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.
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?