Traveling can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Thrifty Traveler wants to be sure everyone is getting their money's worth both in the airport and in flight. Which is why we have experimented throughout our travels for you. In this post, we've laid out some free items you can get your hands on. In most cases, all you have to do to get them is just ask.
Extra & Special Food and Drink
Who doesn't love free food? Okay, only partially free as you did have to pay for the airline ticket. When you are offered a drink many passengers don't know that you can ask for the whole can of soda, instead of just a glass. Also, you can ask for extra snacks/drinks from the flight attendant either when they are coming through the aisle or by ringing your call button.
Lastly, you can request special meals such as vegetarian or kosher. We recommend doing so during the booking process for two reasons. First, you are guaranteed the special meal as others can choose that option in flight. Second, special meals are handed out first which means you get to eat first!
We have been on quite a few flights where alcohol was included; much to our surprise. This occurred on our 8+ hour Delta flight to Hawaii, a flight to Peru, as well as headed to Germany. On each flight, we had main cabin seats, so we were not expecting this perk.
In recent years, Delta took the lead on this as the first US airline to reintroduce complimentary beer and wine on international flights originating out of the US. As long as the flight was more than 4 hours, you will receive complimentary drinks. As is often the case, American and United followed their lead and began offering this as well.
However, be sure to take it easy on alcohol as doing so is one of our Tips for beating Jet Lag.
Upgraded or Different Seats
This is all dependent on the availability on your flight, but it never hurts to ask. Prior to boarding see if there is an option to upgrade your seat for free, and definitely note if it's a special occasion such as your honeymoon. A little kindness can go a long way with the gate agents.
Once on the flight, you can always scope out the seats to see if you can move to an open row and have it all to yourself. If you're up for it, you can also move to an emergency exit for the most legroom. Of course, it is always a good idea to talk to the flight attendants before doing this.
Flights don't have to be uncomfortable. We would suggest bringing your own travel pillow, like the Trtl travel pillow, and a scarf or jacket to cover with as a blanket. However, if you forget yours there are always extra pillows and blankets on the plane that you can utilize. Ask a flight attendant and they should be able to track them down for you.
First Aid Supplies
Do you have a headache from the long day of travel? Accidentally remove an old bandage mid-flight and forgot to pack more? Flight attendants have first aid kits available and ready. All you have to do is ask.
Wifi & Entertainment
Most flights have built in entertainment in the seat head in front of you. However; we have encountered a few long flights that did not and immediately panicked. Luckily for us, there was free in-flight wifi to stream your favorite show or movie, from the options available to you. Forget your headphones? Most long-haul international flights have free pairs available.
Traveling solo with a little one? No worries if you need to stretch your legs or head to the restroom. Flight attendants are more than willing to take a break and sit with your child. Ring your call button and they are happy to assist for a few minutes.
A favorite of the ten free items on this list for aviation geeks like us is a free tour of the cockpit. Available especially if you're traveling with young children, but we don't think you're ever too old for this. Most likely to be available after the plane has landed, ask your flight attendant if you can take a quick tour of the cockpit.
If you are traveling with small children, make sure to ask for their wing pins as a fun souvenir from your trip.
Airport Lounge Access
Have a travel rewards credit card that offers free lounge access? Often times your credit card will give you free lounge access to a number of airport lounges. For example, both the American Express Platinum card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offer free Priority Pass membership. This will get you access to thousands of lounges around the world and even free credit to use at a growing list of airport restaurants.
Thrifty Tip: Download the LoungeBuddy mobile app. This is a great way to navigate the world of airport lounges. It will even give you directions to lounges you have access to.
Most airports have free luggage protection which comes in the form of essentially saran wrapping your suitcase. It looks a bit silly, but won't be regretted when you avoid the scuffs and marks on your suitcase when you check your bag. This won't be for everyone, but it is certainly an option if you want to keep your suitcase in tip-top shape.
In the end, it does not hurt to ask for free items. Whether you're in the airport or in-flight, ask for the items you need. Above are the top 10 free items we have encountered, but will keep our eyes peeled for even more benefits to share.