Have you ever been the victim of a crime — a robbery, perhaps? Well, if you have ever found yourself on the departure or arrival side of an airport security system, you may certainly have felt like a victim, especially when you are on a layover and have to find something to eat. Here you are in a situation where restaurant owners aren’t harnessed by the competition of outside providers. This means that the prices being charged at the restaurants located inside the various terminals are usually quite high. This situation is complicated by the fact that, with the increase in security, you can’t even bring in a bottle of water and it is rare that a passenger will venture outside of the terminal to feed themselves. So in essence, one is likely trapped into purchasing what they need from one of the terminal’s vendors after they have cleared security. However, there are ways to circumvent the expensive eateries and soften the blow to one’s pocketbook in the process.
Last week my wife and I traveled through three airports, one of which is referred to as a hub. The hub airport, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is claimed by some to be the busiest airport in the world. If it isn’t, it must be close; the statistics seem to back up this claim with Atlanta seeing some 55 million travelers a year. Since our layover was lengthy, some of what I am going to share with you — how to eat without the expense — is from what I learned by observing other passengers. Some of the tips I will be addressing here require very little preparation and thought and can be done by just about every flying passenger.
First, you don’t have to buy a $3 bottle of water. Instead, bring an empty water bottle with you. Then, once you have cleared security, you can fill the bottle with water from a drinking fountain. It’s the same water, but free. Some passengers were even carrying mini-Brita filtering bottles to remove contaminants from the water, which can simulate the taste of the best bottled waters. Either way, bringing an empty water bottle can save you money with little inconvenience.
Second, bring snacks and treats that are non-liquid and don’t require refrigeration. This is a huge money-saver since buying snacks on the airline can cost anywhere from $2 to $6 depending on the snack you purchase. In fact, if you are going to be flying during your meal hour, you may wish to bring a sacked lunch — especially if you have children flying with you, since airline offerings are not only costly, but meager.
Next, avoid sit-down restaurants. You will pay a huge premium to have your food brought to you by a server. This happened to my wife and me when we chose to eat at the Samuel Adams restaurant in the Atlanta airport. Due to high traffic in the establishment, even at 3 p.m., the service was abominable and we were shocked at the cost. We had what are called “naked” hot dogs — with nothing on them. These were served with a lunchbox-sized bag of chips and a small, mostly filled with ice, Coke. No one asked if we would like a refill or if we needed anything else. The meal cost us $17 and the hot dog was what it claimed to be: plain. We found ketchup and mustard, but that was all there was to add to this hot dog that could easily be purchased for $2.50 at the fair.
The cost came as a surprise to me. So, since I still had quite a wait ahead of me, I decided to observe what others were eating. In my exploration, I found a no-name vendor that was selling hot dogs with all the fixings that were double in size to what we bought and discovered that I could have paid less than $12 for the same meal. Still no deal, but a savings of $5 and a better hot dog, as well.
However, if you can find one, the most reasonable deals and the best service was found at either the Burger King or McDonald’s restaurants. Either of these offered reasonably priced meals, though somewhat more expensive than what you would get from the local franchise. While I admit that they are probably not the healthiest choice, the one nice thing about a franchise is that you know exactly what you are going to get no matter where you go.
The biggest tip I can provide to you is: Don’t let long lines at a vendor deter you. Those people who are in line are most likely seasoned travelers who know a deal. The vendors are also usually experienced in dealing with lines and will get to you quickly. It is also more likely that the travelers know that the quality of the food they are waiting for is worth the cost and that they are going to receive a good meal at a fair price.
What tips do you have? Please share your personal experiences with us.
Comments are welcome.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by I-5 Design & Manufacture