20 Ryanair tips

Master the airline's mega-strict rules for cheap 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 guides for more cost-cutting tips.

Bookings with flexibility are key

If you decide to book a trip, consider that you might not be covered by travel insurance for any Covid-related claims. Look for bookings that offer flexibility if you're unable to travel due to illness or any possible future restrictions.

See our Coronavirus travel rights guide for full help and up-to-date info.

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

    You may be able to 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?

    It used to be that you had to go to the Ryanair site for the country you wanted to fly to (eg, www.ryanair.com/it for Italy) to do this, but now you can do it via the Ryanair site for the UK. Search for your outbound flight as a one-way ticket, then, in a separate tab or window of your browser, search for the return leg of your flight as a one-way ticket, eg Ibiza to London Stansted.

    The return flight will be in the currency of the country the flight departs from, so check what the equivalent is in pounds (you can use TravelMoneyMax to do that) and then compare the total cost of both legs with that of a regular Ryanair return flight.

    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 pay with the cheapest card to use abroad that you have – find out what that is with 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 to print out their boarding passes "idiots" back in 2012, which tells you pretty much all you need to know.

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  3. The free check-in window is now just 24 hours before travel

    check in using the app

    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.

    Unless you've paid to reserve a seat, you can now only check in for free between two and 24 hours before departure. The new rule applies to bookings made after 28 January 2021.

    If you pay to reserve a seat (typically between £3 and £7 per person), you can check in for free up to 60 days before flying.

    How to avoid being stung – use the app

    The strict rules mean if you want to check in for free, you're 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. 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 and Greece).

    • Airports which don't accept mobile boarding passes – full list

      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 in recent years 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. (Though if you're disabled and you request special assistance, it says you'll be allocated a 'suitable' seat next to a companion, free of charge.)

    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 £14.

    • 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

    parent looking out airplane window with kid

    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 you can opt to sit in rows 18 to 33 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 start from £3 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. Trick to save up to 60% on seat reservations and cabin bags

    On Ryanair, you have to pay extra to carry anything larger than a handbag on board to reserve a particular seat or to guarantee sitting together in a group.

    When you buy a flight, the booking process now prominently offers you the chance to pay for this (plus priority boarding) by choosing the 'Regular' fare (typically £21-£23 per person, per flight).

    But we've found that opting for the 'Value' fare instead, then manually adding seat reservations, cabin bags and priority boarding, can often slash the cost. In one case, we found a family of four could save almost £100 on return flights simply by booking the extras separately.

    Important: This trick works most of the time, not every time. As our analysis below shows, the 'Regular' fare may still sometimes be cheapest, particularly where some seats on the plane have already been booked. So to be sure of the best deal, check both options.

    How does this trick work?

    It's all about how you add your extras. When you've chosen your flights, you're presented with a few different fare options – 'Value', 'Regular' and 'Plus' are the main ones. So if you want a seat reservation and a larger cabin bag, you've a choice:

    • Option 1: Choose the Regular fare (usually £21-£23 extra per person, per flight). This gets you 'priority and two cabin bags' and a reserved seat, so you can board the plane first and take a wheelie bag into the cabin in addition to the small carry-on everyone can take for free. Plus you can select your own seat (in rows 18-33).

    • Option 2: Choose the Value fare, then add the extras separately (about £9-£33 extra per person, per flight). Continue through the booking process until you're asked if you want to pay to select a seat (around £3-£13 each way for rows 18-33) and add 'priority and two cabin bags' (£6-£20 each way).

    To be clear, with both options you get a reserved seat in rows 18-33, priority boarding and two cabin bags, one of which can be a wheelie bag weighing up to 10kg. We asked Ryanair why it often charges more for the Regular package, but it didn't respond to our queries.

    How much can you save?

    The savings on this vary by route, destination and the number of people travelling, plus what seats are still available to select. But they can be significant.

    Our spot-checks found you could save 30% on average by booking separately. In one case, a family of four could save £99 on return flights – a whopping 59% saving on the Regular fare.

    An important factor was what seats we selected when booking separately (if you opt for the Regular fare, rows 18-33 are all included – booking separately, the price can vary and it depends what's left):

    • If we were able to select the cheapest seats, booking separately always worked out cheaper. (Savings ranged from 9% to a whopping 59% of the Regular fare.)

    • If we could only pick the priciest seats in rows 18-33, booking separately won 80% of the time. Factoring in the more expensive seats, it was actually cheaper to book the Regular fare than separately on four of the 20 bookings we looked at. So always double-check.

    Using Luton to Bologna as an example, the Regular fare for two adults and two kids both ways was an additional £166.80, but adding extras separately was an additional £68 – a saving of 59%.

    A number of MoneySavers have reported success using this trick, since we featured it in our weekly email. Adrian saved £54 on his trip:

    Just literally done this. For four of us and one baby, it was £383 as Regular fare. Booked it as Value fare, then added reserved seats, and priority & 2 cabin bags for each person – came down to £329.

    David saved £18 – and plans to celebrate:

    Just followed your advice and booked a return trip to Dublin. The Ryanair preferred method (Regular fare) would have been £98.68. By following your guidance, I got the same for £80.98. Thanks very much. The saving will buy me a few pints of Guinness!

    And Trudy found a cracking saving, while scoping out flights:

    Looked at flights to Malta – booking it this way saves around £100.

    This trick works best if you're travelling with kids

    The key point here is children under 12 automatically get 'free' reserved seating with Ryanair, thanks to its family seating policy, which is designed to ensure children sit with their parents. (At least one adult must reserve a seat if travelling with under-12s, and up to four children can be seated next to him or her for free. The airline says it costs parents from £4 to reserve this seat, though it was £6 for every booking we checked.)

    As a result, there's usually little point selecting a Regular fare (which has to be applied to everyone in your group) if you're travelling with children this age. On the 10 bookings we checked where kids were part of the group, adding seats, cabin bags and priority boarding separately won every time – even when we selected only the priciest seats in rows 18-33.

  7. 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.

    For example, 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.

    You may still get a bargain with Ryanair, and with local knowledge you may find a cheaper price. 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.

  8. 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.

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

    Ryanair changed its baggage policy (twice) in 2018 – 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

    This is the current baggage policy:

    • 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.

      It's still 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 and two cabin bags' 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 and two cabin bags costs £6-£20.
    packing suitcase

    So if you need to take a larger bag weighing up to 10kg, you can pay for priority boarding or pay for it as checked luggage instead, which costs £13-£24.

    It's £25 if you wait till the check-in desk, or 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:

    • Stick to carry-on rules

      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.

    • Taking a second bag on board? Pack heavier items in your smaller bag

      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.

    • Take squishable hand luggage – it can defy size limits

      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.

    • Don't buy posh travel-size toiletries

      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.

    • Buy cheap, lightweight cases

      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.

    • Take travel laundry-wash

      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.

    • Include all wheels and handles when measuring your luggage or risk a fee

      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.

    • Leave space for your return

      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.

  10. Pay for hold baggage when you book or you'll pay up to £60 per bag, per flight

    If you're planning to take larger suitcases up to 20kg, paying when you book costs £21-£40 per bag, per flight. Yet if you add luggage later or wait until the airport, the price can be up to £60 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 £240 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 can't take on the flight, and put the rest in your hand luggage? Also see former MSE Rose's video for how to squeeze as much into one bag as possible.

  11. 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.

    Martin Lewis looking over his shoulder while wearing a 22-pocket Scottevest.

    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 huge and, at £150 before delivery, costly, as are many of the alternatives out there. A less extreme version, popular with forumites is the Rufus Roo – at the time of writing it's available from £25.99 on Amazon*.

    Or for an even 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    In 2018, 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-£95
    • 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."

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  15. 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.

  16. 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.

    • Debit card payments get some protection too

      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.

  17. 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.

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

    Young woman wearing blue Beats headphones smiling while sitting on an airplane.

    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 for three pairs 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 ham and cheese panini cost €5.50 (£4.60). 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?

    Search the MSE Forum for the 'Take your Lunch to Work Challenge' for a feast of picnic ideas – the September 2021 challenge is the most recent one, and there are loads of suggestions on older threads like the January 2013 challenge. 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.

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