low cost airline carriers

As I start prepping for my trip to Italy, I find myself wondering whether it’s actually possible to make full use of those cheap flight deals.  Can I travel abroad for a week with only a carry-on bag?  In recent years there has been an increase in low cost flights offered by low budget airlines like Easy Jet and Ryanair.  Even the likes of BA have jumped on this band-wagon, offering cheap no-frills short haul flights around Europe.  Typically, these flights exclude the traditional services and comforts we are all accustomed to.  Printing your own ticket and checking-in online are now the norm. On-board services are also limited, with no free meals or drinks on offer. With some airlines, there is no designated seat allocation either. Each carrier has its own set of rules but one certainty is that checked-in luggage is NOT included in the price of your ticket.

Just how much are we saving with these budget flights?

Despite most people preferring the basic amenities that an Economy flight includes, a good many of us are enticed by the very low prices offered by budget airlines. For me, those low fares mean the possibility of affording multiple trips per year or maybe splashing out more on hotels, excursions or general spending. However, I have learned that the fare stated does not usually reflect the overall saving you will make per trip. It is highly likely that you will end up spending more than you expected. I have compared fares for standard Economy versus budget flights to the same destination. Typically, the difference in price can be between £100 – £300.  That’s potentially a good deal if you are able to avoid all of the add-on exprenses.

Size matters

Some tickets include the price of a specified sized carry-on bag only, while other fares are literally just for bums on seats i.e., the fare covers transportation of a passenger from one port to another.  With Ryanair for example, your ticket price does not even include a free cabin bag (you can bring a small handbag or laptop only).  Since January 2018 their policy is that you pay at least £5 for a normal sized cabin bag, unless you buy a priority ticket, which itself costs more.  Also, Ryanair stipulate that their cabin bags should not be larger than 55 x 40 x 20, which is smaller than most airlines, who allow a slightly wider and taller bag.  Martin – the money saving expert, breaks down the latest Ryanair rules (which change again in November 2018) here

Ryanair baggage rules 2018
Ryanair baggage rules 2018

The unseen costs

So, there is a possible fee for cabin bags and a definite charge for checked in bags, usually between £40-60 each way.  Add to that an excess baggage fee (if your bag is overweight), between £20 – £70 each way. If you forget to print your ticket at home or need to buy food on the plane, that’s more again.  Another factor to consider is the departure/arrival airports. These budget flights tend to leave either very early or late in the day, and not from central airports.  Meaning you cannot rely on public transport and may need to get a taxi to and from a remote location.  Therefore, when you sum up all the extras fees payable, it can actually work out to be more expensive than a regular economy flight.

How to minimise costs

In most instances, unless you are travelling for business or are a student back-packer, you will definitely need both a carry-on bag and a checked bag.  However, there are definitely great savings to be made if you can follow these steps:

  • Choose an airline that includes carry-on luggage in their budget price.
  • Your carry-on bag should be as lightweight and roomy as possible. Be sure to check height and weight restrictions for your chosen airline, including wheels, handles and external pockets (check out the approved cabin bag size for various airlines).
  • Always check-in online BEFORE you get to the airport
  • Pre-print your tickets and boarding pass
  • Bring a packed lunch or allow yourself time to eat/buy food at the airport – Boots do a great meal deal with a drink for under £4.00, a fraction of what you would pay for the equivalent on the plane.
  • Don’t pack any toiletries that you can easily purchase at your destination. A good hotel will usually throw-in shampoos and lotions. Or, if you are travelling with others, divide the toiletries between you.
  • Before you travel, investigate the cheapest mode of transportation to/from airport to hotel. A hired car may be cheaper than a taxi. Or, pre book a transfer or hotel shuttle). With no heavy luggage it might even be possible for you to jump on public transport
  • If you buy souvenirs on your trip and know you are overweight, pay the excess baggage fee online BEFORE your departure date. It’s cheaper this way
  • Most importantly – pack lightly. Be prepared to wash and re-wear clothes

As I write this I find myself struggling with the idea of packing light. For me, part of the pleasure of travelling is using the opportunity to wear some of the clothes that I don’t get to wear in London’s unpredictable summer. I have a whole wardrobe dedicated to vacation wear.  Having a choice of clothes and shoes for day and evening, plus accessories, not to mention toiletries is essential for me. Also, I love to shop and inevitably need space to bring back my great finds. Packing minimally would potentially spoil how I enjoy my holiday.  However, I have not actually put this to the test. I like a challenge, so, for my next trip, after Italy.  I want to see if I can take full advantage of the budget fares on offer and still enjoy a trip.  I would love to hear from anyone who has managed to do this.  For now, I plan to fully enjoy my trip to Genoa. I will report back one I’ve don’t my challenge.  Watch this space!

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