As part of several travel and flight deals groups on Facebook, I frequently see people complaining about flying on budget airlines as though it were a special kind of hell. Come on. You’re paying £20 for a flight. Why would you expect it to come with all the frills? That’s like shopping at Walmart and expecting top quality products. That’s just not going to happen.
People often ask me how I could afford to travel so much while in grad school. Aside from, you know, not writing my dissertation and basically eating instant ramen for a year, I took advantage of European budget airlines — Ryanair, Easyjet, and Wizz Air, just to name a few. Here are my tried-and-tested tips to make it bearable, if not pleasant.
1. Read the fine print
With flight prices that low, budget airlines make their money from fees and add-ons. Don’t be that doofus who gets charged extra for checking in at the airport, not printing your boarding pass, bringing too much luggage, and more. I have never paid more than the base price for any of my flights, and you don’t have to either.
Full list of Ryanair fees / Easyjet fees / Wizz Air fees
2. Pack your own water and snacks
Budget airlines usually charge for refreshments on board. To get around this, I bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after security, and pack an assortment of snacks: trail mix, nuts, granola bar, jerky, etc. On a long-haul Icelandair flight, I even brought a Tupperware of fried rice.
3. Bring your own in-flight entertainment
We live in a digital age! Catching up with the latest episode of Game of Thrones, playing video games, listening to podcasts…there are literally countless things you could do on your flight with just a smartphone or tablet. Or if you’re old school like me, just bring a book!
4. Know your baggage limits
Despite its stringent checked baggage policy, Ryanair is surprisingly lax with carry-ons — I prefer to travel with a small cross-body purse and my trusty MEC Connector Daypack. On the other hand, Easyjet is extremely strict with allowing only one carry-on, as is Wizz Air. Just be aware of how much extra baggage costs so that you don’t encounter any nasty surprises at the airport.
5. Be realistic with your expectations
You are paying for a £20 flight. It is frankly unrealistic to expect that it would come with all the bells and whistles that accompany something like a British Airways flight. However, if your expectation is to travel often and cheaply, this is a perfectly sensible option.
I know that I would never have been able to visit half the places I was able to see if I hadn’t taken advantage of budget airlines, so it all comes down to priorities — are you willing to sacrifice a couple hours of comfort for the ability to travel?
What she said! I love budget airlines, but that’s because I appreciate what they are. They’re generally short-haul, so if you can sit down and shut up for 2-3 hours, you’re golden. If you behave like a responsible human being – for example, if you actually do what they tell you to do (like 5 times) and print your boarding card beforehand, have the correct hand baggage, etc, I see n reason to complain about the service. People stick the boot into Ryanair, EasyJet etc, out of either snobbery or stupidity, but my experiences have always been very positive.
Thanks for your comment Rob! It is surprising how many people will behave poorly at the airport and make it out to be the fault of the airline!
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Thanks! I’m flying with EasyJet (or Ryanair… i forget) for the first time to Prague in a few days so this will be helpful!
Have fun and enjoy Prague! Do check as Easyjet and Ryanair have different baggage restrictions 😝
Yes to carrying your own snacks and water. I do the same when flying with airlines that sell food.
Thanks for the tips.
Aca-awesome post! I’ve gotta say that I feel like us tiny ladies probably find flying budget a bit easier! I used to do it all the time, being the absolute Scrooge that I am, but then I started being able to afford nicer airlines and now I can’t bring myself to go back! It’s terrible! I’m flying to Aus in a couple of months and I’m paying twice the price for my flight than the cheapest option…
Ryanair over Easyjet, for sure. And yep I also pack my own snacks, even for regular airlines! My mum used to do the same when we were kids (in case we didn’t like the plane food), so I kind of picked up the habit from her. The packing can be an issue… but I think I’m beginning to learn how to do it right 🙂
I pack my own snacks even on a non-budget flight, what does that say about me? I’ll be flying a lot of budget airlines soon, so I’ll keep these in mind and hopefully they will be great flights!
Agree, you can’t expect much from low budget airlines. they will take you to your destination for cheap. I’m happy with this. Like you said I think if you bring entertainment and snack it will be a pleasant flight.
I’ve flown EasyJet before and it wasn’t all bad! I would much rather pay less for a flight with little amenities than pay at least 2x more for a flight that gives you free peanuts and allows a personal item. EasyJet was even lax with my bag weight. It was about a pound and a half overweight but they checked it for free anyways, yay! The only bad part was the race to the plane! We paid to get on the flight early but they took us across the airport on a bus and everyone jumped out and raced to the plane, madness! haha.
Great tips! I always use the budget airlines, I’m grateful they make travelling around Europe so affordable!
So, true…once you choose to fly on a budget airline, you are pretty much responsible for your own food and entertainment. It’s the price you pay for flying cheap. As long as the airplane is well maintained, budget airlines are good to have as they make possible for most people to fly.
Great tips! Being from Ireland I’ve flown Ryanair more times than I can remember and even though it has a really bad rep I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m more interested in saving my money for the city I’m visiting, not blow my entire budget on the flights alone!
Great tips! I fly budget, never flew anything else and I’m easygoing so it’s no problem for me!