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The Most Overpriced Items You Should Never Buy at an Airport

These necessities will cost you a small fortune if you purchase them in-between destinations.

Airports tend to be notorious for two things: long lines and overpriced goods. While the airport shops are fun to wander around during a long layover or when you want to grab last-minute souvenirs for your family and friends, there are some things you should never, ever buy at the airport.

Anywhere else, these items are inexpensive necessities. But as soon as you step foot into an airport, their prices are hiked way up, pro travelers say. Keep reading to find out which items you should absolutely pack with you before heading out for your next flight—or else, be prepared to cough up more money than you planned on spending for these must-haves.

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vogue magazine, pile of magazine

Candice Criscione, the founder of Mom In Italy and The Tuscan Mom, has been planning Italian vacations for 18 years. After a decade of traveling the world with her three kids, she has learned a trick to avoid those costly newsstand magazines.

"I used to spend so much money at the airport on magazines for the flight," she says. "Now, I download magazines onto my iPad for free using the Libby app from my library. It's so easy and I save money every time I fly!" Remember what Arthur from Arthur used to say: "Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card!"

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Young woman drinking red wine at bar

Sure, it's nice to sip a glass of vino before jumping onto your plane, but Mark Aselstine of Wine Club Reviews suggests thinking twice before grabbing the wine menu. He says airport restaurants often mark up their wine to absurd price levels.

Aselstine has one particular example from his go-to airport in Oakland: "They have a Shannon Ridge Zinfandel by the glass for $16. My only issue with the pricing, it's $12 a bottle at the grocery store and kinda comical given the by the glass price is surpassing the bottle price."


Nexium boxes at store

As a chronic migraine and knee pain sufferer, I know all too well the importance of always packing medicine when I travel. The few times I've had to buy medicine at the airport, I was shelling out $10 sometimes just for a little box of ten ibuprofen. And I'm not alone in recommending that you double-check the medicine you brought before leaving for the airport.

David J. Decker, who is a two-million-miler and weekly flier for his work at Royal Neighbors of America, agrees that meds are exorbitant. "The small sample packs that contain one dose will cost the same as an entire bottle at any major drug store," he says. Do yourself a favor and always keep a little container of your go-to medicine in the bag you frequently travel with. That's my hack for not forgetting them.

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airplane snacks and soda on tray

It's easier said than done to not grab a bag of crackers after walking by the third snack stand or restaurant. Even so, Lanie van der Horst of Make More Adventures says to avoid the temptation. Her suggestions: pack your own snacks and always be sure to have a reusable water bottle on hand too.

"We make sure to bring snacks so that we do not need to purchase any at the airport where they are completely inflated," van der Horst says. "Sometimes, we need to purchase meals, but never snacks. It's easy to bring our favorites and our kids' favorites in our carry-ons to avoid that extra cost."


man shopping for headphones at electronics store

Seeing electronics vending machines around airports still feels really futuristic. Unsurprisingly, however, these displays suffer from the airport markup phenomenon, too. One of the worst offenders? Headphones. In fact, a pair might cost you 400 percent more at the airport than anywhere else, according to Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler.

"​​I leave a cheap pair coiled up in my carry-on bag, so I always have one on hand when I'm traveling," Schmit suggests. "Alternatively, if you happen to forget them, you can check whether your airline provides complimentary ones (e..g., United and Qatar usually do!). Even if flight attendants don't walk down the aisle to pass out complimentary headphones, there's a decent chance they may have a few tucked away on the plane—just ask!"

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Phone chargers

Man on smart phone - young business man in airport. Casual urban professional businessman using smartphone smiling happy inside office building or airport. Handsome man wearing suit jacket indoors.

Outlets for charging electronics in the airport are hard enough to find, but don't forget the actual charger itself. Finding a new one will cost significantly more if you need one at the airport. "They are always in high demand if you can find them," Decker says. "Stores sell cheap knockoffs that will last a few days. If you want the real deal, be prepared to pay two to three times the normal price."

Your best bet? Get an extra charger and keep it in your go-to luggage so you're never without one when you're traveling. Plus then you don't have to swap out the ones you always use at home when you get back.


Some batteries

If you're bringing devices that require batteries (especially if you plan on using those devices on the airplane), always remember to bring extra batteries. Otherwise, you'll be paying premium prices to get that electronic up and running again.

Decker says he always brings extra ones to avoid being up-charged at the airport. "When your noise-canceling headset goes dead, you will give an arm and a leg to make sure they work before you board a flight with a crying baby."

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Amanda Finn
Amanda Finn is an award-winning theater, travel, and lifestyle writer. Read more