Outsmarting budget airlines takes a bit of savviness and knowledge! However, with a bit of planning, you can fully embrace the price of your discount flight!
1 // Calculate the final cost of everything
If you are flying on Ryanair from Frankfurt to London, you aren’t actually flying from Frankfurt to London. You’re flying from Frankfurt Hahn to London Stansted. Frankfurt Hahn is 75 miles (120 kilometers) away from central Frankfurt and London Stansted is 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from central London. Budget airlines are able to lower their costs by flying into obscure airports rather than the large, international airports. This means that getting to and from the airport (roundtrip) can potentially cost anywhere from 20 – 50 Euros!
Want to reserve a seat? That will easily cost you 5-10 Euros. Need to check luggage? That could be anywhere from 25-60 Euros. While I don’t recommend reserving a seat or checking luggage, if you need to do it, do it in advance. You will get a much cheaper rate online than at the airport! Also, the price can increase depending upon the type of payment you use (credit cards tend to add a surcharge). You may also end up paying 10-20 Euros to a third party website for having them reserve your ticket. Sometimes it ends up being cheaper to buy a more expensive ticket with less “hidden fees” than a ticket from a budget airline. Do your homework and calculate the final cost of everything!
2 // Only travel with carry-on luggage
Avoid the expensive, outrageous baggage fees and only bring carry-on luggage. Beware of the measurement and weight restrictions. Budget airlines are very strict about passengers abiding by the measurement and weight restrictions, and will not hesitate to fine you/make you check your luggage (and incur additional fees) if your carry-on luggage is too large. Also, while most budget airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage plus a small purse or laptop, some only allow you to have one altogether. Lastly, some budget airlines are starting to charge for carry-on luggage. If this is the case, pay the carry-on luggage fee online rather than at the airport. Make sure to check beforehand!
3 // Read the fine print
Before you hit “Purchase,” make sure you have not inadvertently purchased something totally unnecessary. The budget airlines will make you want to purchase a hotel room, a rental car, a car shuttle service, and other odds and ends. I also avoid buying travel insurance through these websites (and to be honest, I rarely ever buy travel insurance). Most budget airlines will charge you a fee if you don’t check-in and print out your boarding pass 2-3 hours prior to your departure.
4 // Bring your own snacks and drinks on the flight
After going through security, purchase your own snacks and drinks. Budget airlines will charge insane prices for a small bag of peanuts and a tiny bottle of water.
5 // Consider your well-being, overall comfort, and amount of time in your final destination
Is it really worth sacrificing your well-being and overall comfort to save 50 Euros? While you might be saving 50 Euros, the hassle of getting to and from the airports as well as all the rules and regulations of budget airlines might not be worth it. Also, budget flights tend to be really early in the morning or really late at night. That could potentially affect not only the amount of time you have at your final destination, but also how you feel at your final destination. Are you really going to want to be tired all day? While I’ve used Ryanair and other budget airlines many times, I have also paid the extra 50 Euros to be able to travel hassle-free, in comfort, and to maximize my time in my final destination.
If you know how to navigate the loopholes and money traps of budget airlines, then they are well worth their low fares. However, some instances call for just buying a more expensive ticket through a major airline!
My Favorite Budget Airlines:
+ Ryanair (they’re really trying to improve their image by lessening their rules and regulations)
+ Wizz Air