A massive power outage at the world’s busiest airport created thousands of flight delays and cancellations
Airport spending is flying high.
On Sunday, a massive power outage left the world’s busiest airports — Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson — without power just as thousands of people were leaving town for the holidays. More than 1,100 flights were cancelled, more than 200 delayed and thousands were stranded on the tarmac and in the airport; the delays and cancellation have spilled over into today as well, NBC News reports.
Of course, situations like this are rare, but plenty of us should expect delays during our holiday travels this year. Indeed, AAA is predicting a more than 4% uptick over last year in the number of people flying during the holidays.
When that happens, we often spend money on everything from snacks to clothing to pass the time. Indeed, Americans spend an average of $141 on food, drink and other items while waiting at the airport, according to a survey released this month of nearly 5,000 Americans from US.JetCost.com. That may be because, while waiting for their flights, 43% admit to eating or drinking and about one in five browse the airport shops, the survey revealed.
So how do you avoid the airport spending trap this year — beyond just bringing your own snacks and an empty water bottle? Here are some of our favorite tips from experts.
Know what’s fairly priced — and what isn’t. Many things in the airport are overpriced, experts say. “Generally, products that face a captive market – such as food and beverages– are more expensive,” says Bino Chua, a travel blogger at I Wander. And “grocery products such as chocolates, candies and even so-called ‘local handicrafts’ that you see in international airports – especially the ones popular with tourists – are usually more expensive even though they may be duty free.” Local handicrafts /souvenirs are almost “always better to buy from the source” and candy is better priced from somewhere like supermarkets, she says.
But some things that may be“fairly priced in an airport include luxury goods (think: Coach, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc), alcohol as well as cosmetics and toiletries,” she says. Still, it’s always a good idea to do a price check of the items on your smartphone.
Consider buying a lounge pass. Many airlines allow you to buy day-long passes to their lounges for around $50. This could be worth the money, says Laura Hall, the director of communications at Kid & Coe. “It pulls you out of the ‘shopping mall’ part of the airport and you can read newspapers in there for free and usually get free tea and coffee and snacks. Of course, they are not free because you paid for them, but depending on how long you’re there for, you could find it makes more sense and costs less to do that.” Jennifer McDermott, a consumer advocate at personal finance comparison website finder.com notes that some credit cards even offer lounge access for free.
Take advantage of the myriad free options. Many airports offer free stuff to entertain travelers, including museum exhibits and kids play areas, says Amanda Norcross, the features editor at Family Vacation Critic. For example there’s a aeroponic garden to explore at O’Hare, a walking trail in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and live music in the Nashville airport. Do your research ahead of time to see what the airports you might be waiting in have to offer, so you can opt for a free exhibit over a shopping excursion if you’re stuck waiting.
Don’t forget to add this to your packing list. You know to bring snacks and empty water bottles to keep from spending on food, but “one of the items most frequently forgotten at home is charging equipment – for phones, Kindles, etc.,” says Norcross. Airports, she says, sell these items “at a hefty price tag;” some even have kiosks just for charging equipment and other electronics. Send yourself a reminder to pack those chargers before you leave for the airport.
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