Everything You Need To Outsmart Budget Airlines

I’m a sucker for a good deal. When I initially moved to Europe, I was shocked by the amount of budget airlines and how cheap flights were. However, looks can be deceiving. Without properly researching all the specific rules ahead of time, a seemingly cheap flight could end up costing you a massive headache — plus unnecessary fees. These Lala tips will help you have a stress-free, cheap flight the next time you’re in Europe (or during your study abroad)!

1. Calculate The Final Cost Of Everything.

If you are flying on Ryanair from Frankfurt, Germany to London, you aren’t actually flying from Frankfurt to London. You’re flying from Frankfurt Hahn to London Stansted. Frankfurt Hahn is 75 miles (120 kilometers) away from central Frankfurt and London Stansted is 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from central London. Budget airlines are able to lower their costs by flying into obscure airports rather than the large, international airports. This means that getting to and from the airport (roundtrip) can potentially cost anywhere from 20 to 50 Euros.

Want to reserve a seat? That will easily cost you 5 to 10 Euros. Need to check luggage? That could be anywhere from 25 to 60 Euros. While I don’t recommend reserving a seat or checking luggage, if you need to do it, do it in advance. You will get a much cheaper rate online than at the airport. The price can also increase depending upon the type of payment you use (credit cards tend to add a surcharge). You may also end up paying 10 to 20 Euros to a third party website for having them reserve your ticket. Sometimes it ends up being cheaper to buy a more expensive ticket with less “hidden fees” than a ticket from a budget airline. Do your homework and calculate the final cost of everything before clicking ‘buy.’

2. Only Travel With Carry-On Luggage.

Avoid the expensive baggage fees and only bring carry-on luggage. Beware of the measurement and weight restrictions. Budget airlines are very strict about passengers abiding by the measurement and weight cut-offs and will not hesitate to fine you/make you check your luggage (and incur additional fees) if your carry-on luggage is too large. While most budget airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage plus a small purse or laptop, some only allow you to have one altogether. Lastly, some budget airlines are starting to charge for carry-on luggage. If this is the case, pay the carry-on luggage fee online rather than at the airport. Make sure to check beforehand!

3. Read The Fine Print.

Before you hit “Purchase,” make sure you have not inadvertently purchased something totally unnecessary. The budget airlines will make you want to purchase a hotel room, a rental car, a car shuttle service, and other odds and ends. I also avoid buying travel insurance through these websites (and to be honest, I rarely ever buy travel insurance). Most budget airlines will charge you a fee if you don’t check-in and print out your boarding pass 2-3 hours prior to your departure.

4. Bring Your Own Snacks And Drinks.

After going through security, purchase your own snacks and drinks. Budget airlines will charge insane prices for a small bag of peanuts and a tiny bottle of water.

5. Consider Your Well-Being, Overall Comfort, And Duration Of Your Trip.

Is it really worth sacrificing your well-being and overall comfort to save 50 Euros? While you might be saving a chunk of change, the hassle of getting to and from the airports as well as all the rules and regulations of budget airlines might not be worth it. Also, budget flights tend to be really early in the morning or really late at night. That could potentially affect not only the amount of time you have at your final destination, but also how you feel while you’re there. Are you really going to want to be tired all day? While I’ve used Ryanair and other budget airlines many times, I have also paid the extra 50 Euros to be able to travel hassle-free, in comfort, and to maximize my time in my final destination.

Overall Verdict:

If you know how to navigate the loopholes and money traps of budget airlines, then they are well worth their low fares. However, some instances call for just buying a more expensive ticket through a major airline!

My Favorite Budget Airlines:

+ Germanwings
+ Ryanair
+ Wizz Air
+ EasyJet

Best Websites To Find Budget Airline Deals:

+ Skyscanner
+ Momondo
+ Which Airline

Jordan Beck Wagner

Contributor, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in Germany Major: Political Science, German, and Public Health Her heart belongs to: Heidelberg (Germany), engaging books, meaningful conversations, authentic coffee, delicious beer, J.Crew, traveling, and the Detroit Lions! You can find her: with a camera in her hand exploring new countries (26 countries and counting!)

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