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20 Ryanair tips

Master the airline's mega-strict rules for cheap flights

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Sally | Edited by Guy

Updated 20 Jun 2016

Ryanair Tricks

Ryanair calls itself a low-cost carrier, but you can only bag dirt-cheap deals if you know the tricks of the trade to avoid sky-high charges. This guide is packed full of tips to help keep costs firmly on the ground.

Before booking, always compare Ryanair prices using our Cheap Flights guide and also see our Easyjet tricks guide for more budget-airline cost-cutting tips.

Ryanair is planning to bring in a raft of changes this year, including simplified baggage charges and a new loyalty scheme. See the Ryanair to bring in flat–rate baggage fee MSE News story for more info. We'll update this guide when we know more details.

Check if booking the return flight in euros is cheaper

Shave a little extra off the cost of flights with this nifty trick. All you need to do is complete your round-trip booking in separate transactions. Now this doesn't always work, but it's worth checking to see if it's cheaper.

How does it work?

First, search for the outbound flight on the UK Ryanair site, ensuring you select a one-way ticket. Then, in a new tab or browser, type in Ryanair's web address, but replace the '.com/en' extension for the UK Ryanair site with that of the country you want to fly to (eg, Italy's is '.com/it' — view a full list here). This'll take you to the Ryanair site for that country. Search for the return leg of your flight here — Ibiza to London Stansted, for example.

Check if booking the return flight in euros is cheaper

It'll be in the currency of the country the flight departs from, so check what the equivalent is in pounds (you can use TravelMoneyMax) and compare with a return just through the UK Ryanair site.

How much can I save?

When we looked, we managed to shave £19 off a week-long family trip (two adults, two children under 15) from Manchester to Lisbon, travelling at the end of July 2016. Booking a return via the UK Ryanair site was £646 in total, but booking the return leg via the Portuguese Ryanair site brought the total cost down to £627.

Another example was London to Milan Malpensa in mid-April 2016. Booking the return on the UK site was £20 per person, but booking flights separately using the method described above cost £18. Not a huge saving but it may buy you a gelato while you're there.

But when we looked for flights from London to Fuerteventura for a family of four — two adults, two children — for the first week in August 2016, booking the return leg in euros made the total cost of return flights £1,745 — £110 more than booking on the UK Ryanair site in sterling. So do try to see if it's cheaper, but don't assume that'll always be the case.

IMPORTANT — don't quash the gain paying the wrong way

You will only get the full gain of any saving using specialist plastic that doesn't charge the usual 3%-ish foreign transaction charge — see cheapest ways to get travel money for our top tips.

If you don't have a card that doesn't charge these fees at least use the cheapest card to use abroad that you have; see our how much does your card charge? tool.

Warning: This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please give us feedback, suggest improvements and share your tips in the Ryanair tips forum thread.

Trick to cut checked baggage costs if travelling with a child under 16

If you're travelling with anyone aged 15 and under and you book checked luggage or priority boarding for yourself, you'll get 50% off the same extras for the kids.

This is a neat trick to cut baggage costs for a family. For example, if you're a family of four (two adults, two children) and between you you're planning to take two items of luggage, put one in an adult's name and the other in a child's name.

You'll pay full price for the first bag and save 50% on the second. It's automatic as long as you do it all at the point of booking, but the kids must be on the same booking as you to qualify.

MSE Steve saved on family flights from Stansted to Jerez in Spain with his wife and two children doing this:

It's not easy to travel light with a toddler and baby in tow so, as usual, we wanted to take two extra 20kg bags.

The first bag was in my name and cost £40 on the way out and £30 coming back. If the second had been in my wife's name, it would have cost the same again — yet putting it in my son's name cut it to £20 on the outbound flight, £15 returning.

My son's not going to be carrying the second bag — after all, it's going to weigh a fair bit more than he does. But simply putting it in his name slashed the overall cost from £140 to £105.

For full details, see Ryanair 50% off for kids.

Ryanair is stricter than a Royal Marines major general — break its rules and you'll pay (literally)

It sounds simple, not to mention fairly obvious, but it's human nature to want to bend the rules, or think "oh, they won't notice my bag is a little over the limit".

But this is Ryanair, and it enforces its rules with military precision — we've heard whispers of its staff bringing out a tape measure if there's any discrepancy about the size of your bag.

Its chief executive Michael O'Leary even famously labelled passengers who pay because they forgot their boarding passes "idiots", which tells you pretty much all you need to know.

ALWAYS check in online and print or download your boarding pass, or you could pay £100s (the Ryanair app may help)

You'll pay £60 per person, per flight if you don't check in online and print your own boarding card, or have it on your smartphone ready for the airport. That's £240 for a family of four if you get it wrong.

It's £45 to check in and £15 to print your boarding card — more than the cost of some flights.

To avoid being caught out, check in as soon as you can up to seven days ahead, if you've not paid for a seat, or up to 30 days if you have paid — at which point you can print your boarding pass. The absolute cut-off to check in is two hours before the flight leaves.

You can do this easily via the free Ryanair app (download it free, for Apple or Android) — it'll let you check in, and in most cases you can get your boarding pass on it too. Remember if you're overseas, beware costly mobile data charges (see Mobile and Data Roaming) — it's better to use Wi-Fi.

However, at a few airports mobile boarding cards aren't accepted — see below.

Mobile boarding passes aren't accepted at some airports (mainly Morocco) — full list

Paying for seats is the only way to guarantee you'll sit with your children

Ryanair says it will "endeavour to seat families together" but the only way to guarantee it is to purchase seats when you book — prices vary from £8 to £15 per seat, per flight (£9 to £22.50 at the airport).

If you want to chance it and not pay, ensure you check in as soon as it opens, seven days before departure if you've not booked a seat, at which point you can pick a seat. There's no guarantee enough will be available together but the earlier you try the more chance you have.

If you end up seated separately, contact Ryanair customer services, which may be able to help.

The cost of paying to sit together is effectively a 'family tax'. We're campaigning for this to change — see MSE calls for airlines to scrap 'family tax'.

Ryanair airports are often miles from the destination cities — factor in transport costs

Planning to dig into the delights of a smörgåsbord in Stockholm, or enjoy a sangria and paella in Barcelona? If you're hoping to land and be in the city centre in no time, think again.

Stockholm's Skavsta airport, where Ryanair flies, is about 40 miles from the city centre — roughly translated, that's around a two-hour bus ride and an extra £24 return from your spending money. Frankfurt Hahn, where Ryanair also flies, is 75 miles from the city, and will cost you around £22 return to the centre and back by bus.

In contrast, BA flies to Frankfurt Main, from where it costs £8 return by train to get to the city centre. The airport is about 7 miles away.

The prices we've quoted are from the airports' websites. With local knowledge, you may find a cheaper price, but the principle still stands that you must factor in potentially high transport costs.

You may still get a bargain with Ryanair, but before you book, weigh up what you're paying for flights and transport to both airports - the Ryanair one(s) and the major airport. Here's a list of some of the airports furthest from the major cities Ryanair flies to, and what transport could cost, though it may be possible to get it cheaper using local bus or tram networks.

Ryanair airport locations and costs — according to airport websites

Airport

Approx distance from city centre Return cost to city centre (approx sterling equivalent)
Dusseldorf Weeze 50 miles/80km €30 (£24) by bus
Frankfurt Hahn 75 miles/120km €28 (£22) by bus bought in advance online (€30 otherwise)
London Stansted 40 miles/65km £19 by coach if booked online (incl booking fee), £24 by train to Liverpool Street (booked one month in advance, incl booking fee)
London Luton 40 miles/65km £18 by coach if booked online (incl booking fee)
Oslo Torp Sandefjord 75 miles/120km 440 NOK (£37) by bus
Stockholm Skavsta 70 miles/110km 278 SEK (£24) by bus if bought online by bus (285 SEK otherwise)

Happy to go anywhere with Ryanair as long as the price is right? Try its budget-flight finder tool

Ryanair's Fare Finder tool shows you where you can go for a set budget — ie, under £20 — and from your chosen departure airport. You can't choose a date — the results show you the month you can get flights for within your set budget — so it'll only work out if you're flexible.

Always compare the cost with what you can get elsewhere — for instance, Momondo's Trip Finder and Kayak's Explore let you search in a similar way. Also see our Cheap Flights guide for a host of flight cost-cutting tips and tricks, and Cheap Hotels for help finding a MoneySaving hotel bargain.

Pay in advance for hold baggage or you'll pay up to £60 per bag, per flight at the airport

Hand luggage is obviously best when it comes to budget flights, but if you can't take what you need within the 10kg or liquid limit, ensure you book in any checked luggage early.

If you pay for hold luggage in advance, it costs from £15 per bag, per flight (more on longer routes). Yet wait until you get to the airport and the price shoots up by £10 per bag, per flight — see a full list of Ryanair baggage fees.

If you're travelling with a couple of checked bags and don't book in advance, you could end up shelling out an extra £240 for a round trip.

Of course, as you'll pay regardless, try to limit the amount of hold baggage you take. For instance, if going as a couple, with friends or with family, why not cram as much into one suitcase as possible to check in, such as liquids that you cannot take on the flight, and put the rest in your hand luggage? Also see former MSE Rose's video below for how to squeeze as much into one bag as possible.

Going with an under-two who has their own seat? Get an extra 5kg of hand luggage

There's a 10kg limit for hand luggage, but pack right and you may be able to squeeze it all in

Ryanair is pretty strict with its hand luggage policy. Its maximum allowed bag is no more than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (smaller than Easyjet's 56cm x 45cm x 25cm) and there's a 10kg weight limit, though you're also allowed to take a small bag — ie, handbag or laptop bag — as well, a rare treat from the notoriously strict airline.

There's no weight limit on the smaller bag but it must be no bigger than 35cm x 20cm x 20cm (generally the size of a handbag or laptop bag).

And while you do still have to contend with (what some may consider) a small main bag, you can often squeeze in more than you think and still stick to the 10kg limit. Here are some general packing tips — if you've got more you'd like to share, please let us know in the forum:

Stick to carry-on rules

Pack small, heavier items in your smaller hand-baggage

Take squishable hand luggage — it can defy size limits

Don't buy posh travel-size toiletries

Buy cheap, lightweight cases

Take travel laundry-wash

Include all wheels and handles when measuring your luggage or risk up to a £60 penalty

Leave space for your return


How to pack like a pro

To really push luggage packing to the max, watch this top packing-tips video from former MSE team member Rose, who is now studying for a PhD (though we don't think it's in luggage packing). She has tons of experience flying on budget airlines and there's nothing like a visual demonstration to help you master the art.

Top packing tips for flying hand-luggage only

With former MSE Rose — filmed on 23 July 2013

Don't carry your luggage — wear it

If you've experienced the boarding gate of a Ryanair flight, there are usually a few who try to cram as much into their handbag as it will take, to get around the 10kg limit Ryanair puts on the bigger cabin bag it allows you to take as standard.

Don't let that be you. Make use of a very valuable asset that you have no choice but to take everywhere with you — your person. The more you carry on you, the less you need to squeeze into your cabin bag.

Think large, deep-pocketed coats and jackets. Examples include the 22-pocket Scottevest, a special US survivalist jacket that Martin tested for an ITV show. It was heavy but somehow managed to fit in a laptop, two books, a towel, passports, a T-shirt, socks, magazines and much more.

Until recently, a less extreme version popular with forumites was the Rufus Roo, but unfortunately it's no longer available. You might want to try looking for a second-hand one, but we couldn't find any when we looked.

Or for a less extreme idea, try wearing heavy coats, big boots and chunky jumpers, if you were taking them anyway. They all use up valuable space in a case. Stow items under the seat in front of you if it gets too stuffy on the plane.

Board earlier to ensure you and your luggage can stick together

If you board late, there is a chance the overhead lockers near you may be full, meaning you may be forced to put your bag at the other end of the plane, or made to check it in (though this won't cost you extra).

So to avoid negotiating the scrum to collect it once you've landed, or annoying other passengers if you need something from it during the flight, get to the gate and queue early.

Made a small error? Correct within 24hrs for free. If later, fees can be huge — so booking a new flight could be cheaper

A word of warning — BEFORE confirming your booking, check, check and check it again. Mistakes can be costly.

There's a 24-hour window where you can correct a misspelt name (not a new name altogether) or the wrong date for free, but only if you booked direct with Ryanair.

After 24 hours, there's an up to £60 (£90 if you do it at the airport) admin fee per leg to change date or route. To make any type of name change after that, or to change the ticket to a new name altogether, it's £110 per leg (£160 at the airport).

If you end up changing flight to a new date, the cost of the new flight may be higher regardless of whether there's an admin fee or not.

It could be cheaper to book a new flight

If you notice errors after 24 hours, it may be cheaper to make a completely new booking, rather than amend an existing one. It won't always be cheaper, but it is worth checking the cost of a new flight to see if it costs less than the change fee.

Forumite billers did exactly that and saved:

"I booked a return from Liverpool to Barcelona, out on Friday and returning on Monday (total cost £47). I needed to change my return flight to Sunday, but it cost more than £40 to change. Instead, I booked a new one-way flight for £28."

You can sign up for alerts to find out when Ryanair releases seats

Ryanair's prices are — as with most budget airlines — fluid and move based on demand for any particular flight. When they're released, they're usually priced cheaply, though they can always be undercut by a sale or if Ryanair cuts costs because demand is low for that flight.

Nevertheless, the odds are in your favour if you book early, especially useful if you're likely to be travelling in expensive peak times, eg, school holidays, where prices are less likely to fall.

Unfortunately, you can't get a refund if you book a ticket and the price for that same flight then falls. This is unlike Easyjet which does give refunds if the cost drops.

When does it launch tickets?

Ryanair releases seats in batches, around nine months in advance but it doesn't have clear, published dates (Easyjet is far clearer). To find out first, 'like' Ryanair's Facebook page and sign up to its myRyanair email service for alerts and for when it has a sale on.

It's cheaper to pay on debit card but if an individual flight's over £100, credit is safer

Ryanair charges a credit card fee of 2% on top of what you'd pay on a debit or prepayment card, so you need to balance the risk versus the cost, because...

The safest way to pay for flights over £100 is on a credit card (fully repaid so there's no interest) — then you get Section 75 protection. This means the card company's jointly liable if anything goes wrong, such as the airline goes bust. But with flights, it's not quite as straightforward as this.

Under Section 75 each flight counts as a transaction. So if you book a return where each leg is £50, even though the total is £100, you're not covered. Each single flight would need to be £100 or more to get the extra protection.

Debit card payments get some protection too

Planning three family-trips on Ryanair this year? Bag 20% off the third if flying off-peak in winter

Jet-setting families, with children 15 and under, who frequently travel Ryanair and check in luggage or book seats, could slash 20% off a third return-trip in a year.

The rules are:

  • There must be at least one adult.
  • There must be at least one child up to age 15.
  • The same group of people must have flown at least two return flights in the previous year.
  • You must have added at least one 'extra', such as seats, priority boarding or checked luggage on both the previous flights.

To get the discount:

  • If you qualify, BEFORE the third booking, fill out this Ryanair family discount form. It will then approve your eligibility and email you a code, which you need to enter when making your booking to get the discount, and flights must be taken between October and March.
  • You must make the booking within four weeks of getting the code.
  • You can't travel between 20 Dec 2016 to 5 Jan 2017 — so it excludes travel over Christmas.

Of course, don't just assume because it's a discount that it's cheapest. Always compare with other airlines' prices — see Cheap Flights for more cost-cutting tips.

Avoid expensive Ryanair extras such as car hire and hotels — always check prices independently

Once you've chosen your flight, Ryanair will try to entice you to add extras such as hotels, car hire and travel insurance. While all can be useful and it may be worth checking prices, don't jump straight in without looking around first. Always check prices elsewhere beforehand.

Travel insurance for one is usually more costly via airlines or holiday agents/brokers than doing a comparison and finding your own policy (see Cheap Travel Insurance for full help finding one).

For example, at the time of writing, single trip insurance on a week's trip to Fuerteventura was £12 per person via Ryanair — for single trip bought separately, prices start at around £6 for an individual Europe policy.

For our top tips on cutting costs, check our Cheap Travel Insurance, Cheap Hotels and Cheap Car Hire guides.

Don't hold an EU/EEA passport? Get documents checked or you could be denied boarding

If you don't hold an EU or EEA passport or identity card, BEFORE you go through security you need to show your documents to someone at the Ryanair visa/document check desk. They'll then stamp them and allow you to proceed if everything is in order.

If you fail to do this, and just head straight for security, Ryanair reserve the right to refuse travel. Don't forget!

Got noise cancelling headphones? Take them for flights between 7am and 10pm to avoid SCREAMING announcements

Many Ryanair fliers have reported loud noises. Not from plane engines, but from the frequency of non-safety-related flight announcements, even at the crack of dawn.

Ryanair took on board passengers' feedback and has introduced a 'Quiet Flights' service.

So if you're on a flight between 10pm and 7am, you can now expect a peaceful snooze. At other times, beware.

Avoid sky-high food prices — pack a mile-high picnic instead

It's a little known fact than mid-air picnics are perfectly within the rules — it's only liquids over 100ml that are banned for security reasons.

Protect your pennies and plan ahead — stocking up on snacks could save a fortune compared with flight prices, and even prices in the shops, after security. For instance, when we checked, a Ryanair Mediterranean panini cost €5.50 (roughly £4.50). Even at inflated airport prices, a Boots meal deal is about £4, and it comes with a drink and a snack as well.

But pre-packaged sandwiches are never going to win taste awards, so bringing your own food may mean you win on taste and price.

And the food doesn't have to be boring, either. Why not make it part of the holiday and theme it around where you're going — cold tagines and couscous for Morocco, tomato and mozzarella salad for Italy, schnitzel and apple strudel for Austria?

Check out the forum for a feast of ideas — plus if you've a good one, join the discussion and add your own. Remember, due to the 100ml limit on liquids you'll find it difficult bringing drinks bought before you go through security onto the plane.

Don't assume Ryanair is cheapest — always compare costs

Ryanair has a reputation for being cheap, but isn't always cheapest.

So after using these tricks always compare the final price you're quoted with the best alternative, using our Cheap Flights guide. Plus see our Easyjet tricks and Beat Budget-Airline Fees guides for loads more hints and tips.