked and your flight doesn’t board for another half hour. Suddenly, a low rumbling comes from your stomach: you’re hungry, and a Terminal B Starbucks bagel doesn’t sound half bad.

I just hope you’re prepared to fork over enough cash to pay for a Seinfeld reunion–because you’re at the airport, where the value of the Dollar is significantly lower. Hmm, maybe they’re preparing you for your European trip.

At any rate, use this checklist to avoid overpaying at the airport.

Eat before you leave, pack snacks

According to the Huffington Post, food is more expensive at the airport because airport restaurants have higher operating expenses. This explains why those McDonald’s fries cost a small fortune, but it doesn’t mean you have to pay for them.

You can easily avoid this cost by eating before you leave for the airport. That way, you won’t be tempted by the array of overpriced choices available.

Make sure to pack snacks, too. As long as it’s not liquid or gel, you’re good. Here are some filling snacks that won’t take up too much room in your carry-on:

  • Granola bars
  • Pretzels
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Beef jerky
  • Cheese sticks
  • Trail mix
  • Dried cereal (some flights may even have milk)

Exchange your money

Need to exchange currency doing your fancy overseas trip? Do it before you go. Transaction fees for currency exchange are notoriously high at airports.  When you land in another country, you’re probably going to need cash for transportation to your hotel.

Before your trip, consider exchanging a hundred bucks or so at your local bank. This will tide you over until you reach an ATM or bank at your destination

Better yet, open a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, and use that! But hey, that’s a different money saving topic for a different money saving day. Let’s move on, shall we?

Pack headphones

With all the airline fees we have to pay, you’d think they’d toss in the dumb headphones. Not always. Most flights I’ve taken offer free headphones to use, but some don’t. Just toss a pair in your carry-on.

Find out if it’s cheaper to check bags online

Some airlines charge less if you check your bag at the airport. Before you leave, find out if you get a discount for checking your bag online. You do? Well, do it, then.

I try to avoid checking a bag altogether, but if you have to do it, there’s no point in paying extra.

Pack an empty water bottle

Last month, reader Michelle emailed me her own airport money saving tip:

“What I do now is bring an empty water bottle with me through security, and then fill it up with water at the water fountain when I get inside the terminal. If you have a thermos, that works too – and also reduces waste!”

Michelle knows what’s up.

Save web pages before you leave

Sometimes I have to work while I’m traveling (boo). Because I write for the Internet, this usually means I need the Internet. Checking my email at 30,000 feet blows my mind. But it’s also really expensive. So whenever I can, I pick the web pages I want to work with, and then I save them for offline viewing before I go.

So all of my resources are there, and I don’t have to pay to connect to the Internet. Wi-Fi is cool and all, but if you can, do without it.

More like Why-Fi, am I right? Yikes, sorry.

Pack medicine

Meandering through the airport = instant headache. And at those little airport gift shops, even single-packet pills are expensive. It can’t hurt to pack a few doses of OTC headache meds.

Airport spending is a quick way to go through a chunk of your travel money. But with a little preparation, you can avoid the crazy prices at the airports.

Photo by Luke Ma.

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Kristin writes and makes videos about money, the economy, travel, and more. You can find her stuff at Lifehacker, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and more. Learn more about her here.