Money Saving Tips for Flying Discount Airlines, Especially Ryanair

There are many budget airlines in Europe and the trend continues to grow. Easyjet, Wizzair, Jet2, Aer Lingus and Norwegian are among them. Of course, the largest and pioneer of discount flying in Europe is Ryanair. These airlines usually offer a better deal compared to legacy carriers because all services are a la carte. But you often get what you pay for. Here are 5 money saving tips on flying discount airlines, especially Ryanair!

1) Read Discount Airlines Rules and Follow Them Carefully

Ryanair is the worst at penalizing their customers for not following their rules. It’s part of their business model and the extra revenue they generate here helps subsidize tickets for people who do follow orders.

Be sure to check-in and download your boarding pass on your phone, and/or print your boarding pass in advance. If you rock up to the airport without checking-in, they will charge you up to €60 ($70 USD!) to check-in. That’s as stiff as Hugh Hefner 30 years ago, especially since that might be more than your actual ticket price! Not only will they never bend the rules for you, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary may even publicly say you are stupid on top of it.

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2) Weigh Your Bags Before Going to the Airport

Ryanair charges more than most discount airlines to check baggage. Aer Lingus, for example, charges just €15 each way for up to 20 kg. Ryanair charges €15-25 each way (depending on their mood) for only 15kg and €25-35 each way for 20 kg. That’s a huge markup on baggage, but Ryanair’s fares are usually cheaper than just about everyone else.

If you are going away for a week, you can probably get by with 15kg. In fact, it’s easier to travel when you are traveling lighter anyways. Also, this is when the backpack vs suitcase debate kicks in. Backpacks typically weigh less. They’re also easier to carry while navigating pedestrian only medieval old towns.

Lugging heavy bags around trains, buses, subways and cobbled European streets is no fun. Put everything you need in a large backpack or a light weight medium sized rolling suitcase that doesn’t weigh more than 15kg. In fact, there have even been week-long trips where Bell and I split 15kg in a large backpack. Not easy, but definitely doable.

3) One Carry on Bag Aboard Discount Airlines like Ryanair

Discount airlines might allow you to have a carry on item plus your duty free purchases and your purse. Read the specific airlines rules. They will give you the opportunity to try and stuff everything in one bag, so long as it remains within their allotted carry on dimensions and does not exceed 10 kg in weight. If you cannot comply, you will be forced to fork out cash then and there, leave the item behind, or you will be denied boarding.

You are however allowed to carry on 1 jacket or coat along with your carry on bag. So here’s a bonus tip: You can hold your duty free bag under your jacket or coat. I’ve successfully done this a few times. As long as it’s not obvious they will not inspect your coat before boarding the aircraft.

4) Consider Not Checking a Bag on Weekend Trips

If you are only going away for 2-3 days and are a savvy packer, you should be able to get away with not spending €30-70 on checked baggage. Some people might say, but what about my special shampoo? I can’t take liquids, gels or aerosols on the plane. You can take liquids in small clear plastic containers, within a zip lock bag. So you can transfer just enough of that shampoo accordingly. I also always include a small tooth paste in my zip lock which has never been confiscated. Even if you have to re-purchase 1-2 items that costs €10 when you arrive and throw it away 2 days later, that’s a savings of €20-60.

5) Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations

If you’re flexible, check different dates on Ryanair, discount airline and travel booking sites. If you’re looking for somewhere sunny to go, there are loads of beautiful places you’ve literally never even heard of, scattered all over Europe. So try not to get your heart set on any one place. Chances are you will find something equally beautiful than your optimal choice, that is far cheaper to visit during the time that suits you.

6) Consider Skipping Discount Airlines like Ryanair’s Travel Insurance

Travel insurance bought through discount airlines websites tends to have lower coverage. It’s often inexpensive, but coverage tends to be minimal. Read and compare travel insurance policies. It also begs the question, should I buy travel insurance?

For additional information on flying discount airlines and the best websites to book through, read this post by Rick Steves, European travel expert.


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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5 thoughts on “Money Saving Tips for Flying Discount Airlines, Especially Ryanair

  1. We have travelled for 7 weeks in a European winter with just on 7 kgs of luggage each. It is doable and once you do it you will never take luggage again.
    For our big trip we are hoping to have toughly 10kgs each makes it easy to use all the budget airlines

    1. Wow, 7kg in winter! That is impressive. But yes, a lot of us pack too many things, we’re guilty of that at times. But we try to travel with just 1 suitcase between us. Do you have any specific tips on what people can live without?

  2. A great reminder on how to fly cheaply around Europe. Americans and Canadians will be pleasantly surprised by the low fare options. Getting a roundtrip flight for less than $100 or even $200 is difficult in North America but common across Europe.

    For those considering booking a Ryanair flight (great from their hubs in Dublin and London), read this VacationCounts 2-part article that takes you through the process step by step. As is evident you must follow the strict rules to avoid extra fees and hassle while booking, checking in, and also at the airport!

    Also new for 2014, passengers will be thrilled to learn that Ryanair will start allowing a small personal item in addition to the size-limited (get out your measuring tape) carry-on bag. Great news in addition to being number one for on-time arrivals.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Vacation Counts! That’s great to know that Ryanair is tinkering with their rules on carry items for 2014. Of course, with any Ryanair rule change we must carefully inspect the Ryanair playbook and adjust a game plan accordingly 🙂

      1. I was as sceptical as anyone about the Ryanair conversion to new customer friendly ways.

        But the reports back from family and friends are that the leopard has truly changed his spots.

        Ryanair is now so big that they need to get customer friendly to keep filling the new planes they have ordered from Boeing.

        The dreaded one bag rule is truly gone. It seems the if the extra small fits under the seat it’s acceptable.

        The cardboard box to check bag size is gone to the recycler.

        If you made a stupid error when booking you can now change without a constitutional referendum.

        I always treated it as bit of a game, putting on extra clothes to keep the weight down etc. But my fiancée was nervous wreck waiting to get caught.

        Long may it continue.

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