20 Ryanair Tips

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

Ryanair tips to get cheaper flights

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. See our Easyjet Tricks and Budget Flight Fee-Fighting guide for more cost-cutting tips.

20 ways to cut Ryanair costs, including...

  1. Check if booking the return flight in euros is cheaper

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

    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/gb/en' extension 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, eg, Ibiza to London Stansted.

    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.

    Don't accept Ryanair's 'guaranteed exchange rate'. After you enter your card details, look out for a sneaky message showing the cost of your ticket in pounds (using Ryanair's exchange rate). You have to click on 'more information' to opt out and use your bank's exchange rate instead (likely to mean a much bigger saving).

    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.

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

    It sounds 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.

  3. Free check-in window is just TWO days before travel

    With Ryanair, the golden rule is to ALWAYS check in online and print or download your boarding pass – if you don't, you could have to cough up £55 per person, per flight. Since June 2018, you can only check in for free up to two days in advance (it used to be four days in advance).

    Ryanair passengers can choose between paying for a seat – it's typically between £3 and £7 per person – or not paying and being randomly allocated seating.

    • If you pay for a seat, you can check in for free up to 60 days before flying.

    • If you don't pay for a seat, you can check in for free between two hours and two days before departure.

    How to avoid being stung – use the app

    The new rules mean if you want to check in for free and are going abroad for more than a couple of days, you're now likely to need to check in for your flight back while overseas.

    The easy way to do this is via Ryanair's free app (for iOS or Android). In most cases you can also get your boarding pass on the app too, meaning no hassle trying to find a printer. Remember, if you're outside the EU, beware costly mobile data charges (see Mobile and Data Roaming) – it's better to use free Wi-Fi.

    However, mobile boarding cards aren't accepted at some airports (mainly in Morocco) – see below.

    • You'll have to go old school and print your boarding card after checking in online at the following airports – otherwise you'll be charged £20 per person to have it printed at the airport:

      • Agadir (Morocco)
      • Essaouira (Morocco)
      • Fez (Morocco)
      • Nador (Morocco)
      • Oujda (Morocco)
      • Marrakesh (Morocco)
      • Rabat (Morocco)
      • Tangier (Morocco)
      • Kefalonia (Greece)
      • Volos (Greece)
      • Nea Aghialos (Greece)
      • Tel Aviv (Israel)
      • Dalaman (Turkey)

    NEVER leave it until you get to the airport

    Whatever you do, don't leave checking in until you arrive at the airport. You'll pay £55 per person, per flight if you fail to do it online in advance – that's £220 for a family of four if you get it wrong, more than the cost of some flights.

    Also bear in mind if you check in online but don't print out your boarding pass or download it to your smartphone, you'll be stung with a £20 per person fee for it to be reissued when you get to the airport.

  4. If you don't pay to choose a seat, you risk your group being sat rows apart

    Ryanair insists it randomly allocates seats if you don't pay to choose a seat. But since last year there's been a storm of protest from passengers who've accused the airline of routinely allocating groups of travellers seats in different rows in a bid to force them to pay to sit together.

    As a result, the only way to guarantee a seat together is to pay.

    If you pay £3+ for a seat you can check in 60 days ahead – go quick to find the cheapest

    Paid-for seat check-in opens 60 days before, and Ryanair says prices remain the same throughout the 60 days. If you're willing to pay, checking in as soon as possible means you'll have the most chance of bagging the cheapest seats before other travellers snap them up.

    Ryanair's confirmed the following costs for most flights by row (some longer-haul flights to the Canary Islands etc may be more):

    • Rows 1, 2 (seats DEF), 16 and 17 have extra legroom and cost from £7.

    • Rows 2 (seats ABC) to 5 cost from £7.

    • Rows 6 to 15 and 18 to 33 are standard seats. They cost from £3.

    If you're not willing to pay, check-in opens two days before your flight and you'll be randomly allocated a seat then.

  5. You must pay to reserve a seat if travelling with under-12s

    If you're travelling with children under 12, at least one adult in the party must pay extra to reserve a seat – once you've done so, you get free allocated seating for the children (max four children per adult).

    It costs from £4 for the adult's seat, and can opt to sit in rows 18 to 30 with your children. If you choose to sit anywhere else, you'll need to pay full price for you and the children.

    For children 12 and over, this isn't mandatory. You can chance it and not pay, in which case you'll be randomly allocated seats at check-in. Alternatively, you can pay to reserve seats for both adults and children – prices vary from £3 to £7 per seat, per flight, though Ryanair does sometimes have offers on allocated seating costs.

    If you choose not to pay for seats and end up seated away from your kids, contact Ryanair customer services as they may be able to help.

  6. 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.

    Eg, Stockholm's Skavsta airport, where Ryanair flies, is about 65 miles from the city centre – roughly translated, that's around a two-hour bus ride and an extra £27 return from your spending money.

    The prices we've quoted below 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Ryanair hand luggage rules – what you need to know

    Ryanair changed its baggage policy twice last year – now, unless you pay at least £6 for priority boarding, you'll only be able to take one handbag-sized carry-on into the cabin on flights.

    Previously, all non-priority customers could bring one small carry-on AND one bigger wheelie bag free of charge, with the larger bag being tagged at the gate and put in the hold at no extra charge. There are now no free gate bags.

    How Ryanair's rules have changed

    As of November 2018:

    • Non-priority customers can only bring one small bag into the cabin for free. This must go under the seat in front of you - the maximum dimensions are 40cm x 20cm x 25cm. You'll no longer be able to put a second bag in the hold for free.

      Confusingly, Ryanair said its bag sizer - the box used to measure bags at the airport - would be increased to 42cm x 20cm x 30cm. This is slightly bigger than the permitted size for the free bag, suggesting there is some wiggle room. But it's best not to take any chances at the airport, because if your bag is too big (or if you forget and accidentally bring a second bag to the gate), you'll have to pay £25 to put it in the hold.

    • Customers who pay at least £6 for priority boarding see no change. Except the maximum dimensions of their smaller bag will increase to 40cm x 20cm x 25cm. They can continue to bring two free carry-on bags into the cabin - one 10kg bag (55cm x 40cm x 20cm) and one small bag. Priority boarding costs £6-£12.

    So if you need to take a larger bag weighing up to 10kg, you can either pay for priority boarding or pay for it as checked luggage instead, which costs £10-£17.50.

    It's £20 if you wait till the check-in desk, and £25 if you get to the gate and have to put your bag in the hold.

    With the 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:

    • You must carry liquids and gels in individual, 100ml-maximum containers. All containers must be in one transparent, 20cm x 20cm resealable bag.

      As you're allowed to carry more than one 100ml container, you could, say, decant sunscreen into two 100ml bottles. See the Government's full regulations.

    • Ryanair's weight limit only applies to the larger 10kg bag option - there's no weight limit on the smaller bag. So for small (but heavy) items, such as toiletries, pack those in your handbag or laptop bag if you think you'll be edging close to the weight limit on your bigger bag.

    • While size matters, the type of bag you take can make a big difference too.

      If it's squishable it's more likely to slot into the bins all hand luggage must fit into if asked to prove it's the right size.

      They're also more likely to fit into overhead lockers on the plane.

    • Travel-size lotions and potions can be pricey. So grab small transparent empty bottles, wash and dry them carefully, and fill 'em up from your everyday toiletries. Complementary mini-toiletry bottles from previous hotel stays are perfect for this.

    • Don't be fancy – you can get cheap cases for around £10 and they'll more than likely fall within Ryanair's size restrictions (some are built to cover budget airlines these days, though it's worth checking dimensions before you buy). They also won't add too much to the weight allowance.

    • This means you'll be able to take a small wardrobe and wash as you go. Plus you won't have to pay for a laundry service.

    • Measurements include wheels, handles and any additional extras your bag may have, so grab a tape measure and check you're within the limit – Ryanair isn't known for being lenient, so if you flout rules and staff catch you, don't be surprised if they make you pay up. It's £50  if you get to the gate and your bag is too big.

    • Many people jet home from a holiday with more than they took. If that's you, make sure you leave space in your luggage for some miniature clogs or an "I love Rome" mug.

    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. She has tons of experience flying on budget airlines and there's nothing like a visual demonstration to help you master the art.

    Video player requires JavaScript enabled. You can watch this video here: https://youtu.be/NuH18gkPxSY
  9. Pay for hold baggage when you book or you'll pay up to £40 per bag, per flight

    If you're planning to take larger suitcases up to 20kg, paying when you book costs £25-£35 per bag, per flight. Yet if you add luggage later or wait until the airport, the price shoots up to £40 per bag, per flight – even if you buy hold baggage just a few hours after your original booking. See a full list of Ryanair baggage fees.

    So if you're travelling with a couple of 20kg checked bags and don't book in advance, you could end up shelling out £160 for a round trip.

    To avoid paying for too many bags, 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.

  10. 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.

    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.

    But that jacket is costly and huge, as are many of the alternatives out there. A less extreme version, popular with forumites is the Rufus Roo – when we checked, it was £29.99 on Amazon*.

    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.

  11. Can you beat airline baggage fees by POSTING your luggage?

    A number of firms offer to ship your holiday luggage abroad, rather than pay sky-high budget airline fees. We've crunched the numbers and found this can save serious cash – some of the time.

    See Can you save by POSTING luggage? for full details.

  12. 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.

  13. Made a small error? Correct within 48hrs 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.

    Last year, some customers who'd booked flights for groups reported a bizarre problem which apparently resulted in the group's surnames being changed to be the same – and they faced a £115 fee to correct the booking. See our MSE News story Martin Lewis calls on Ryanair boss to refund passengers hit with name-change charges.

    How to correct a small error

    There's a 48-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 48 hours, you'll pay these fees:

    • Date/route changes. £35-£65 (£95 at the airport).
    • Name changes. £115 (£160 at the airport).

    It's worth noting, if you end up changing your dates, you'll have to pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive than the one booked originally. You won't get a refund if it's cheaper.

    It could be cheaper to book a new flight

    If you notice errors after 48 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's 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."

  14. 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.

    When does it launch tickets?

    Ryanair releases seats in batches, around nine months in advance but it doesn't have clear, published dates (unlike Easyjet). 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.

  15. Pay the right way for extra protection

    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.

    • If you're paying by debit card, there's also some protection that means you may be able to get your money back if something goes wrong – though it's not as powerful as Section 75.

      It's called 'chargeback', and applies to most debit and charge cards, as well as Visa, Mastercard and Amex credit cards – though it isn't a legal requirement. See the Chargeback guide for more info.

  16. 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 Tenerife was £20 per person via Ryanair – for single trip bought separately, prices start at around £6 for an individual Europe policy.

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

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

    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.

    No swanky headphones? Nab some earplugs (less than £3 from Boots at the time of writing).

  19. 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 panini cost €5.50 (roughly £5). 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's packed lunch thread for a feast of picnic 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.

  20. Don't assume Ryanair is cheapest – always compare costs

    Ryanair has a reputation for being cheap, but it 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.