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10 Overpriced Items at Airports You Need To Stop Buying

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

  • From drip coffee to duty-free cosmetics, many things are overpriced at the airport.
  • Some items have especially notable markups in the range of 200% to 400%.
  • Before your next trip, read up to ensure you don’t wind up overpaying at the airport.

If you don’t come prepared, then airports can be money pits. Retailers know airport travelers are a captive audience and charge accordingly. So, many items like bottled water and headphones are significantly marked up.

Airport shops and restaurants can be tempting, but there are some things you should stop buying. Here are 10 overpriced items you should avoid purchasing at the airport.

Bottled Water

If you’ve spent any time at an airport, then it probably won’t surprise you that food and drinks tend to be overpriced. But you might underestimate just how much of a markup we’re talking about.

For instance, Insider says bottled water can be 200% more expensive in airports. Instead of paying exorbitant prices, remember to bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. That way, you can fill up at a water fountain for free.



Traveling can be a headache — after all, airports are hectic and crowded places. And the high prices of medicine like pain relievers don’t help matters. That’s why it’s important to come to the airport prepared for possible aches and pains.

“The small sample packs that contain one dose will cost the same as an entire bottle at any major drug store,” as frequent flyer David J. Decker tells Best Life. So, check that you’ve tucked your go-to medicine into your carry-on before heading to the airport.



It certainly takes energy to navigate the airport, but you might want to think twice about reaching for a coffee to recharge. While coffee shops like Starbucks can be pricey anywhere, they tend to slap on significant markups at airport locations.

For example, a tall drip coffee from Starbucks can cost more than $3 at airports, according to The Points Guy. By comparison, Fast Food Menu Prices says the average price nationwide is $1.85. That’s an increase of more than 60%.



While headphones and earbuds can make traveling more enjoyable, try to avoid buying them at the airport. They tend to be among the most overpriced items. In fact, Best Life says headphones can cost 400% more at the airport. Ouch.

Save some big bucks and keep a pair in your go-to carry-on bag. Then you won’t find yourself shelling out too much for headphones from an electronics vending machine. If you do forget, then check with your airline to see if they have complimentary pairs.


Duty-Free Goods

Everything is a good deal at duty-free shops, right? Wrong. Vice products like alcohol that carry “sin taxes” can be a better value, but many items aren’t less expensive. As a matter of fact, some things can be even more expensive.

“Cosmetics, clothing and other luxury goods may actually be more expensive at duty-free shops than at superstores or street markets in town,” according to CNN. So, savvy travelers shop for souvenirs and goods at their destination.



A glass of wine might be tempting once you make it through those long security lines, but it’ll cost you. Take a glass of Shannon Ridge Zinfandel wine at the Oakland airport, for example. Best Life says a glass costs $16.

If you’re unfamiliar with that specific wine, then you might think it must be a pricey choice. But the source says a bottle of the same wine will only run you $12 at the grocery store. So, airport travelers are paying significantly more for a single glass.


Currency Exchanges

While exchanging your money at the airport can be convenient, it isn’t cost-effective. Airport currency exchange locations are notorious for overcharging. Condé Nast Traveler says many airport locations charge service fees between $5 and $15.

And the exchange rates also tend to be less favorable than at non-airport locations. The source says the exchange rate you get can be 7% to 15% worse than at a standard bank outside of the airport. So, avoid airport currency exchange locations when possible.



If you’ve ever forgotten to pack your charger while traveling, then you probably know how annoying that can be. It seems retailers also know and price them accordingly. Best Life says phone chargers can cost “two to three times the normal price” at airports.

So, how can you avoid finding yourself in this predicament? Consider buying an extra charger at a local retailer to keep tucked away in your go-to carry-on bag. Then you won’t even need to remember to pack a charger.


Travel Adapters

Traveling internationally? You’ll want to pack more than a passport. If you want to use anything that requires electricity once you arrive, don’t forget a travel adapter. Before traveling, research the exact type of plug you’ll need and pick one up.

That’s a smart move because GOBankingRates says a travel adapter can cost two to three times more at an airport than it would outside. So, a little prep can save you from scrambling and paying more than necessary for a travel adapter.



Whenever possible, don’t park your car at the airport — it can add up quickly over the course of a trip. For instance, Insider says, “parking at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport can cost $35 per day.” Public transportation, taxis, and rideshare trips can save you money by comparison.

And if you do need to park your car somewhere while traveling, look into parking at a nearby hotel and using their airport shuttle instead. USA Today says some hotels allow airport travelers to park their vehicles there for as little as $5 a day. The source suggests using to compare your options.


Katie Ormsby



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