Budget airlines' prices miss out pricey 'extras' such as taking baggage and even checking in. Whether it’s Ryanair, Easyjet, Flybe or others, we've 20 tips to keep flying costs to a minimum.
Budget airlines' prices miss out pricey 'extras' such as taking baggage and even checking in. Even so, learn to get over these hurdles and you can pay £30-ish per return.
Whether it’s Ryanair, Easyjet, Flybe or others, we've 20 tips to keep flying costs to a minimum. This guide will train you how to fly hand luggage only, beat check-in fees, wear your baggage and more.
Speedily find the cheapest tickets
Budget airlines take huge adverts out for £20 or half price sales, yet these flights are tough to find. Our Budget Airline FlightChecker is designed to crack this.
£30 returns are possible - if you know what you're doing
Budget airlines can sell flights for minuscule prices because that's all you're paying for: a flight. First check the price includes standard charges such as airport fees and air passenger duty. Most of them do, but never assume.
Fly hand-luggage only
If you want to stow luggage in the hold, you can pay up to £150 per case return (more in extreme cases). Plus budget airlines' weight allowances for checked-in cases can be lower than elsewhere at 15kg to 20kg.
Wear your baggage
Use your home scales. If you're near the hand luggage weight limit, stuff socks and undies in to your jacket, then stow it under your seat on the plane.
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Watch MSE Rose's top hand-luggage only packing tips
Above we explained budget airlines' hand luggage allowances. But to really push it to the max, watch this top packing tips video from our own MSE Rose, who has tons of experience flying on budget airlines.
Always book hold luggage in advance
It’s much cheaper to book cases stowed in the hold online in advance rather than at the airport, so decent planning is important. Think carefully about minimising the number of cases you need to take.
Beat check-in fees
It's usually free to check in online, but forget and you can be charged a fee of up to £140 per person, per return to do it at the airport.
Don't assume budget airlines are cheapest
If you've specific dates in mind, are going further afield, or there's no budget airline sale, check for the cheapest flights via comparison websites. Our top picks are Skyscanner* for ease, TravelSupermarket* breadth and Kayak* gizmos. But remember to always check a few sites and compare the prices against going direct.
Think carefully about how you pay
You used to be able to tool up with niche payment cards to avoid some admin fees. Since the OFT announced that airlines must display debit card prices, admin fees are pretty similar however you pay.
Take a plane picnic
Budget airlines make extra cash by flogging snacks to hungry flyers at sky-high prices. A splurge on airline snacks could easily undo the savings on your ticket.
Beware budget airline baby fees
Baby on board? Budget airlines charge as much as £60 per return to take a tot under two on your lap. If that's you, it's worth comparing budget airline fees against other carriers to see if they'd be cheaper. See Cheap Flights for top pick flight comparisons.
Watch for auto-insurance
Some airlines pre-tick an insurance box, automatically adding travel insurance. One to be careful of is Ryanair. It doesn't automatically include insurance, but you still need to be careful.
Flight delayed in last six years? £100s in compensation possible
Whether the flight was last week, or six years ago, EU rules mean if you’re delayed over three hours or your flight is cancelled, you’re often entitled to £190-£480 per person in compensation.
Sit together without paying more
Budget airlines often charge to book specific seats or jump the queue at the gate so you board first. These are generally short-haul flights lasting a few hours, so unless you've kids, sitting separately's not the end of the world.
Hostels: Dirt-cheap, not dirty
For a budget room to go with your budget flight, hostels can offer massive savings over hotel prices. Don’t think dodgy smelly dorms. Many are clean, have private rooms available and breakfast.
Avoid a 70-mile trek into town
Budget flights can touch down in airports some distance from the city centre and means you'll have to pay to transfer to your real destination.
Combine one-way budget flights with Avios
If you are an Avios (formerly Air Miles) collector, our 30 Avios Points Boosters can help you push it to the max.
Treble-check details when booking
Typos, mistakes and wrong dates can cost large on budget airlines, so treble-check everything before submitting.
Beware high cost helplines
Budget airlines' premium rate helplines can cost up to 77p per minute (Wizz Air), so long customer service calls will start to eat into your cost savings.
Never wait until the airport for foreign cash
You're a captive customer at an airport or ferry terminal, so you'll probably be lumbered with the worst rates.
Check fees before bringing buggies and car seats
If you're doing a budget flight with young kids in tow, check how much equipment you're allowed to check in, as allowances vary.
Always book cheap airport parking
Airports often make more from parking and shopping than planes. Leave the car without pre-booking and you risk sky-high rates, so don't just turn up. Booking first, even on the day, could save money. See the Cheap Airport Parking guide for the full technique, plus safety tips, how to grab hidden local discounts and more.