a plane on the tarmac

We’ve unintentionally developed a reputation for being a luxury travel authority. Ok, maybe not so unintentionally, but what can you do?. We love flying first and business class using points and great deals and the same goes for lovely hotels – but it’s not all suites in the air and on the ground.

Sometimes practicality takes over and sometimes budget airlines are the best answer. When it comes to budget airlines, Ryanair is the most prolific operator, for better and worse, but  after a few nice recent flights we’ve got a few thoughts on how to survive the experience unscathed.

You might not even hate it…

a plane on the runway at nightPay Nothing

By nothing, we mean one of their €5 fares. Ryanair has been making up for bad press with great fares. It’s not hard to score deals under €10 one way, and at this price – there’s a lot of upside. Above that price… meh. Basically – it’s worth using Google Flight, Skyscanner or another great price comparison tool to check all options first, but if Ryanair is dirty cheap, you might as well.

But First, First

Before you go and book any ole flight, see if you can find one where the first row is open. This is the game changer. If you choose Ryanair first row seats A,B or C – you’ll have virtually unlimited legroom. You can’t touch a wall if you try.

First row seats are €20 to reserve and if you pay the €6 or so on top of that, you get priority boarding which gets you a full sized carry on.

Baggage Lite

Ryanair gets you  big time on checked bags – so don’t check any.

If you’re checking bags on Ryanair, you may legitimately be better off paying more on another airline by the time the prices add up.  To make Ryanair work, the best thing is to pay the new optional “priority” fee so you can take a small personal item and a carry on, on board. Here’s how to maximise your small personal item allowance, so that you can fit a tonne between your carry on and the personal item.

Electronics in the small bag, light clothes in the big bag, everything else on your body.

a close-up of a couple of suitcasesCheck In Online

Much to the surprise of people who ignore most emails – Ryanair charges €50 or local currency to check in at the airport. If you haven’t checked in online, you’re going to get hosed big time, so be sure to pay attention before hitting the airport. Don’t sweat, luggage drop doesn’t cost extra.

Repeat: Ryanair charges you to check in at the airport. Whatever it takes, find a printer at your hotel or a local print store and check in before you get there.

Board Last

If you need both your allowed carry on bags accessible the entire flight, you’ll need to queue up. If not- and you’re fine with just your smaller bag. Board last. Why wait around in an old tattered plane when you can have one last breath of fresh air (or beer). Your big bag will go under, but you won’t pay for it – so who cares. Enjoy the fresh air-  you were smart enough to assign a seat.

No Rush

Now every airport is slightly different, but in virtually every airport the 6-7AM morning rush sucks. If you want to have a semi civilized budget carrier experience – try to pick flights leaving mid late morning, or early afternoon into the evening. Far less fuss.

a restaurant with tables and chairsPriorityPass

If you fly Ryanair regularly, PriorityPass is heavenly. For just £12/$16 a visit, anyone can get into airport VIP lounges, enjoying a glass of bubbles, some buffet or just some wifi and quiet before a flight. It’s a LOT better than most of the terminals you’d be waiting in!

Noise Cancellation

Technically, this applies to any flight – but once the safety briefing is over, click on those noise cancelling headphones, avoiding the constant sales pitches, rampant on Ryanair flights. Here are some good headphone options for all budgets.

Back Up Plan

Ryanair famously cancelled thousands of flights this year, which lost some public trust. The key (when flying any airline) is to have a back up plan in play. Know which flights are going to your destination, see if there’s availability using points and if there are other options. These things happen, so knowing what to do as contingency is just smart travel. Don’t forget about EC261 compensation is all things go haywire, you may get back more than you paid : )


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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