Flying Budget European Airlines: A Tutorial

I try to fly British Airlines whenever possible...
as an AAdvantage member since the age of 4
{thanks, dad!}
there is nothing that gets my toes tingling more 
than seasonal offers for double miles
& discounted award travel.

However my urge to travel can trump 
even my stedfast loyalty to the One World Alliance...
and sometimes, when you see a ticket to somewhere exotic
and it will only cost you £19.99...
you gotta do what you've got to do.

Europe has loads of budget airlines...
each more cheesy & gimmicky than the rest.

So how do you pick? How do you choose?

And most importantly... how does one survive
the terrible music, people herding & crazy rules
that come as the unwritten tax of traveling these budget airlines?

Well... I'll do my best to help.

Today we flew from Paris to Nice via EasyJet
and we were traveling with a group of 
budget-airline rookies.

When they were charged £30 and forced to check their bags,
I considered it fair game...
but when I saw tears well up in the eyes 
of my fellow passenger, I realized...
there are some definite rules that Americans don't understand
when planning to vacation with these airlines.


1. For the most part, when you book a ticket to a destination...
you aren't actually going to that destination.

"London-Luton," "Paris-Orly," "Barcelona-Giro"
all of these destinations imply close proximity to dream destinations,
but beware: most budget airlines fly into airports that are about 45 min - 1 hour
away from the city center of your destination.

This will require a bus ticket or train ticket
into the city and additional travel time.

Though, to be fair, every airport I have flown into
makes these connections very obvious & easy...
and bus tickets typically range around $12 per person.

2. To keep your travel price to the actual price you paid for your ticket...
pack light. Like, really really light.

I used to think Europeans were funny people 
who just preferred quirky glasses & tiny-astronaut-esque luggage.

Now that I fly their airlines,
I realize they just have luggage that meets these airline's requirements.

{Editors note: Still think some of their glasses are hilarious. Yeah, you Italy.}

These airlines make their money off enforcing luggage.
If you think TSA in the states is tough, you've never met a Spanish RyanAir gate clerk.
Each person and their carry on is checked and tagged for approval.
And if you try to sneak through with a bag that is too big? 
Well, that'a £30 and a checked bag.

Be sure to double check your airline's measurements before heading to the airport.

3. Get there early
and don't forget to print your ticket.

Printing your ticket at the airport 
comes with a fee of around £25 per ticket.

These flights operate on a "first-come, first-serve" basis on flight space.
Since everyone is trying to avoid baggage fees
and will be carrying their luggage,
it means one thing for you:
limited luggage space.

Plan on standing for about an hour in line
waiting to board your plane.

If you are being walked on the plane,
always head to the back line. 
It's less crowded and you'll be closer to the door upon arrival...
which means you can have a jump start on the customs line.

4. Nothing is free.
Nope, not even water.

But I did pay £2.50 for some delicious peppermint tea...
and when I knocked over the entire cup in the process of taking this picture,
the sweet attendant brought me a stack of napkins...
and a fresh cup. 

Apparently, on EasyJet flights in France,
they'll whip you up a Croque Monsier...

Tyler wasn't disappointed, and I'll agree: 
it looked way better than those AA pizzas.

5. You are entering a marketing experience
that has no shame & unabashed use of primary colors.

Duty-free? Tabaco-less cigarettes? Airline Apps? Lotto scratch cards?

If they won't make money off of you from your ticket price,
they'll do their best to pry it out of your fingers in another way.

It's a type of travel that I highly recommend for young people,
single people or people who are a bit familiar with the culture....
otherwise, it might possibly be too much of a hassle.

While it may sound whiney,
just know this:
at the end of the {really long & exhausting} day,
you'll be somewhere amazing
and you'll have spent so little to get there.

I do fly these airlines, and I do it often...
It's not the most glamorous way to travel,
but then again... 
I never seem to remember having to spend £3 for a Diet Coke
when I'm sitting in a piazza in Italy.

And the in-flight entertainment when flying across Europe
is never a disappointment...
the landscapes are stunning.


  1. Excellent list of tips! I lived in England for a year a few years ago and flew budget airlines everywhere. Wish I would have had this list back then. It would have made things a little easier.

    I always thought it was interesting to watch everyone queue to board the flight. Definitely an interesting experience to see. And advertisements EVERYWHERE.

  2. Best post! So informative! I had options to fly Ryanair and all those but the luggage was a total no-go for me. BUT if I lived there, I could see me and my weekender being best friends with budget airlines.

  3. These are some awesome tips!! I've always wondered about those easy jet flights.. Don't think they're for me though. We only make it out to Europe once a year (if that), and when we do, I pretty much pack my whole closet. Woopsie. Lovely option for those who live out there (ahem, that mean you.. lucky!).

  4. could not have said it any better myself. thank goodness now i can send people to this post when they ask about within europe travel.

    BA all the way though.

    and can i add, that sometimes for random reasons these cheap airlines cost a bloody fortune out of seriously no where during the most random times of the year?? like the 500 pounds ryanair was trying to charge from glasgow to france for the week of feb 12?? what?

  5. Great post. Very informative. Most of my American friends will never fly with the low-cost airlines (don't know them; too much baggage; etc.) I don't mind them. I grew up in Europe, where trips are so short (compared to trips in the US that is,) and I don't mind following a few rules if said airlines get me to my destination fast. Very good info. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  6. those last two photos are stunning. I'm the worst about packing light. And also, I'm pretty sure I'm not welcome back at Paris-Orly...another story for another day.

  7. These are really great tips - AND things I didn't know! Thanks for sharing :)


  8. Such a good post. My brother is studying abroad in Amsterdam this year and I may forward this on to him. I studied in the U.K during college and I miss jetting off for the weekend.

  9. Great post, Lauren. Jim and I have looked into vacationing abroad again many times, but planning the travel scares the crap out of me!!! Coordinating train, bus, and flight schedules makes me dizzy. I'm sweating just thinking about it.

  10. Oh I loved reading this post - what fun and how true - I am sighing in exasperation with you! Have a fabulous time in the South

  11. great tips! I'm also a fair frequently flyer of these airlines and couldn't agree more. Though I always find it funny how strict some airports are about budget airlines. When I flew threw Milan on RyanAir a few years back, everyone had 2 pieces of cabin baggage (i.e. a purse and a bag). Yes, even the nun on our flight was doing this. When I was in Germany however, they strictly enforced the one bag rule. It's always a hit or miss. Have you flown other budget airlines besides Ryan or EJ? I've discovered a few that fly out of Sweden/Denmark (where I am) which seem comparable; though not nearly as brightly colored ;)

  12. great tips~ I'm pretty sure if I traveled a budget airline I'd be totally lost!

  13. I've had some crazy times flying ryanair myself (running across a tarmac in Amsterdam... oh, but wait, that was just because we were idiots, not because of ryanair), and all these are so true! It's been a while, so thanks for the reminder.

    And so true about glasses in Italy. I am pretty sure the one question they never ask themselves when picking out a new pair is, "what can I wear with these?". But who cares? They're Italian. They can get away with anything.

  14. We've grown accustomed to RyanAir/EasyJet/Jet2 since we moved to England, and they are a pain, but worth the price for the travel. In fighting the carryon limitations, I discovered that L.L. Bean's ubiquitous (to Americans) size Large tote fits perfectly in even RyanAir's tiny carryon-size-checker-thingy. The bag is big enough to not waste any valuable space, but since it's fabric I can squish it a little if I've packed too plump. I now swear by it for discount airline travel!

  15. i am directing everyone that asks about this to this post! great job describing it all!

  16. agree with Sarah! This is a great summary for people who aren't used to flying these airlines!!

  17. This post brought back such a funny memory from my last trip. One of my friends and I were flying from Dublin to Edinburgh and the RyanAir check-in attendant told us both of our luggage was over the weight limit, so we had to put on more clothes to get bring the weight down. We were each wearing multiple pairs of paints, tops and scarves. Needless to say we looked completely ridiculous. So not only does luggage have to be a certain size but also a certain weight! I definitely learned that the humorous way haha!

  18. This is so funny that you posted about this. I just got back from a two week european vacation and we traveled to 4 different countries flying easyjet and ryanair. luckily i was traveling with locals so before i left the states they briefed me on the extra fees, carry-on luggage, waiting in line, etc. it was definitely something i was not used to, but you can't beat the cheap flights! have you flown ryanair? what is with the trumpets playing when you land? so weird.

  19. I don't know why you talked about Ryanair and posted easyJet pictures....
    Some differences:
    - If you want to go to Paris, easyJet takes you to CDG or ORY, if you want to go to Barcelona, they will take you to BCN, Amsterdam to AMS, Milan to MXP, Rome to FCO, Venice to VCE and so as for MAD, BRU, LIS, LGW, STB, EDI, Greece and eve Egypt SSH and LUX!! ....... so, nothing far away airports with easyJet (that;s Ryanair's job);

    - If you forget to print your boarding card, Ryanair will charge you 40€ (I think) to print out your b/c at the airport, even when printing it at home, you're paying a fee (check the fee details when buying it) ...... that doesn't happen with easyJet. If you forget your boarding card at home, no problem, just go to an easyJet check-in counter, show your ID and ask for a new one, free of charge :)

    - Aw, and by the way! Don't need to pack light with easyJet ... they don't have weight limit for hand luggage. As long as your bag fits in the locker and you can put it there yourself, they're fine :) and after that, try to fit the same bag into Ryanair's overlockers ... it simply doesn't fit :P funny hein! ;)

    Conclusion: Easyjet's NOT Ryanair ... not even close!!

  20. Cheap airfares India for business rank can and be availed at the last second. If the flight are not totally booked, they cut the rates.

  21. Very interesting travel information. Thank for the Budget airlines flights information.

  22. This is an old post, but my recent debacle made me find it to comment in case it could help a poor soul like me. I had to book an overpriced flight during Holy Week from Rome to Dublin and RyanAir was my best option (cost-wise) even after paying for 2 bags. DUMB! I mourned the loss of my money and purchased the ticket, but no one told me to LOOK FOR THE BOX THAT SAYS CHARGE MY CREDIT CARD IN THE FOREIGN CURRENCY AND DON'T LET RYANAIR DECIDE THE EXCHANGE RATE . So maybe that wasn't the exact wording, but I wouldn't know becasue I never saw the dumb box!!! In conclusion, my flight that cost 334 Euro, hit my credit card for a whopping $505. That exchange rate makes zero sense to anyone, but RyanAir is bad at math and now I'm stuck. Be warned!!

  23. Love this - when I lived in Kuwait I used Jazeera airlines all the time as they were crazy cheap to travel to other spots in the Middle East but without a doubt had a unique set of rules.


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