Avoid hidden costs at the airport with Martin Lewis' top travelling tips
We’re in hardcore holiday mode right now, with millions of people passing through UK airports – and many being ripped off. To help, our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is here with his top airport tips.
1.Many airports now charge up to a fiver just to drop somebody off in a car - how to avoid it. There’s a new charge that’s rocketed in the last year and is now levied by 19 of the UK’s busiest 30 airports – including Manchester, Stansted, Luton and Edinburgh. They make you pay for a 10-minute drop-off, with fees ranging from £1 to £4.50 – many people will have not faced this before so are in for a shock.
If someone is dropping you off at the airport it’s crucial to check the terms, for example Southend airport is free for up to five minute, but £4.50 for ten so be prepared to drop off quickly.
And a range of airports that always charge, such as Newcastle, Southampton and Edinburgh all have little known free drop off areas, albeit a bus ride or short walk away from the terminal. So if you want to avoid the fee leave a little time. Essentially this has become a must check before you go.
The UK’s two biggest airports though, Gatwick and Heathrow, don’t charge.
2.Water saving! You’re not allowed to take water through security, so if you want a bottle afterwards, which is important in the heat, many pay the hefty airport shop or on-board airline charges.
You can take empty water bottles (or flasks) through security. So take an empty one through and when you’re on the other side of security just fill it up for free - many airports have free water fountains, including Heathrow Terminal 2,3,4 and 5, Gatwick, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol airport. If it doesn’t (some are Newcastle, Leeds Bradford and Cardiff airports) then you’re usually allowed to politely ask restaurants or coffee shops if they will fill it for you for free – most will. And it helps reduce plastic waste.
3.Make 'em PAY YOU to show your boarding pass at airport shops, eg WHSmith & Boots.When you buy things in airport shops they will ask to see your boarding pass. They don’t have to. There’s NO legal or security requirement for you to show your boarding pass in any airport shop, with the exception of Duty Free (you must show it there whatever you’re buying).
They ask because if you are travelling outside of the European Union (your boarding pass proves this), the shop can reclaim the VAT paid.
Yet this VAT should really (in my view) be passed back to the customer. So make a point and politely decline showing them your pass unless they do.
Thankfully as this campaign has been running a couple of years, it’s already started to have an impact. For example, if you’re travelling outside the EU then WH Smith and Boots do for individual items over £6 and £5.
4.How to SLASH airport parking costs. Early booking's cheapest, but booking ahead - even if on the day of your flight - beats just turning up. Eg, a week's long-stay at Luton is £165 if you just turn up, yet booking a few days ahead I found it for £75. Comparison sites tend to have the best deals. While you’re too late not for the really cheap summer prices you can save.
5.Avoid hefty fees for checking in at the airport. Budget airlines can charge up to an eye-watering £55 per person, per return - do it online in advance and it's free.
If you check in online but arrive without your boarding pass, Ryanair charges £20 per flight to issue another. Jet2 and Wizzair also charge different amounts for the same mistake, though it's possible to cut this fee if you select airport check-in when booking - provided the airline in question doesn't charge for airport check-in.
If you don't have a printer, Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizzair have handy apps that let you download your boarding pass to your mobile, but this option's usually only available at certain airports so check well in advance.
And Ryanair has this summer shortened its online check-in window to just two days (it was four before) which can be a real pain especially on the return, others such as Jet2 and Easyjet give you 28-30 days.
6.Don't buy currency at the airport - find out how to get it cheapest. Never ever leave buying cash to the last minute, especially at the airport. They know you’re a captive customer and will bump up the price.
For example when I checked on Friday £500 will get you as little as €470 at some airports. If you’ve left it very late at least pre-order for airport pick up and you’ll get better rates, such as €537 at Edinburgh.
Yet the very best currency rates would get you €557. To find those use a travel money comparison site like my TravelMoneyMax which quickly compares 30+ bureaux to find you the best rate for delivery or collection.