3 Things Actually Worth Spending Money on at the Airport

published Jan 27, 2023
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As a travel writer, I rarely buy things at the airport. I try to be thrifty, so the idea of grabbing a meal or purchasing a newspaper doesn’t occur to me as I frequently pack snacks and catch up on daily life via my phone. Plus, after my recent article covering what not to buy at the airport, I’ve learned to shy away from potentially germy neck pillows and that last-minute urge to exchange currency.

However, I was recently lured in by an adorable airport shop and made an impulse buy. I purchased a $14 feline-themed dish towel for the woman watching my cats. Not only did it make a great thank-you gift, but I also felt I was doing a small part in keeping the boutique in business. Although mine was admittedly a specific purchase, airports can be a great place to get more common items, whether or not on impulse. Here are three things you should consider buying guilt-free at the airport.

Items from Brands You’ve Wanted to Try

Many major airports look more like shopping malls with luxe stores you may not have at home. Perusing these shops is good if you want to test body products or see how clothing fits in person. Often the airport pricing is the same as online, which you can verify by heading to the brand’s website on your phone while in the store.

On a recent trip, mom and avid traveler Katie Ramirez decided to use her time wisely and shop for items she already needed at a popular boutique. “I found a Spanx store, tried on some undergarments, and left with things I have been putting off shopping for,” she says. “Pricing was the same as online, and I had the chance to try it on.” Seizing the opportunity to familiarize yourself with a brand in person can help avoid the hassle of buying and returning when shopping online.

Alcohol from the Duty-Free Shop

If you’re thinking of taking alcohol home, packing it in your checked luggage can be risky as it could break or leak, and you may have to pay taxes. One way to carry alcohol is to purchase it at a duty-free shop so that you can take the safely-sealed alcohol into the plane cabin. Of course, you’ll have to refrain from drinking it until you reach your destination. 

“It’s often much cheaper to buy alcohol duty-free at the airport,” says frequent traveler Kate McCulley. She has found this to be especially true for Iceland and Singapore, which tend to have high markups. Ramirez also agrees that alcohol is wise, especially if you like craft spirits. “You can often find exclusive blends of alcohol at the airport,” she says. Her husband has over 300 bottles of whiskey and always tries to pick one up at the airport while traveling internationally.

Lounge Access

Lounge access isn’t tangible but can make a long travel day more bearable. Although most airport lounges require membership through airline perks, as a credit card benefit, or via an annual fee, many offer day passes for those looking for an escape. One caveat is that some of the fees can be pricey. However, lounges often include an open bar, food, and strong WiFi. Plus, you can sit somewhere that feels like a living room without the hustle and bustle of the airport.

Gwen Corrie reveals that this splurge can save your sanity, especially during peak travel times when the airport can be overstimulating. “If you’re going to buy anything at the airport, it should make your travel easier and more enjoyable — lounge access can do just that,” advises Corrie. She also adds that lounges are an ideal place to have a quiet drink or meal or have a space to focus on work before boarding your next flight.