5 tips for traveling on budget european airlines

Today I’m going to talk about the best part of being an expat… the ability to travel! While we were living in Scotland, we tried to take as many weekend trips as possible and found that we were able to stretch our budget if we planned ahead and compared discount airlines. Here are a few money-saving tips we learned along the way while traveling on easyJet, Jet2.com and Ryanair.

5 tips for traveling on budget European airlines:

5 tips for traveling on european budget airlines

1. PRINT BOARDING PASS BEFORE GOING TO THE AIRPORT

While easyJet won’t hit you with a fee for printing them at the airport, Ryanair and Jet2.com will and it won’t be cheap. Jet2.com has a fee of around 17.50 GBP or 23 EUR, while Ryanair will charge 70 GBP/EUR. That charge alone could sky rocket the price of your plane ticket. Not only will you save money by printing your pass at home, you’ll also save yourself the hassle of waiting in any lines before security (assuming you’re not checking luggage).

2. REMEMBER THAT ONLY ONE CARRY-ON IS ALLOWED

This rule always frustrated me because I like to travel with a backpack and a purse. But you’re only allowed one carry-on, period. I made sure to leave room in my backpack for my purse and/or camera bag when it was time to board the plane… or I hid my purse under my coat. Shhh!

Another situation we encountered was the bag size test. EasyJet and Jet2.com specify a pretty standard size while Ryanair shaves a few cm off because, well — they suck. They also happen to be the airline that is the strictest at checking the size off passengers’ carry-on luggage. On a Ryanair flight out of Brussels they had everyone check the size of their bags. And if your bag didn’t fit into the little metal box? A fee.

3. IF YOU PLAN ON CHECKING A BAG, PRE-BOOK ON THE AIRLINE’S WEBSITE

Failure to do so will result in you paying more for your checked bag, especially on Ryanair. EasyJet has a straight forward price for one bag while Ryanair takes into account season (WTF?) and bag weight. Jet2.com doesn’t publish set rates, as they vary by route, but does say booking online provides some savings. As you can probably guess, if you go over the weight limit you’ll end up paying more. This is why we used backpacks.

4. MOST DISCOUNT AIRLINES USE AIRPORTS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF MAJOR CITIES

This is especially true with Ryanair, and sometimes these secondary airports won’t be connected to public transportation systems which provide a cheap ride to the city center. The secondary airports will often have a bus service to the city center, but they’re generally not cheap (and the ride could take hours). Make sure to take this into account when comparing flights.

5. REFRESHMENTS AND SNACKS ARE NOT FREE… BRING YOUR OWN

Not nearly as significant as the other points but worth noting. The onboard prices aren’t that unreasonable, but you can save some money by bringing snacks and buying a drink once you’re past security.

As you can see, Ryanair has the steepest fees. However, it’s also worth noting that they also have the cheapest fare, on average, from our experiences. This is why it’s important to research and plan ahead before any vacation.

Next time you’re thinking about booking a flight on a European budget airline, keep this list in mind. Don’t allow your discounted fare to turn into a premium one!

       
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Filed Under: Expat, Travel27 Comments
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

    i love this! we really want to backpack across europe when we leave korea and have always talked about using rail or ryanair. good to know there’s more choices and how to best use them!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02277056535139881326 Z

    wow, this is so accurate! when I studied abroad, I flew EXCLUSIVELY ryanair. it was great for the prices (thirteen pounds for a trip to the UK THANK YOU)! and…it was terrible for everything else. you know it so well! :]

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14585681189196096870 Kelly {Sparkles and Shoes}

    I agree, especially about printing and bringing snacks!

    xx
    Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14647707557228625706 Amanda

    My biggest problem with Ryanair is that since the flights are so cheap the airline always has customers. So they cancel flights ALL THE TIME. Because they know that people will still come back to them. And I do….ugh. xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03170401972546655977 Yaya

    Spot on on all these points. Though, I flew easyjet (for the first time) about 2 months ago, and was able to bring my handbag and carry on on board. Maybe it was a one off or they didn’t really notice. Hmm, who knows.

    Enjoy reading all these linked posts! May just have to join in! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11952024785307333996 Lindsey Marie

    This is great. I’m having a Euro extravaganza this fall with some friends and family and this is just what I needed!:)

    http://abroadsworld.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08563442390740639521 Amy @ The Tide That Left

    Tip number four is definitely a good one to remember. I flew to Venice recently on Ryanair and had to travel some way to actually make it to Venice (although not as far as some airport transfers, thankfully)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16603955636771429512 gladley

    I remember budget flights in Europe when they genuinely cost 1p or 99p for a flight. They got us all hooked and then jacked up the prices and added lots of hoops to jump through. As a business model it’s genius, but every time I fly Ryanair I’m sitting in self-loathing and vowing never to flying with them again, until next time.

    However, the BIGGEST TIP I ever got about Ryanair flights, was that when you board the plane, the front row on the left is ALWAYS taken up by an older couple, who take the window and aisle seat in the hope that nobody will sit in the middle. SIT IN THE MIDDLE. It’s hilarious because they’ll look at you in disdain for a few minutes and then ask you to swap. You’ll be in the front row and you can get off quickest when you land. Don’t believe me? Just look at the front row next time you board a budget flight and remember me.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543798912886827648 Gesci

      That is hilarious and SO SO TRUE. Then you have the parents flying with 2-3 children who space out over 3 rows… I don’t think so!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05857843234671826550 Amanda Wissmann

    So thankful I didn’t miss this month’s Expat Diaries!!!

    I would LOVE to travel to Europe…will keep these things in mind if I ever get the chance!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09988158250488221291 Jelli

    My husband and I definitely learned tip #4 while in Europe pre-wedding. We spent the night outside an airport in Spain, “sleeping” as much as possible in a parking lot before the sun came up to get to our destination city. Great memories, but helpful to know, especially for those who aren’t into “winging it” as far as travel is concerned.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03481775343584575260 Casey Martin

    We always fly Easyjet all over while in Europe and truthfully even with all the stipulations you mentioned above, it’s one of my favorite airlines to fly… the crew are always super friendly, the planes new and clean and the food you can buy is always really good!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12050447967374041694 Rachel

      easyJet is my favorite too! They fly into convenient airports (most of the time) and less fees.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543798912886827648 Gesci

    The biggest tip I can give people is to buy an L.L.Bean large tote before you leave the States. It fits perfectly into the Ryanair carryon frame un-stuffed, but since it’s fabric you can stuff it almost to your heart’s content to maximize space! Most backpacks waste a lot of the space based on their shape. And since my L.L.Bean tote has shoulder straps it was a lot handier to carry around public transportation and cobblestone streets than a wheeled suitcase.
    One return flight I had three long-sleeve shirts lining the back of my coat because I’d bought too many souvenirs- it was HOT waiting in line to board, that’s for sure! And Paul almost always had his book or kindle stuck in his waistband, to save suitcase space. It’s pretty funny watching everyone prep for the bag checking, with all the pocket stuffing and swapping items with travelmates!
    We flew Lufthansa to Bulgaria, and it was the first time in almost a year either of us had flown a non-discount airline. Between the seat space, the luggage flexibility (one free CHECKED bag each!) and the really tasty hot pasties on the flight and free alcohol we were in heaven! We didn’t live the fine life for long, though- they just happened to be the best rate to Sofia at the time!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543798912886827648 Gesci

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543798912886827648 Gesci

      Oh, and GREAT tips! Don’t forget WizzAir, too, for people traveling around on the Continent- particularly to Eastern Europe! They’re apparently as bad as RyanAir, but again, cheap.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09003557241706804723 Leeann @ Join the Gossip

    I’ve never been to Europe but want to go SO badly! Great tips for when I finally make it :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12598317069186321515 Alexane TK

    Thank you for this post! I’ve just moved to Istanbul and am looking forward to travelling around Europe this year! I’ve also grabbed your button and posted on my site :)

    Hope to see you around!
    xoxo

    Alexane TK
    threelovetales.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16723431374621324385 Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife

    So true that they seemingly trick you into paying more, we flew Brussels Airlines from Copenhagen to Brussels and it was really wonderful and they often have good deals going.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04953626122327472245 Betsy Transatlantically

    oh God. #2 got me EVERY TIME.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05768386916902381178 Irene

    Great tips! I’ve also hidden my bag under my coat in winter.
    I really think that these companies, especially Ryanair, are not that cheap anymore. They made a name and now their fares quite normal – especially adding all the extra fees you have to pay for absolutely everything! Some years ago I flew for just 0.99€ from Milan to Rome, that’s was a real bargain flight and no longer possible as debit cards are now also charged. But still, 12 or 20€ fees are very, very cheap.

    I just found your blog via the link-up and it seems really interesting. I love reading stories penned by fellow expats and travel lovers :)

    Have a lovely Sunday,
    Irene

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09682004906290816466 Carrie

    After a long time I have found such an informative post. blogger-online

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  • http://elenastravelgram.blogspot.com/ ElenasTravelgram

    What I like about low-cost companies is that they have flights from small towns to major hubs for dirty cheap. I live in 2 hours TGV ride from Paris and a 10 min ride from Dole with Ryanair flight to Porto, London and Marrakesh for dirty cheap :) That cuts me a penny for train rides pretty much.

    As for Easjet – I kind of stopped liking these guys, ’cause they offer way too high prices to some destinations e.g. Ajaccio-Lyon 256 euro one way in May. For the same price, I can buy a round-trip ticket from Kiev to Paris by Lufthansa. Kind of weird…

  • Pooja Kamthe

    I have a query about traveling in Europe city..Getting around by rail or car is best in Europe city.
    Your article is really useful for Europe travelers..
    You can get in touch of Triphobo trip planner site – http://www.triphobo.com/europe and publish your such a informative article on there blog or trip report section.