How to Work the Airport Bar Like a Frequent Flier

Drink with a view of planes at the airport
Photo: Caitlin Ochs/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Stuck on a long layover? There are lots of ways to kill time, but one popular option is to settle in at the airport bar. Of course, there are a few drawbacks you might run into, like the steep prices and accidentally losing track of time — or your personal belongings.

Pretty much anything sold at the airport, including alcoholic beverages, is usually sold at a high markup. So, having a quick cocktail or two can really add up. One tip Lifehacker offers is to ask for a double instead of ordering multiple drinks: "That means you’ll get an extra shot of liquor in there for an extra $2 or so... When drinks already cost $15 each, the double will save you money in the long run."

And just because you’re heading out on an early flight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a quick drink before flying. Thrillist pointed out that airport bars are basically “time vortexes.” Literally everyone is operating in different time zones depending on where they’re coming from, so you can feel free to grab a mimosa or even a beer or glass of wine. However, Forbes suggests avoiding straight spirits, since they can be dehydrating.

Of course drinking at a bar, especially with doubles, can also mean losing track of your personal belongings. While you should avoid drinking to this point at all costs, make some small talk with the bartender just in case — maybe even tell them a crazy, memorable story. You’ll not only make a new friend (or, at least, casual acquaintance), but you'll also make sure someone knows where you’re headed in case you lose your bag or your boarding pass.

On that same note, if someone else is keeping track of where you’re going, they might be able to warn you if you’re losing track of time. You wouldn’t want to miss your flight because you ordered that second margarita. Lifehacker also recommended asking for the bill as soon as you order, so you won't risk being kept waiting if the bartender is busy when you have to leave and head for your gate.

Oak Bar at the Dublin, Ireland airport
Cahir Davitt/Getty Images

When you do grab your bill, it’s customary to tip as you normally would at your neighborhood hangout, and preferably in cash, Lifehacker noted. Don’t assume an airport bartender gets paid any differently than one at the bar on your street. But when it comes to paying for your drinks, use a credit or debit card, as this will help the bartender find you if you leave something behind.

As mentioned before, imbibing in alcohol can dehydrate you, and so can flying. Dry air and altitude can be pretty uncomfortable when you’re tipsy, so order a glass of water with your beer, wine, or spirits. In fact, if you're having multiple alcoholic beverages, drink a glass of water between each one.

Forbes also recommends ordering something you can “stretch” in order to avoid getting too drunk before a flight. Get something you can sip slowly and enjoy rather than knocking back several drinks in a short amount of time. Even if you happen to get drunk before your flight, it’s important to remember that passengers should not “appear drunk” to crew or they risk being removed from the flight.

And if you are on a particularly long layover, it might be a good time to weigh your options in terms of getting an airport lounge pass. A pass can cost around $50, Thrillist noted, “which nets out to five to six beers, or maybe three Scotches if you’re drinking good Scotch.” In some cases, this could be cost effective — and most lounges have plenty of snacks and free Wi-Fi, too.

Next time you feel like tying one on before take-off, be sure to use these tips so you stay safe, healthy, and even save a little money along the way.

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