Budget airlines are kind of like glorified buses designed to get you from point A to B and nothing else. They’ll pack as many people on the plane as the FAA will allow and call it “cozy” seating. Refreshments on board? Forget about it. In-flight entertainment? You wish. You even have to print your boarding pass like it’s 1999 or else you’ll get nickel-and-dimed into oblivion. But once you get past the superficial stuff and take it for what it really is, you’ll realize that budget airlines are a godsend. Roundtrip flight from Washington DC to Panama via Spirit Airlines – $218! London to Berlin via RyanAir – $57! If getting to your destination for the least amount of money is your only concern, low-cost carriers are the way to go. With prices like that, it’s completely worth it to forego in-flight luxuries like leather seats that actually recline.
However, I’ll be the first to admit that budget airlines require a little extra navigation. My first experience a few years ago was a major fail. I flew Spirit Airlines to Cancun for a girls trip and somehow managed to book two 20 hour stopovers that I hadn’t planned for. My second offense was that I didn’t read the policies in advance and ended up paying hundreds in baggage fees before I eventually ditched my massive suitcase. After that experience, I could have sworn off budget airlines forever but those prices keep me coming back for more like a bad boyfriend. After countless flights all over Europe and the U.S., I’ve finally got a handle on it. Follow these tips and you’ll have no problem surviving budget airlines like a pro the first time.
Give yourself ample time when flying a budget airline to international destinations. The rule of thumb is to arrive 2 hours early, but I like to build in some extra “just in case” time. After all, you never know what the lines will look like and if you miss your flight, the agents are not going to jump through hoops to help you. Sometimes you are required to get a special stamp on your boarding pass or passport otherwise you won’t be able to board at the gate. Arriving early ensures that you have everything covered, and if not, you’ll have enough time to fix it.
These airlines offer no frills and are proud of it. There’s no water, complimentary snacks, or even in flight entertainment because you didn’t pay for that in the price of your ticket. No big deal though, right? Bring your own snacks (you’d probably like them more than the ones offered on the flight anyway) and an empty water bottle you can fill up before boarding. Load up your iPhone with reading material and a few movies to pass the time. If you don’t bring your own refreshments, you can always purchase them on board.
Pay attention to luggage allowances
If you’re flying a budget airline to save on cost, skip the checked bag. In the event that you absolutely need to check your luggage, be sure to pay for it at the time of booking because as you get closer to your departure date, the price to goes up. If you’re not checked in before you get to the airport, be prepared to dish out major bucks. I’m talking up to twice the amount (which in some cases is more than your flight)! Your best bet is to bring a carry-on bag such as a backpack or very small rolling suitcase that meets the luggage allowance. On EasyJet, the carry-on dimensions are 56 x 45 x 25cm whereas they very slightly on RyanAir at 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. On Spirit Airlines, you can only bring a personal item. Plan ahead! Measure your bag beforehand to make sure it fits because the policies are STRICT!
Know your airline
All budget airlines are not created equal. It’s easy to get confused so be sure to read the policies of your respective airline. For instance, you wouldn’t want to show up to an Easy Jet flight with your carry on and purse expecting everything to be all gravy because this particular carrier doesn’t allow a personal item. Likewise, some budget airlines require you to print your boarding pass at home otherwise you’ll be subject to heavy fees at the airport for using “resources”. Read the fine print and there won’t be any surprises. Spirit Airlines even created a nifty guide to keep all passengers in the know.
Tiffany is travel + lifestyle blogger aiming to inspire globally minded millennial women to escape the mundane (if only for a moment), embrace their inner wanderlust, and to boldly live life on their own terms. You can find more of her tip and experiences on her blog.