If it wasn't for the array of cut-price airlines we all have access to these days, there is no way I would've seen as much of the world as I have so far. I've flown to Europe for as little as £20, with most of my flights coming in cheaper than a return train ticket from London to York, but there are compromises to be made.
This is not luxury travel. The airlines themselves identify as 'no frills' which essentially means you get the pleasure of being safely transported from A to B, but not necessarily in a great deal of comfort. I've only ever flown short haul with these sorts of airlines, although many of them are starting to offer trips further afield. So before you book, here's what you need to know:
1) Take snacks
There are no free meals, although most of them do offer a food service. This is, of course, horribly overpriced, even if you just fancy a cup of tea. I always stock up in the airport M&S or Pret before boarding and make sure I have a snack or two as well as a big bottle of water.
2) The hand luggage policy varies depending the airline
Everybody knows that a budget airline will charge you to take a big piece of luggage in the hold (I find it's normally around £30). However, the rules get wobbly with each airline. With Ryanair, it's only the first 90 people to board the plane who get to take their luggage in the cabin with them, so make sure your valuables are in your handbag/rucksack in case it gets taken from you at the gate. With Wizz Air, they charge you to take a roll-on suitcase as hand luggage, which is absolutely obscene and actually ensured I didn't book a flight with them recently.
3) Never check-in at the airport
Of course, checking-in online saves you the bother of having to queue at the airport anyway, but budget airlines can be super cheeky and often charge you for not doing this in advance. If you check-in at the airport with Ryanair, you'll be charged a juicy £40 for the pleasure, but even if you have arrived and realised you've left your boarding pass at home, you can always download the airline's app. I actually find Ryanair and Easyjet's apps super easy to use, and it means you can download your boarding pass onto your phone with no panic of leaving it behind.
4) Don't pay to sit with your mates
The airline will do it for you anyway. The cheeky airlines ask you if you want to 'guarantee' sitting with your friends by booking your seat, but once you check-in they'll allocate you seats anyway. Providing you've booked your tickets with your friends and that you all check-in on the same booking, you'll be allocated seats together. So unless you have to have a window seat, or desperately want to sit up front, don't bother paying for it.
5) The plane is basic
I mean, they manage to stay up in the air, but when it comes to the make up of the aircraft, you'd be amazed at what gets ripped out to make room or cut back on costs. Ryanair doesn't have any tray tables or storage compartment on the back of seats, so don't be thinking you can tuck your magazine away neatly - that big arse copy of i-D is sitting on your lap for the duration.
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