Beat The On Board Tea Fee

After flying for years with KLM and Air France, I was shocked to find I had to pay for a cuppa on Britain’s “premium” airline, British Airways.

If you guzzle tea like there is no tomorrow (like me), then it can be quite frustrating to pay £2.50 on board or approximately £3 for a cuppa at the departure gates. For a 1.5 hour flight, I could easily spend a tenner drinking tea until I reach my destination (departure gates and in flight).

Growing up, I could never splash out on cafe’s etc, I’d only spend money on what was 100% necessary. Although I can now buy a cuppa in a cafe, I still use frugal principles today.

My sister in law laughs at me for this sort of behaviour, but it is ingrained in me. I can’t help but thinking that 10 EUR saved on food and drink will then fund my fuel to the mountains.

If British Airways can make cuts to improve their gross margins, why can’t make cuts to decrease my travel expenditure?

Here is how I manage to enjoy a brew on board for free

Tea Travel

God Save the Points did a great article about getting a cuppa (almost) for free on board. I will show you how you can enjoy a cuppa on board and in the departure gates for free (all you pay for is your tea bag from home).

– What you’ll need from home –

  • Tea bags of your choice
  • Flask
  • Travel kettle
  • Spoon (to remove the tea bag from the flask)
Tea Budget Travel

At one point, I never dreamed of taking a kettle through security, then I got this idea when I saw passengers carrying rice cookers as hand luggage on flights in Asia.

According to Homeland Security in the USA, you can travel with an electric kettle in your hand luggage. It is worth checking with your airline before you fly. I flew with British Airways from Munich to London City and then London Heathrow to Munich. I did have to remove the kettle at security in Heathrow, but it was re-scanned and then I was on my way with the kettle!

Additionally, you are allowed to take tea bags and a flask. Again, here you might be required to show the airport security inside the flask. We had an incident flying with Iceland air to Iceland; our flask was stuffed with tea bags and it looked like we were smuggling substances. However, after removing all the tea bags and re-scanning the tea bags and the flask, all was ok.

Remember: airport staff are just doing their job.

– Water –

The only thing missing in your kit list is water, which you aren’t allowed through security. That said, I have got through security with opened 1.5l bottles of water in Indonesia and Kenya, but that is a different story!

Once through security, you might be able to drink the water from the tap. Insider has a great overview of the countries in which you can drink the tap water.

Where you can drink tap water

I was flying from Germany and the UK; therefore, I was able to use the tap water in the toilet. Always check the following:

  1. If the tap water is drinkable in the country you will visit and
  2. If the tap in the toilet has a “no drinking water” sign.

If the water is not safe to drink, then you’ll need to purchase water.

Budget travel

– Making your tea –

Once you have your water source, fill up your kettle.

Next find a plug. Importantly, ensure the plug is not near a busy area where the kettle can be kicked or knocked over. Think of it like your own house: if you couldn’t have the kettle on a bench or table, you certainly wouldn’t put it somewhere that it could easily be knocked over.

Plug in and off you go. Make the tea in your flask and brew to desired strength. Remove the tea bag, put the lid on and drink it where you like.

– Time –

Ensure that you leave enough time to do the following:

  • to get through security, including re-scanning of your flask and kettle
  • to make your tea
  • To cool down the kettle! It will still be hot and most likely too hot to put back in your case. I went to the toilet and filled my kettle with cold water and kept doing this until the kettle was cool and could be put back in my case.

– On Board –

When on board, the same rules apply to your brew as they do to other passengers who will buy refreshments.

Do not prepare your drink in the cup until the fasten seat belt signs are switched off and the cabin crew consider it safe to have refreshments (i.e. if they get the refreshment trolley out).

Take off and landing can be bumpy and hot drinks don’t mix with bumpiness.

Budget travel

– Kettle Options –

If you don’t already own a travel kettle, then there are a few things to consider before buying one.

  1. Will you be carrying the kettle in hand luggage only?
  2. Is space or weight an issue?

I bought a foldable travel kettle because I sometimes take it with me to mountain huts. Some huts charge 3 € for 0.5l of hot water, which is reasonable considering the location. For a weekend in winter, I could easily spend 20 € on hot water.

The huts do however let you use electricity and the tap water is drinkable in Austria. I usually bring my foldable travel kettle to save a bit of money (unless I need to cut down on weight in my pack).


And there we have it; an easy way to save money on tea when you travel 🙂

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