10 of the most overpriced items at airports

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Sorbis/Shutterstock
By Erin McDowell, Business Insider

Every frequent flyer knows that when it comes to the airport, it's best to keep your wallet safely tucked away in order to avoid overspending. 

Many items sold in airports are drastically marked up compared to their outside "street prices," sometimes by over 200%.

Here are 10 overpriced items you should avoid, and some expert-approved tricks on how to save money while traveling.

Snacks and drinks are among the most overpriced items at airports.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

When it comes to long-haul or even short flights, it's usually more expensive to buy snacks and drinks once you pass through security.

According to the Los Angeles Times, many airports allow food and retail vendors inside airport terminals to charge 10% or more above "street pricing," or pricing of items outside the airport.

According to Insider's travel correspondent, Sophie-Claire Hoeller, the best way to save money on food and drink at the airport is to be prepared.

"The food at the airport is usually overpriced and not that good, so I don't want to spend money on it," she told Business Insider. "I saw a woman eating cut-up vegetables in the airport one time, and did the same thing a few times afterward."

A bottle of water is 200% more expensive in airports, the Los Angeles Times reported. This is especially annoying considering security bars you from bringing liquids through the gates.

"I usually bring my own empty water bottle so I can fill it up once I'm through security," Hoeller said. "I also just purchased a collapsible water bottle which will save a lot of space in my carry-on."

Meals in airport restaurants will also cost you.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you think snacks like chips and cookies are overpriced, just wait until you step inside an airport restaurant. Restaurant owners know that inside the airport terminal, travelers have limited options.

This monopoly factor is just one reason why you might pay more for that hamburger or Cobb salad once you pass through security, however.

According to Policy Genius, servers and other employees at in-airport restaurants have to pass additional background checks and clearance, which can make finding qualified employees more costly. The rent to operate a space inside an airport can also be higher than outside, and some restaurant-owners may raise prices to compensate for that.

For example, a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with fries meal could cost you $7.19 inside the terminal, versus $5.69 outside, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"LAX is currently trying to revamp its rates to make them closer to street pricing," LAX spokesperson Albert Rodriguez told the newspaper. "Generally, the cost of doing business at an airport is significantly higher than operating at a mall or street location."


Starbucks locations also seem more expensive, according to travelers.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Starbucks can be pricey as it is, but when you throw in airport mark-ups, a cup of the chain's gourmet coffee can seem downright ludicrous. Starbucks' prices can vary by location, and with the higher rent inside airports, it's possible that you could end up paying more for your cup of joe.

According to one visitor to the Las Vegas airport in 2012, their cup of coffee cost significantly more inside the airport. The writer claimed that a tall cup of coffee from Starbucks cost $2.65 at the airport versus $1.65 on The Strip.

In 2019, The Points Guy reported that LaGuardia has the most expensive cup of Starbucks coffee in the nation. A tall hot coffee reportedly costs $3.10 at the airport. This is significantly more than the average cup of coffee at locations outside airports. Fast Food Menu Prices lists the current average cost of a tall cup of freshly brewed coffee at $1.85 nationwide and $2.42 in New York, well below the reported LaGuardia airport price.

Shayna Iglesias, a spokesperson for HMSHost, the company that handles Starbucks' airport license agreements, told Business Insider, "In general, pricing requirements are part of the airport concessions contract and HMSHost operates within the specified guidelines."


Electronics and accessories can also be drastically more expensive inside the airport.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© David Brewster/Star Tribune/Getty Images

We've all experienced the sheer dread of forgetting our headphones or phone charger at home before a long-haul flight. Perhaps you've even been tempted to pick up a new electronic like an iPod or tablet at the airport.

However, research suggests that it's never a smart idea to buy electronics at the airport.

In 2011, Dealnews analyzed a variety of electronic products like chargers, headphones, cameras, and more found inside airport shops and kiosks. It then price-checked each one against the same products on the outside.

Of the 32 products that Dealnews analyzed, none was cheaper inside the airport. According to the findings, 81% of the electronics available for purchase at the airport will cost you significantly more than on the outside.

Souvenirs and tourist merchandise tend to be really overpriced at the airport, so plan ahead when it comes to grabbing any gifts.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Like most other overpriced airport items, tourism and souvenir vendors inside the terminals capitalize on travelers' lack of preparation.

If you forgot to pick up a gift for your friend or loved one while you were out exploring, grabbing one from the airport gift shop might seem like a convenient option. However, you could end up paying much, much more for the same Dallas Cowboys mug or "I Heart NY" T-shirt.

Currency exchange rates can be much less cost-effective inside the airport versus outside.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

When it comes to exchanging your money, it's always best to do so in a bank before you leave or after you exit the airport. Many currency exchange locations capitalize on travelers' desire for convenience and end up charging them higher rates for the same money.

According to CN Traveler, most in-airport currency exchanges charge a fee or service charge between $5 and $15. The exchange rate you get can also be between seven and 15% worse than you would get at a standard bank outside the airport.

Transportation from the airport can be extremely expensive due to surge pricing and overpriced taxi fares.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Mario Tama/Getty Images

Anna Newell Jones, money expert, blogger, and author of "The Spender's Guide to Debt-Free Living: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get From Broke to Badass in Record Time," recommends a little investigating to get around pricey cab prices and surged Uber rates.

"[Transportation] apps like Turo are really helpful," she told Business Insider. "You can find people who are renting out their cars and they'll pick you up curbside. You help someone else make money and you save yourself time and money."

Another way to save money, according to Newell Jones, is by coordinating with the hotel you're staying at to see if they offer any free or discounted shuttle services, rather than paying for a pricey cab, Uber, or Lyft.

Parking at the airport can be overpriced, but there are hacks to get around this.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© Shutterstock

When you come back from your long, relaxing vacation, the last thing you want is to be saddled with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in parking fees.

Many airports capitalize on the fact that people want the most convenient option available when it comes to parking, and the prices reflect that. According to a previous report by Insider, parking at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport can cost $35 per day, while just two hours of parking at London's Heathrow Airport is $22.

However, there are tricks to getting around this. Newell Jones suggests paying to park at a nearby hotel and taking a shuttle or getting a quick ride to the airport. This can often end up being cheaper than using airport parking. 

Checking a bag can be expensive depending on the airline, and it's usually cheaper to only bring a carry-on.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports
© SamuelBrownNG/Getty Images
While some airlines don't charge extra for a checked bag, many do.

Southwest allows you to bring one checked bag for free on all of its flights, and many international airlines allow the same. However, if you're flying with United, American Airlines, Delta, or Spirit, you're looking at at least a $25 fine per 50-pound checked bag.

If a family or group of four were to each bring a checked bag, this can add up to a hefty price tag of $100 just to check your luggage.

Insider's Sophie-Claire Hoeller said she practically never flies with a checked bag and tries to only fly with a carry-on.

"I haven't traveled with a big bag in years," she told Business Insider. "The biggest trick is downsizing. I love my vitamin-C face serum, I love my toner, but I don't need it when I'm traveling. I can go for three days without my toner and be fine."

If you do check a bag, Newell Jones also suggests packing a smaller collapsible bag inside. That way, if you do end up doing a little souvenir shopping or receive any gifts while you're away, you don't have to worry about running out of space and getting charged for an overweight bag. 

Overweight baggage fees can seriously cost you.

10 of the most overpriced items at airports

Checking a bag may be overpriced, but so is the cost of overweight bags.

How many times have you been traveling, only to have to scramble to rearrange and redistribute items from your overweight suitcase in order to avoid a charge? Or worse, you actually had to pay it?

American Airlines currently charges $100 for overweight bags, or bags weighing between 51 and 70 pounds. That's right - if your bag is just one pound over the limit, you'll pay four times as much.

Newell Jones told Business Insider that she always recommends checking your bag's weight with a suitcase scale prior to getting to the airport.

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Travel Magazine: 10 of the most overpriced items at airports
10 of the most overpriced items at airports
From souvenirs to a turkey sandwich, practically everything inside an airport seems overpriced.
Travel Magazine
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