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Traveling can be expensive, and it’s not just ticket prices that are soaring. Mediocre airport food will often cost you the same as a nice dinner and leave you not nearly as satisfied. There is nothing more tempting during a three-hour layover than the scent of fast food lingering throughout the terminal. When a McDonalds meal for two ended up costing me $25, I decided there had to be another way to save money on airport dining.

I’ve found that most airport restaurants don’t accept coupons or even honor rewards memberships, so don’t rely on those discounts when traveling. Instead, consider these tips:

  • If you book your flight through a travel agent, as opposed to online , he/she may be able to get you a special meal on board the airplane. I have been able to request McDonald’s happy meals as an alternative to the bland, mushy airplane food for no extra expense. Warning: Your seat-mates will be jealous.
  • If your flight is cancelled or overbooked, ask the gate attendant for a meal voucher (one for each travel companion – including kids) to compensate for the extra time and costs you incur while waiting. Meal vouchers range from $5 for lunch to $10-15 for dinner and can usually be used at any restaurant in the airport. Your meal is a small expense airlines will incur to keep customers happy and returning.
  • If you must purchase airport food, cold sandwiches and salads in food coolers located throughout the terminal are often much less expensive than eating at a fast food or sit-down restaurant. These foods also tend to be healthier and nicely packaged so you can store for later if you don’t finish in one sitting.
  • Bring food from your stockpile. Granola bars, candy, dried and fresh fruit, Chex mix and individual bags of chips are all great travel foods. Remember to take twice the amount you think you will eat, so you have enough for the return trip home.
  • Consider airport lounges. If you are a frequent flyer, look into using your rewards points toward the purchase of an airport lounge membership that provides complimentary snacks, drinks and a nicer waiting environment. Many airports also have lounges free for military personnel, replete with dining amenities.
  • Bottled water at airports can cost up to $4. Save yourself the money and bring an empty reusable water bottle in your carry on. Fill it up at a water fountain once you get past security, and consider bringing sports drink, tea or hot cocoa mixes to spice up bland water. Airport Starbucks will provide hot water for no charge!
  • If you’re craving coffee, juice or soda, wait until you get on the plane – most airlines still provide a complimentary beverage service. And if you’re flying internationally, Lufthansa offers free beverages in the terminal while you wait as well.
By implementing a few of these strategies you’ll be sure to travel fully satisfied, both physically and financially!

This has been a guest post by Elizabeth from Columbus, OH
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