One huge difference when travelling in Europe as opposed to the US are all of the options when it comes to low-cost airlines such as RyanAir, EasyJet, Wizz Air, and a whole slew of others.
These just don’t exist in the US — with round-trip tickets for some flights as cheap as $20 or $30! — but you will need to be careful and look before you leap when booking a flight on a low cost airline, as those rock-bottom prices for flights can come with a lot of strings attached.
Below are some simple tips and general considerations for travel on low cost airlines such as RyanAir, which can save you an enormous amount of hassle and money in the long run:
- Travel light: If you’re a solo traveler or backpacker who hates checking huge suitcases and travels light with just a carry-on bag or backpack, low-cost airlines are a godsend for you. If you’re traveling with a family or a wife that feels naked without a suitcase large enough for even Noah’s needs, you should likely avoid low-cost airlines like the plague.
One reason the airlines offer those low fares is by restricting you to just one small carry-on, which often must weigh 10 kg or less (and 6 kg or less on some). If you check a bag, boom, the ticket price jumps up; if the bag is 20 kg or more, boom, the price jumps up again.
Some airlines such as RyanAir are also very Soup Nazi-esque about enforcing the one carry-on item rule, and they consider basically anything in your hands — a purse, a laptop bag, a shopping bag — as one item, in addition to any typical carry-on roller bag or backpack. If you can’t consolidate it into one bag then boom, they not only charge you for an item of luggage but tack on extra fees for checking it at the gate.
Be sure to account for baggage fees when pricing tickets, as those extra costs can dramatically increase the fare price. In some cases it’s still a better deal to check a bag on a low cost carrier than to fly with a traditional carrier, but be sure to go ahead and pay the extra baggage fee when booking your flight.
Many low cost airlines will tack on additional fees if you booked a flight with no checked luggage but turn up at check-in with a bag to check; ditto for extra fees if you paid to check a bag of 20 kg or less but try to check-in with a bag over 20 kg, as you pay the added amount for checking the larger bag plus an extra fee on top of that.
- Print Ahead: One annoying thing about RyanAir and many others is that they charge a ridiculous extra fee if you don’t pre-print your boarding pass yourself; I like RyanAir in general but this one always drives me nuts, just on general principles.
You’ve paid for your ticket but if you turn up at the RyanAir desk at the airport and ask to have your boarding pass printed, it costs an extra 40 euros/pounds! Just to print a wee little paper boarding pass, like every other airline manages to do for free. They call this a “Boarding Pass Reissue Fee” and claim that fare costs would be higher if they didn’t do this; various courts have deemed this practice illegal but they’re still at it while their appeals are being heard.
Since it isn’t always convenient or possible to print boarding passes at some hotels you may be staying at, be sure to pre-print all the boarding passes you’ll need for your flights on a low-cost carrier, even printing a duplicate set just to be safe as otherwise it can be insanely expense to get the passes printed at the airport.
- Drink and Eat Up: You’ll pay exorbitant prices for everything on a low-cost flight, even for just a glass of water. Fair enough, as I’m fine with the fact that the guy guzzling 8 euro beers is keeping the cost of my flight down, just make sure you fill up your own tank at the airport before the flight.
- Know Where You’re Landing: This sounds dumb but it’s a major consideration when booking with a low-cost carrier and where many people go astray. Low-cost carriers often fly into smaller airports outside of major metropolitan areas due to the lower fees there, so you’ll need to factor in the extra travel cost and hassle of traveling 30 km (or even more in some cases) to get to your actual destination.
- Know Thy Airlines: Many low-cost airlines aren’t part of travel networks/agencies like CheapAir, Priceline, or Skyscanner so you’ll often have to manually check their website for fares and prices. They’re also often limited as to where they fly, so you may need to book your trip in two different legs on two different carries.